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Scientific tool unleashed 23 years ago now links us all

Published: Fri, August 8, 2014 @ 12:01 a.m.


Demar Clark, 11, of Youngstown watches a solar-power energy graphic showing panels atop a Youngstown State University building that provide electricity. The graphic also charts how much is produced at any given hour. Thanks to the Internet, Demar gets to watch the progress from a mile away at the OH WOW! science and technology center in downtown Youngstown.





Mike McKitrickdoesn’t own a smartphone.

He doesn’t have a computer either.

The 41-year-old can remember the days when typing a paper meant turning to a typewriter or to a word processor, and when knowing how to navigate a library’s card catalog system was essential for doing research.

Now, you can “just go on the Internet and look it up.”

“It’s better that things are faster and easier, but I miss the personal interaction,” said McKitrick, a former area resident who now lives in Minnesota. He was visiting OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology in downtown Youngstown on Thursday afternoon.

McKitrick’s musings on technology — he admitted to being slightly “behind the times” — come within days of the anniversary of the World Wide Web’s public introduction, which happened 23 years ago this week.

On Aug. 6, 1991, British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee — who had introduced the concept of the Internet to his colleagues in a March 12, 1989, proposal — gave people outside of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, access to the World Wide Web for the very first time.

McKitrick, for one, didn’t necessarily foresee the sweeping changes that would occur as a result of the Internet’s creation. He recalls only “bits and pieces” of its development, including the advent of email.

It wasn’t a sudden change, he added.

Katie Seminara, the 30-year-old assistant manager of OH WOW!, had a similar experience.

In many ways, she grew up alongside the Internet. As a student in junior high, she learned how to use Google. As a high school sophomore, she started to send emails — which she thought “was the greatest thing.” As a college sophomore, she received her first introduction to Facebook.

She’d just returned home from studying abroad and relied on Facebook to keep in touch with people she’d met while traveling.

“It made life extremely easy,” Seminara said.

At OH WOW!, which operates as a nonprofit organization, the Internet is an integral tool.

Seminara explained that the Internet helps OH WOW! to get its “mission out there,” by way of social media and its website. It also allows staff access to additional educational materials.

At least one exhibit at the center — the solar energy display — even incorporates the Internet, allowing visitors to track the amount of energy produced from solar panels installed on a building’s roof at Youngstown State University.

As for the future, Seminara can visualize the Internet’s helping to create a stronger connection between OH WOW! and the public it serves, even when they’re not physically there. One way to do that, she added, is through the development of applications.

“We always want to be in the palm of somebody’s hand,” Seminara said, “and the Internet will allow us to do that.”

Thanks to the Internet, the public library, too, “literally never closes,” said Heidi M. Daniel, director of the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County. Patrons can stream an album, access an e-book and have reference questions answered 24/7 from the comfort of their homes and from their own devices.

Daniel, 38, said the Internet has had a major impact on the library industry, and has brought with it both opportunities and challenges. The Internet has led to the library’s changing its services and how they’re offered, for example.

It also has caused people like Daniel to become increasingly concerned with “making sure people are able to access [the Internet],” regardless of factors such as income level. The PLYMC first offered public-access computers in 1996 and had just eight. Now, it has 271 and also offers Wi-Fi in its buildings.

Daniel doesn’t see print resources disappearing from local libraries anytime soon, however. A recent survey of patrons showed that they still consider books to be the most valuable of the library’s goods.

“You have to balance [offering technology services] with our traditional users who want our traditional services,” she said.

Lee Yi is the founder of the Boardman-based Drund, a private mobile application used to increase communication among schools, parents, teachers and students. He called the Internet an essential good that everyone should have, even likening it to water.

The Internet is a utility, not an option, said Yi, 39. A lack of access, then, cuts people off from things. But for those with access, the Internet, especially with the prevalence of Wi-Fi, is something that constantly surrounds them.

“It’s always on,” Yi explained. “You’re not trying to drag this wire, click this button and hope it connects. You wake up in the morning, [and] you’re connected.”

Contributor: Staff writer Robert Connelly


1billdog1(5912 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

Jeff, your expectations are to high. They report what somebody tells them true or false. Although I was aware that some of information in this article was incorrect, I believe the premise of technologies use will continue to change the world we live in. Our current coming of age generation carries little or no money as a result. Debt and credit cards wouldn't be as readily viable without the internet. Consumer purchasing has changed in a short 10-15 years as a result, as Heidi stated libraries have changed, our financial institutions have changed, crime has changed, etc... Despite some inaccuracies the article was focused on the changes that have resulted because of the internet.

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2iBuck(231 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

There were instant messages in 1975, on plasma-screen terminals. There were several e-mail protocols in the 1970s and 1980s before gateways were developed to interconnect them. lynx preceded the HTML "web" browser (at least in some places; it was clumsy and required creation of massive indexes for every page every time it was modified, but made the info accessible). network news-groups preceded the Balkanized, free-speech-squelching web-based discussions.

Yes, things have changed.
Studies have shown that eBooks are bad to read, reduce mental focus and memory, discourage making mental connections, involve struggles with format and lighting, but they're very cheap to produce.

Privacy is nearly non-existant; your phones, your network postings and e-mail messages (but not the governments' in a total inversion of law), your movements, how you drive... are tracked and recorded for later blackmail or persecution. Material is cheap to copy and spread, so respect for intellectual property and invention is down. People don't own, they rent... on credit, and corrupt governments swoop in to take whatever you possess and slowly take out of use the "antique" tools which allowed some privacy and independence.

Reporters aren't taught to question, and are actively discouraged from questioning these days (and what with deadlines in the seconds it's somewhat understandable). But some of it is publishers and idiotorial boreds trying to "guide" the public debate for their own purposes. Gone are the intrepid, hard-questioning Lois Lanes, Jimmy Olsens and Clark Kents who had a broad base of "liberal education" with which to approach different kinds of news.

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3billdog1(5912 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

Talk about whacked rambling. Geez....

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