Jeff and Martha’s Magnetic Ink

First Man:

I think…
I think I am.
Therefore I am!
I think…             


Of course you are, my bright little star…
I’ve miles and miles of files
Pretty files of your forefather’s fruit
And now to suit our great computer
You’re magnetic ink!

–  The Moody Blues, “On the Threshold of A Dream,” 1969

When The Moody Blues released “On the Threshold of A Dream” in 1969, the world was on the threshold of the Internet, a dream being slowly realized by the Advanced Projects Research Agency (ARPA), which was created in 1958 in reaction to the Soviet Union’s successful launch of Sputnik.  The Internet’s primordial ancestor, the ARPAnet, launched in 1969 by linking four universities in the western United States.  The effort spread overseas and into the private sector and, in 1989, the same year the Berlin Wall fell, the World Wide Web was created.  The Soviet Union disintegrated two years later and, by the end of the 1990s, the term “Internet” was entering common parlance.

The cables and fibers of the Internet gradually became neurons of a planetary nervous system and visionaries like Steve Jobs realized that individual computing devices were not merely tools, but extensions of the human nervous system into the grander structure.  Pleasure, purchases and knowledge were at our fingertips.  But we learned that the Internet, the planetary brain, had an id, a darker side laden with lies, pornography and terror.  We also came to realize that the wondrous new planetary network was a two-way mirror:  when we looked into the Internet, it looked back.


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