Pre-Internet Newspapers Go Online (Circa 1981)

[youtube url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X84muuaySVQ]

Channel 4 KRON TV news report from 1981 details how the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner newspapers were adopting news articles for online delivery. You have to stop and think about what that meant back then. The Apple II home computer ruled the classrooms. The IBM PC was still several years off. Hobbyist computer systems that connected electronic keyboards to black-and-white TV’s were available to anyone with a soldering iron. CompuServe and America Online (AOL) were emerging online services. What would become the modern Internet was accessible only through military and university computer networks.

The first commercial Hayes modem came out that year to set the communication standard for a computer to connect to another computer over the plain old telephone at a lighting fast speed of 300-bits-per-second. (Today’s 30-megabits-per-second cable modem is 100,000 times faster in comparison.) As the anchorwoman pointed out in the YouTube video, it would take over two hours to download the daily $0.20 USD newspaper and the phone company charging $5.00 USD per hour.

Newspapers back then weren’t worry about losing money to an online news service. Flash forward 30 years into the future, the dead tree edition of the daily newspaper is declining as readers read mostly free news from the Internet over their cellphones and tablets. Like many industries that embraced computer technology, newspaper publisher never looked far enough down the road to see how their existing business model must change from the physical to the virtual. I stopped subscribing to the dead tree edition years ago, mostly because the neighbors kept stealing the newspapers off my apartment doorstep before I left for work in the morning.

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