Friday, August 26, 2005

Back to normal for a week

The series on the history of online in the Netherlands is over. It was 25 instalments covering the history of online in the Netherlands. It was a worthwhile exercise.

First of all I had to make choices about the subject. Of course there is a lot to be said, but selection puts a focus on the topic. Besides you throw out several subjects which were interesting but not essential in the development of online in the Netherlands.

Secondly, I had a nice look around in my attic for vintage stuff. And I found some nice artefacts, which I used selectively. There is more in the attic that could be shown, but I have to find a professional photographer. I did not show the Apple IIe nor the P2000, as this is too much computer history to me. But I was glad to find back some photographs and some equipment. I am still very proud of the photograph of CERN with the Next computer used for the first World Wide Web, which was on show at the WSIS exhibition in Geneva in 2003. But I love also the first Data Diskman of Sony with all its faults (450 gram, 40 characters per line, etc.) and the smart Seiko watch.

Thirdly I am glad I wrote it all down. So far I have only seen internet history with a scope of 10 years at the max. But the Online history in the Netherlands went back to the roots in 1968. That is a long time. And I noticed that some people have changed the present for the future such as Giel Ruiten, the project manager for the Viditel project.

But writing this history was fun to do. Radio Online in the Netherlands, a radio programme on computers and internet paid attention to the series. The casting of the interview was not perfect as it was portrayed as 25 Years of Viditel. But who cares. The radio interview yielded mail from old friends. I received a mail addressing me as Grandson ( I am sixty years of age) from my godfather Charles Citroen (he must be older).

Surprising was the request from the publisher of (a site on Dutch history). He would love to have the complete Dutch translation of the series on their site as history of recent technology with the artefacts of cultural heritage. I have to find the time to do this, but I will in the second half of September. Having done the basic research, translating is a piece of cake.

Yet it is remarkable that you can not find much about the history of online. Searching internet you might find pages of 1996 in the Wayback machine. Finding anything back before 1980 is even more difficult. I do have a box with photographs taken in libraries from 1970 onwards, but they do not show anything about online. And it is already a problem to find back photographs of videotext starting pages; you can’t show the tree of information anymore, e.g. of Krantel with the bottom page NO NEWS TODAY.

The series has given me a lot of inspiration. I have been working on a book on the online history in the Netherlands for a long time now. This series has let me focus more sharply. I will have to address online as the area and companies as activities and make an analysis of the companies. It still fascinates me why Viditel was a disaster and Minitel was a success; why videotext disappeared in less than three years in favour of internet. Why the Netherlands did well in multimedia and found a link to internet, while France with Minitel was the last West-European country on gaz.

For the time being writing the history of online in the Netherlands is over. I have to go back to my daily job. By Thursday September 1, 2005 I should be ready to travel to the Middle East. In the meantime stay tuned…..

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