Did Richard Nixon invent the Internet?

The following quote — which appears to infer that Richard Nixon dreamed up a kind of Ur-Internet in the early 1970s — appears on page 483 of The Book of Lists #2, which I have been reading off and on in Baja.

What I find especially fascinating is that this Ur-Internet scheme appeared in the book under a heading called “Six Outrageous Plans That Didn’t Happen” — implying that, in 1980 (when The Book of Lists #2 was published), editor David Wallechinsky was oblivious to the potential usefulness of inter-linked personal computers.

Indeed, Nixon and H.R. Haldeman’s “Wired Nation” scheme is listed alongside such wacky plans as G. Gordon Liddy’s attempt to kidnap anti-war leaders in anticipation of the ’72 GOP convention in San Diego; the CIA plan to make Fidel Castro’s beard fall out; and the Nixon-era “Huston Plan” to increase domestic spying on US citizens (which sounds to me like a kind of Ur-“Patriot Act”).

Anyhow, here’s the quote:

In his book The Shadow Presidents, author Michael Medved relates the extreme disappointment of H.R. Haldeman over his failure to implement his plan to link up all the homes in America by coaxial cable. In Haldeman’s words, “There would be two-way communication. Through computer, you could use your television set to order up whatever you wanted. The morning paper, entertainment services, shopping services, coverage of sporting events and public events.

Posted by | Comments (2)  | October 28, 2004
Category: Travel Writing


2 Responses to “Did Richard Nixon invent the Internet?”

  1. Patrick Says:

    The early planning for what would become the internet began in 1961 and by 1969 when Nixon took office there were already 4 computers connected to it.

    http://www.isoc.org/internet/history/brief.shtml

  2. Stewart Says:

    Re the comment from Patrick…I’m not, of course, suggesting that Nixon “invented” it, but 4 connected computers in the late 60’s hardly comprises the “internet”. Remember, too, that the meandering vision of Nixon and Haldeman was still deemed derisory by the authors of the Book of Lists – in 1980.