Information superhighway

Information superhighway

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The information superhighway or infobahn
was a popular term used through the 1990s to refer to digital communication systems and the Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

 telecommunications network
Telecommunications network
A telecommunications network is a collection of terminals, links and nodes which connect together to enable telecommunication between users of the terminals. Networks may use circuit switching or message switching. Each terminal in the network must have a unique address so messages or connections...

. It is associated with United States Senator and later Vice-President Al Gore
Al Gore
Albert Arnold "Al" Gore, Jr. served as the 45th Vice President of the United States , under President Bill Clinton. He was the Democratic Party's nominee for President in the 2000 U.S. presidential election....



There are a number of definitions of this term. Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age defines the term as "the whole digital enchilada - interactive, cable, broadband, 500-channel [...] then-Senator Al Gore Jr. introduced it at a 1978 meeting of computer industry folk, in homage to his father, Senator Albert Gore Sr." (71).

The McGraw-Hill Computer Desktop Encyclopedia defines the term as "a proposed high-speed communications system that was touted by the Clinton/Gore administration to enhance education in America in the 21st Century. Its purpose was to help all citizens regardless of their income level. The Internet was originally cited as a model for this superhighway; however, with the explosion of the World Wide Web
World Wide Web
The World Wide Web is a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet...

, the Internet became the information superhighway" (464).

The Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

(OED) defines the term as "a route or network for the high-speed transfer of information; esp. (a) a proposed national fiber-optic network in the United States; (b) the Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

." The OED also cites usage of this term in three periodicals:
  • the January 3, 1983 issue of Newsweek
    Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine published in New York City. It is distributed throughout the United States and internationally. It is the second-largest news weekly magazine in the U.S., having trailed Time in circulation and advertising revenue for most of its existence...

    : "...information superhighways being built of fiber-optic cable will link Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D. C. in a 776-mile system on the East Coast."
  • the December 19, 1991 issue of the Christian Science Monitor: "Senator Gore calls NREN
    National Research and Education Network
    A National Research and Education Network is a specialised internet service provider dedicated to supporting the needs of the research and education communities within a country....

     the "information superhighway" - a catalyst for what he hopes will become one day a national fiber-optic network."
  • the October 26, 1993 issue of the New York Times: "One of the technologies Vice President Al Gore is pushing is the information superhighway, which will link everyone at home or office to everything else—movies and television shows, shopping services, electronic mail and huge collections of data."

The working paper No.179, 1994, of the Center for Coordination Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological education and research.Founded in 1861 in...

describes the concept as follows: "The information superhighway directly connects millions of people, each both a consumer of information and a potential provider. (...) Most predictions about commercial opportunities on the information superhighway focus on the provision of information products, such as video on demand, and on new sales outlets for physical products, as with home shopping. (...) The information superhighway brings together millions of individuals who could exchange information with one another. Any conception of a traditional market for making beneficial exchanges, such as an agricultural market or trading pit, or any system where individuals respond to posted prices on a computer screen is woefully inadequate for the extremely large number of often complex trades that will be required."

Earlier similar phrases

Some other people used the term "superhighway" in application to telecommunications even earlier.

In 1964, M. Brotherton in his book "Maser
A maser is a device that produces coherent electromagnetic waves through amplification by stimulated emission. Historically, “maser” derives from the original, upper-case acronym MASER, which stands for "Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation"...

s and Laser
A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation...

s; How They Work, What They Do" on p. 5, wrote about laser beams and used the term "superhighways" for communication.

In 1974, Nam June Paik used the term "super highway" in application to telecommunications, which gave rise to the opinion that he may have been the author of the term "information superhighway". In fact, in his 1974 proposal "Media Planning for the Postindustrial Society – The 21st Century is now only 26 years away" to Rockefeller Foundation
Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation is a prominent philanthropic organization and private foundation based at 420 Fifth Avenue, New York City. The preeminent institution established by the six-generation Rockefeller family, it was founded by John D. Rockefeller , along with his son John D. Rockefeller, Jr...

 he used a slightly different phrase, "electronic super highway":

The building of new electronic super highways will become an even huger enterprise. Assuming we connect New York with Los Angeles by means of an electronic telecommunication network that operates in strong transmission ranges, as well as with continental satellites, wave guides, bundled coaxial cable, and later also via laser beam fiber optics: the expenditure would be about the same as for a Moon landing
Moon landing
A moon landing is the arrival of a spacecraft on the surface of the Moon. This includes both manned and unmanned missions. The first human-made object to reach the surface of the Moon was the Soviet Union's Luna 2 mission on 13 September 1959. The United States's Apollo 11 was the first manned...

, except that the benefits in term of by-products would be greater.

See also

  • Al Gore and information technology
    Al Gore and information technology
    Al Gore served as the Vice President of the United States from 1993–2001. He is the co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. In the 1990s he promoted legislation that funded an expansion of and greater public access to the internet....

  • National Information Infrastructure
    National Information Infrastructure
    The National Information Infrastructure was the product of the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991. It was a telecommunications policy buzzword, which was popularized during the Clinton Administration under the leadership of Vice-President Al Gore...

  • The Superhighway Summit
    The Superhighway Summit
    The Superhighway Summit was held at UCLA's Royce Hall on 11 January 1994. It was the "first public conference bringing together all of the major industry, government and academic leaders in the field [and] also began the national dialogue about the Information Superhighway and its implications." ...

  • Knowledge policy
    Knowledge policy
    Policies are the paradigms of government and all bureaucracies. Policies provide a context of rules and methods to guide how large organizations meet their responsibilities. Organizational knowledge policies describe the institutional aspects of knowledge creation, management, and use within the...

  • Cyberspace
    Cyberspace is the electronic medium of computer networks, in which online communication takes place.The term "cyberspace" was first used by the cyberpunk science fiction author William Gibson, though the concept was described somewhat earlier, for example in the Vernor Vinge short story "True...

  • Global village
    Global Village (term)
    Global Village is a term closely associated with Marshall McLuhan, popularized in his books The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man and Understanding Media . McLuhan described how the globe has been contracted into a village by electric technology and the instantaneous movement of...

Further reading


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