OBSTACLES TO THE INTEGRATION OF THE INTERNET
INTO AMERICAN SOCIETY

Geography 100

Outline
I. Introduction -- Internet usage is rapidly increasing but serious barriers to widespread integration must be overcome before the Internet is fully integrated into the “typical” American lifestyle.
II. Brief history: ARPANET to Internet to WWW
III. Barriers to widespread Internet use remain to be overcome.
A. Internet Complexity
B. Economics
C. Security Issues
IV. Concerns and Hopes

Contrary to the marketing promises of Internet access providers and computer software and hardware companies, the Internet has not yet revolutionized the world. The spread of Internet usage among persons of different economic, educational, and cultural backgrounds is far from universal, and serious obstacles remain before computerized telecommunications will be as easy, carefree, and widespread as is portrayed in commercial advertisements. Today the Internet is used primarily by an elite minority of the world population. This minority is dominated by companies, organizations and individuals in the United States which have financial and educational advantages enabling them to decipher confusing and cryptic programs, protocols and networks, and to upgrade and replace computer hardware and software regularly as new innovations are developed. Even with these advantages, the Internet cannot become fully ingrained into American society until considerable improvements are made i!
n the usability and accessibility of the Internet in general. Until the Internet becomes simple to use and easy to access it will not become as integral a part of American culture as other innovations like the television, telephone, or microwave oven.
The Internet, as defined by Newton’s Telecom Dictionary, is “a computer network which joins many government and university and some private computers together over phone lines.” While this may be an accurate definition, it is hardly one that most people will understand, and it is already outdated. The Internet (capitalized) is a series of telephone lines and connections that spans the globe, allowing people in different cities, counties, or nations to send and receive electronic files, documents, messages, and other information almost instantly to anyone who has a computer and a modem.
The modern usage of the Internet for entertainment and private messaging is a dramatic removal from its original intended use. In the late 1950s the United States Department of Defense grappled with the problem of making a decentralized computer network so that it wouldn't have a single "point of failure", a centralized network hub which could be targeted and disabled in the event of nuclear attack. This experiment, administered by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), became known as the ARPANET. Development of the ARPANET began during the 1960s and continued through the 1980s. As early as 1977 other networks were linking to the ARPANET to transmit and receive data. Then the 1980s brought rapid and important changes to the project. Advances in computers, networking, and other digital technologies allowed more and diverse groups join the growing assortment of connected networks. Transmission protocols were standardized, and European networks were created!
and implemented for electronic mail.
In 1983 the United States military broke away from this rapidly expanding internet. ARPANET was split into ARPANET and MILNET, and the latter became integrated with the Defense Data Network created the previous year. After this important change, the evolution of the Internet accelerated until ARPANET was no longer needed to maintain the network and was allowed to expire at the end of 1989.
Even with the rapid expansion of Internet usage, it was not without flaws, many of which remain today. It was originally designed for use by military and academic communities. Most of the interaction on the Internet was restricted to text based, or command line interfaces which many people find difficult to use. This led to the development of a graphic user interface (GUI) for the Internet: the World Wide Web (WWW). The WWW has revolutionized the Internet in much the same ways that the Macintosh revolutionized personal computers in the 1980s . The WWW uses pictures and “hypertext links” to allow for more intuitive navigation of documents and data. The non-linear nature of hypertext allows people jump from one document to another easily, even if the jump is to a document on a computer located halfway around the world.
But even with innovations like the WWW, there remain many obstacles to true integration of the Internet into the American lifestyle.