Enabling the Meek to Challenge the Powerful


Executive Summary


The issues beginning April 1 2016 through March of 2017 mark our 25th year of publication — a quarter of a century gone by in the figurative blink of an eye. I've just turned 73 and that alone gives food for thought about mortality. This issue announces the signing of an archival home for the COOK Report at the Charles Babbage Institute of University of Minnesota.

The Institute now has its own set of the complete run of the COOK Report. Indexing and cataloging is ongoing and hopefully will be complete before April 1 2016. After that I’ve had conversations about an oral history interview and about giving them real background material that would be usable only on-site. As preparation for the oral history interview I've made myself the subject of this month’s issue with a nearly 22,000 word reminiscence that gives my own views on how I connected with the new world of computers and then wound up becoming my own publisher. It covers some of the strange things that happened on the way and ends with a summary of what I think it all means.

I reminisce here about what happened along the way and the values I place on what happened. None of it was ever really planned out in advance. I had trained and qualified for a career as a teacher of Russian history at the college level. But this was not to be. I recount the much clichéd trials and tribulations of having to change my professional goals in midstream.

Along with my 18 month tenure at the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment, I got a ringside seat for the most critical years of the development of the commercial Internet and have been very fortunate that public servants like Steve Goldstein and Don Mitchell took an interest in my success by being willing to serve as good sources. And while initially, I was very angry with Steve Wolff, I am no longer. I remember very well the pointedly accurate nature of his statement made as early acting as 1994 that the success of the NSFnet program, the opening of the commercial Internet, and the development of the World Wide Web - had given everyone their own personal printing press. How true!

To what was I attracted for my own participation in these critical early Internet years? As I’ve said in the title to this piece, it was my belief and still is that the instantiation of the commercial Internet in the United States happened in such a way as to rebalance, some extent at least, in the hands of the least well-off the power of the press — all of this happening at time when information was being concentrated in the hands of ever larger and more powerful corporations.

I have enjoyed the ability to do what I and I alone defined as “right.” I say a few things publicly here that I’ve never said before. Among these, I detail the ways in which IBM threw its corporate weight around. And did whatever it felt necessary to influence policy including having a relative of its congressman assigned to my project at OTA to ensure IBM got the credit it was “due” for its “publicly spirited work.”

When it came time to decide whether there would be and, if so what the nature would be, future government support of advanced computer networks, the role of the National Science Foundation in applying this support also came under great pressure from those who knew how to manipulate the system. In this case the spotlight focuses on the creation and development of Internet2 something which in comparison to its European counterparts I believe was misshapen but also, in this case, something for which there is direct applicable testimony. I refer here to my quoting of Doug van Houwelling’s very frank, open, and self-congratulatory words found in the the Merit and NSF white paper published on the conclusion of the five-year long NSFnet assessment project.


Google Fiber; Mutual Musicians; and Public Education in Kansas City Missouri

Over the past three years I have written almost an entire monograph on the subject of the above heading. In this issue I lift the curtain slightly on what looks to be a very positive development that has just begun. And believe me up to this point in time there has been nothing positive. What there has been is a case of the white community exploiting the black. But, in this instance we have coming a national program involving a multiyear educational effort in geosystems based architectural design. The goal here is to have the communities of the jazz district able to develop and fund their own infrastructure rather than relying on outside grants that ostensibly are there to help the community but in reality wind up lining the pockets of the developers.

There is a lot of rumbling going on beneath the surface in Kansas City. While the city's NGO industry has grown ridiculously top-heavy, there are welcome signs that people will stop bowing down to the Kauffman foundation and that entity's ability to dictate who survives and prospers - any public spirited citizen must hope - will evaporate. It is also high time that Kansas City’s jazz musicians get their Union back, as well as high time that a “revolution” in the hands of the people over- throws the economy of scarcity that has gripped the town.


SURF and SURFnet

Finally from the Netherlands there comes the rustling of potentially good news as SURF and SURFNet go from the hands of their original founders into those of a new and younger generation of those who seem certain to carry on the founder’s goals of service to the public good. The Foundation for Digital Infrastructure Netherlands is now in place to create a broader understanding amongst the Dutch public of how the knowledge infrastructure of the decade ago has become a vital third leg of the Dutch economy alongside that of the Schiphol Airport and Rotterdam harbor.



Introduction - Beginning Our 25th Year of Publication:
COOK Report Now Archived at Babbage Institute                  
p. 4

Enabling the Meek to Challenge the Powerful
Thoughts on What the On-line World Should be All About
as We Begin Our 25th Year of Publication    p. 6

Using the Computer as an Intelligence Magnifier                                                p.  7
Enter Computer Conferencing                                                                               p.  8
Employed as a Tech Writer in 1982                                                                      p. 10
Early Luminaries – the Cursor Cowboy and the MetaNetwork                            p. 10                                       
Computer Sciences Corp and NJ OTIS                                                                  p. 12
A Typo Sinks Ships                                                                                                 p. 13
IBM as a Technology Player                                                                                   p. 14
The John von Neumann National Supercomputer Center                                     p. 15
Arthur Winfree – Adopting A User                                                                         p. 17
From JvNC to OTA                                                                                                  p. 18 
The Harvard Conference and Stake Holders meeting at OTA                               p. 19
Enter IBM into National Policy Making                                                                  p. 21
The End of the OTA Tenure and Travel to Moscow                                               p. 26
From OTA to the COOK Report                                                                               p. 27
You’re a Reporter Now – Use FOIA                                                                       p. 28
MercerNet – A DoC Funded Exercise in Distance Learning                                  p. 28
Research in Washington State and in Colorado                                                    p. 31
May 1994 in Moscow                                                                                             p. 32
Don Mitchell and Getting K 12 on The Internet                                                   p. 35
Guidelines for My Reporting                                                                                 p. 36
Avi Freedman and George Gilder                                                                          p. 36
Joe Stroup, Karl Denninger and Net 99                                                                p. 38
Jon Postel as The Achilles' Heel of the Internet                                                  p. 39
Enter Ira Magaziner                                                                                              p. 39
Wolff and I Meet with Magaziner                                                                         p. 42
Corporate America Installs itself as Postel’s Attorney                                       p. 43
Roxanne Googan and the Start of Arch Econ                                                      p. 45
Research Networks – vBNS versus Internet2                                                    p. 48
Some General Conclusions about Basic Guiding Principles                               p. 56
Back with Bruce Kushnick and the Ordinary Man and Woman                         p. 59
From 2011 Through 2014 Peer-to-Peer                                                             p. 61
Some Meta Comments                                                                                        p. 63
Service to Thy Fellow Man                                                                                 p. 65

aSteam Village and e7 Studio as a
Model for a National
STEM Innovation Network                                                                                  p. 66
In the Netherlands the Younger
Generation Awakens and
Begins to Take Control                                                                                        p. 76

Executive Summary and Photo Archive                                                             p. 80