This week, the Internet turns 43. (Arguably, anyway.) On October 29, 1969, the first communication was transmitted over the ARPAnet between its first two endpoints at UCLA and Stanford. Thus were laid the first seeds of societal revolution that would forever change communication, commerce, education, socialization, and — perhaps most tellingly — the underlying conceits of contemporary science fiction.
For those unfamiliar with the term, the ARPAnet was the earliest version of Internet developed by the U.S. Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). It was originally envisioned as the mainframe equivalent of a KVM switch, it’s had a bunch of different names, and it conjured forth the first spam email in history less than 10 years after its birth. The ARPAnet also inspired a lot of fiction about hackers doing modern Internet-centric deeds before the Internet as we know it actually existed.
The video game Metal Gear Solid 3 makes ARPAnet development a key point in the character Sigint’s backstory. Hacktivist quasi-heroes The Lone Gunmen regularly surfed the modern remnants of the ARPAnet in several episodes of The X-Files. Thomas Pynchon’s novel Inherent Vice features a main character that is an ARPAnet user. The list goes on.
Yet for all these moderately obscure appearances of the ARPAnet in fiction, none is perhaps as unlikely as the sitcom that presented the first television depiction of any version of the Internet.
WHAT UNLIKELY TV SHOW FIRST DEPICTED A CHARACTER ACCESSING THE INTERNET?