Information Age, Part 3

This is Mary Tillotson. And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS.

Today we finish our three-part series about the history of communications. We tell about the Internet system called the World Wide Web. And we tell about the future of communications.

In our first two programs we discussed the history and importance of communicating information. We told how the invention of the telegraph increased the speed at which information could be sent. We told how satellites in space greatly increased the speed of communications. In our second program, we told about the development of the computer and the linking of computers into major systems called networks.

These networks led to the high-speed sharing of information among major universities and research centers around the world. The largest of these systems, the Internet, has made it possible for almost anyone with a computer and a telephone to share in what is called the Information Age.

In July nineteen-forty-five, the Atlantic Monthly magazine printed a long report written by an important scientist. His name was Vannevar Bush. Mr. Bush explained that researchers around the world were producing new ideas and useful information every day. He said the information was being produced faster than anyone could read it, remember it, or even know where to find it.

He explained that the technology of nineteen-forty-five permitted information to be kept only in books or pictures. He said some new device must be invented that would make it possible to search for, find and use new information much more quickly.

Mr. Bush explained that research information is most valuable when it is new. One small piece of information could help a researcher finish an extremely important project.

Mr. Bush wrote that he hoped a device would be invented that could store information. He said people should be able to easily link with this device to search for and gather useful information. Such a device would greatly speed gathering information and would greatly aid research.

The device that Mr. Bush dreamed about in nineteen-forty-five is now very real. It is the modern computer, linked with other computers. The link is through the Internet and the World Wide Web communications system.

The computer and the Internet now make it possible to find and gather information about any subject within a few minutes.

Here is a good example. Oncology is the study of the disease cancer. There are many hundreds of medical research centers that are working to cure cancer.

The Japanese Journal of Clinical Oncology is one of many publications that prints important cancer research information. The research papers tell about the results of treatment for many different kinds of cancer. The information in this journal is written for medical experts.

The editors of this cancer research journal place valuable cancer research information on the World Wide Web. This makes it possible for health care professionals and researchers all over the world to use the information for educational or research purposes.By using the Internet, a researcher anywhere in the world is able to find information from the Japanese Journal of Clinical Oncology and print a copy in just a few minutes.

To find the journal, a researcher would only have to type three words into an Internet search system on a computer. The three words are oncology, research and journal. Within seconds, the World Wide Web provides a list of several possible research papers from several countries. The study in the Japanese Journal of Clinical Oncology is only one of many valuable research papers that are on the World Wide Web.

Not every search is easy. Sometimes it can take a while before the right combination of words produces the needed result. However, the World Wide Web and the Internet will almost always provide the researcher with a way to find the needed information. The computer provides a quick link to the new information that scientists like Vannaver Bush said was badly needed.

Eric Benhamou is the head of a computer company called Three-Com Corporation. Mr. Benhamou says people are using the computer and the Internet to communicate for work and to exchange information with their families and friends. He says people also use the Internet to learn new things and visit different places.

Today almost one-hundred-fifty-million people use the Internet in the United States. A recent study showed they use the Internet for communication and for research. The study also showed that much of the research that is done leads to buying products with the aid of a computer and the Internet. The study also showed that more people than ever are now using the computer to buy products.

Governments, private groups and individuals have criticized the Internet. Some governments do not trust the Internet because they say it is extremely difficult to control the information that is placed there.

Some government officials say extremist groups place harmful information on the Internet. They say dangerous political information should be banned. Other groups say it is difficult to protect children from sexual information and pictures placed on the Internet. They say this kind of information should be banned.

Other critics say that it is becoming extremely difficult to know if you can trust the information that is found on the Internet. They wonder if the information is true. Did the person who placed it on the Internet make any mistakes? Still other critics say the Internet is no longer a free exchange of information and ideas. They say it has become a big business that sells products, services and information. They want the Internet to be used only for research and education.

In nineteen-forty-five, scientist Vannevar Bush said researchers needed some device that would make information easier to find, use and store. The modern computer and the Internet now provide this and much more. They are an important method of communicating and doing business and will continue to be in the future.

In the United States, many businesses expect their workers to know how to use computers. Children now begin learning to use computers in their first years of school. Many universities in the United States now require all new students to have their own computer. Most colleges provide special rooms that have computers for the use of all students.

What is the future of communications and the Internet? Experts do not really know. Computers continue to grow smaller and more powerful with each passing year. Computers that were thought to be very powerful ten years ago are now considered extremely weak and slow.

It is now possible to connect a computer with a wireless telephone that can link with communications satellites.

A person with a small computer that can be easily carried can now link with other computers from anywhere in the world. A person can that use a computer that receives its electric power from batteries and is linked with a satellite telephone. This person can communicate from anywhere in the world.

Some experts say that in the future people will not use large computers on their desks. They will use only small computer devices that link to the Internet. These devices will be easily carried from place to place.

All the information people use for business or for fun will be on their own area of the World Wide Web. This has already happened. Many people already have their own private area on the World Wide Web.

Businesses have their own special areas. A husband and a wife with a new baby place photographs of the baby in a special area so relatives can see the new addition to the family.

People now communicate, listen to radio or watch television. They to do business buy or sell goods, write a letter or send a picture from anywhere in the world at any time of the day or night. And they will communicate around the world at almost the speed of light.

This Special English program was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced by Caty Weaver. This is Steve Ember. And this is Mary Tillotson. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program on the Voice of America.

Voice of America Special English

Source: EXPLORATIONS - October 30, 2002: Information Age, Part 3
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