One afternoon in the early 1990s, I found myself at a meeting in my boss’s cavernous office when one of the organization’s computer support guys showed up to demonstrate a new-fangled technology called instant messaging. I’d never seen IM before, but I was intrigued—so I volunteered for the demo.

My boss settled in front of his computer. I stationed myself at another computer just outside the office. And away we went—typing and tapping a silent conversation in real time.

“Wow,” I shouted to the others back in the room. “Very cool.” And when I returned to the meeting, I offered—unsolicited, of course—my thoughts on what we’d just witnessed. ...

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