Home Dot Obits: Ted Stevens + John New

Dot Obits: Ted Stevens + John New

This is the latest in an occasional series on people who have passed away, folks who have contributed in some way to the development of, or the way we look at, the Internet and Web.

Ted Stevens, Senator, Internet Philosopher

A powerful GOP senator, Stevens died last week in a plane crash in his home state of Alaska. Chair of the Appropriations Committee, advocate for Alaska and unapologetic procurer of pork for his state, Stevens served in the Senate for 40 years before losing for reelection in 2008, then being indicted on ethic violations. The charges were eventually thrown out due to “prosecutorial misconduct.”

All that is very nice and so forth. But it’s not what we’re here for. The most common adjective used in conjunction with Stevens’s name is probably “irascible.” So when he “explained” the Internet he did it with the noninflected confidence of a cranky old know-it-all. Here’s an excerpt the text of the famous speech from Boing Boing’s post at the time.

I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?

Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially…

They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a truck.

It’s a series of tubes.

And if you don’t understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and its going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

Stevens wasn’t delivering this speech just to maintain his irascibility quotient (IQ). The senator was an opponent of net neutrality, believing that allowing companies like Verizon to charge whatever the market could bear for information was how things ought to be. Perhaps to Stevens oil and information were not qualitatively different.

All that said, the guy kicked ass for Alaska, flew over the Himalayas as a fighter pilot in WWII and surfed…in the Forties. So, let’s just accept the sad fact that as goofy as “a series of tubes” is (and it will delight me to my dying day) Ted Stevens plain and simple is cooler dead than any of us are alive.

John New, NASA Engineer

New, who died at the end of July, was one of the founding directors of the Godard Space Flight Center. (For those too young for that to register, think James Callis’s Dr. Grant on Eureka.)

He specialized in testing the technology that was developed during, and for, the space race.

For our purposes, the thing he did that had the most direct effect on the development of modern communications was his creation of testing methods and tools to evaluate satellites.

That’s right, folks, no New, no Foursquare or other location-based services. No GPS. No mobile. No nothing.

Everything new is New again.

Old surfing drawing from Hawai’i State Archive | John New photo from the Godard space center newsletter

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