A 20-Year-Old Memo from NPR Heralds the Arrival of the Internet

We’re seeing the marking of a lot of 20th anniversaries of Gen-X milestones these days. Just a couple of weeks back there was a cool little 20th birthday celebration for the Offspring’s Smash, an indie record that people my age once shot into the pop culture stratosphere, and the past couple of years has been a steady remembrance of all the events and totems that shaped the youth of that day. While there’s no official date carved in stone, 1994 seems to be the year that awareness of this strange new thing called “the internet” began creeping its way into the national conversation.

Here’s an entertaining little artifact from that time. It’s a memo released 20 years ago today from NPR to its employees, telling them that the internet — a “collection of computer networks connected around the world” — had arrived:

At least NPR’s memo addressed the new technology of the internet with a little excitement, as opposed to Bryant Gumbel over at the Today show, who, in January of 1994, reacted to the concept of an e-mail address the way the cavemen reacted to the Monolith in 2001 (just with more insufferable smugness).

Now compare all of that to this: a clip from the local news station I worked as a producer for in 1994, not only embracing online technology but showing it off on-air and incorporating it into the newscasts. NPR was a national organization and it was just getting e-mail; the Today show was the highest-rated morning show in America and its hosts had no idea what “@” meant; and here was this independent station in Miami that, by early ’94, was already fully interactive. Whenever I explain to people just how powerful and trendsetting WSVN was in its formative years — the impact it had on the entire broadcast news industry — they don’t truly grasp the magnitude of its influence. This will give you an idea how forward-thinking the station was — and why I’m still very proud to be able to say that I was a part of it. Also — Rick Sanchez.

Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever. 

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