CHAPTER SIX

The Future Is All Around You

The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.—WILLIAM GIBSON, science fiction writer

You’ve probably never heard of J.C.R. Licklider, but you owe him a big debt of gratitude.

In 1957, the Soviet Union had just launched Sputnik, demonstrating that it held a lead in missile technology and could conceivably initiate a missile-based nuclear first strike against the United States. The following year, the U.S. Department of Defense formed the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). Among its first mandates was to develop a reasonable defense to a Soviet first strike.

High on ARPA’s list of priorities was ensuring vital communications among various military installations. At the time, communications ...

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