In his 1964 short story, “Dial F for Frankenstein”, the late Arthur C Clarke speculated the world’s inter-connected telephone system becoming a conscious entity that then takes over the world. Years later, in 1989, this inspired the British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee to invent the World Wide Web, a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet.
When Berners-Lee acknowledged his inspiration in media interviews, Sir Arthur exclaimed: “Oh dear, what have I done?”
But in later years, Sir Arthur took pride in being described as the inspiration for the web, which came on top of his much more widely acclaimed recognition of being the inventor of the communication satellite.
It was entirely appropriate, then, that most tributes to Sir Arthur would appear online. The news of his death, on 19 March 2008 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, went round the world at the speed of light thanks largely to the web. This triggered a virtual explosion of tributes, comments and eulogies from ordinary people – ranging from science fiction readers and movie buffs to computer geeks and space enthusiasts.
Among the thousands paying tribute to the grandmaster of science fiction was the Internet Society, a non-profit organisation founded in 1992 to provide leadership in Internet related standards, education, and policy. They called Sir Arthur “a visionary of science and technology, whose ideas and legacy can be seen woven through many modern communication technologies, including the Internet itself”.
As a tribute to Sir Arthur, the Internet Society has placed online, rather belatedly, an interview filmed with Sir Arthur at his Colombo home in 2002. The interview, conducted by Alan Greenberg and George Sadowsky, then Trustees of the Internet Society, is presented in four parts.
In this wide-ranging interview, a very relaxed Sir Arthur talks about the history of 20th century communications and his own role in shaping the events in the past 60 years. Here, in one place, are the reflections and extrapolations of the man who always connected the present with the future. He also touches on the future of space exploration, and the urgent need to develop clean energy sources for a world addicted to oil.
Part 1 of 4 (8 mins 51 secs):
Part 2 of 4 (9 mins 30 secs):
Part 3 of 4 (7 mins 11 secs):
Part 4 of 4 (6 mins 26 secs):
Comment: Although it’s the Internet Society, no less, they seem to be rather limited in their ability to promote these videos placed on the public video exchange platform, YouTube. These remain virtually hidden away, with a single tag (movie) which obscures them from online searches. In nearly three weeks since they were placed online (24 March 2008), these have been viewed by just a few hundred people. In contrast, other tributes and archival material of Sir Arthur are attracting thousands of views and a growing number of comments on the same YouTube.