What if the (Public Facing) Internet never existed?


I normally like Cody’s videos but this one just plain sat wrong with me because he seemed to ignore that BBS’s and other connectivity existed.

My initial response:

A thing they seem to be skipping out on is the BBS; which was actually coded up by a couple guys in Chicago when a snowstorm basically shut the city down and they were bored so decided ‘hey let’s hook up the computer club’s phone line up to a computer.’

One of these guys was actually involved in ARPAnet in a very tangential manner and so had some experience in connecting computers together that didn’t necessarily share operating system standards (CPM being the dominant OS at the time.)

It is my personal feeling that the BBS would still happen, as it was a very ‘bottom-up’ affair that sorta grew into its own thing with no real connection to ARPA, NSFnet, or anything the government was doing. BBS’s ended up spawning FIDOnet, which allowed BBBS’s to exchange information between each other and os you could get messages from one en of the country (and eventually the world) to the other with no user NEEDING to pay anything (though often times individual region nodes would try raising money for operational costs.)

Their track is of a world where there was no networking outside of the government sector. I would like to see you do an alternate history where the BBS continued to hold sway.


* What would be ‘The Internet’ as you would think of it? Not the Web, which I consider to be the advent of HTML Linked Documents that lives on the internet (Or Gopher, or any of a dozen other protocols that might or might not exist to serve in a time/space where a ‘network of networks’ isn’t a thing. this is perhaps the most important question because we have to establish what it is exactly that no-longer exists when the timelines diverge, and why this thing we know as ‘The Internet’ does not exist so we can figure out how the rest of the dominos may or may not fall

* Would University run networks still be a thing? I could see campus-centric ‘Chicago University’ or ‘NYU’ or ‘FSU’ networks that you would be issued an account for if you were a student or staff, but would Usenet develop there without NSFnet to act as a backbone?

* Would the Intel x86 sill be the standard in computing? Would there be any room for ‘home micro’ machines like the Atari ST line, Amiga, etc? Mildly important but more a curiosity.

‘The Internet’ is way more than just ebay, reddit, youtube, and cat pictures. It’s a backbone service hang off of so you can do remote banking, reservations, business to business transactions, and the like. I could see an ‘internet like’ thing existing, but it never getting into the public hands since it’s seen as a business toy and distinctly separate from DARPAnet and had grown up for similar reasons 'getting machine A to talk to machine B even though the two don’t share common OS or interfacing.

Can anyone think of any other questions I should be asking and or pondering that I haven’t touched on? It’s one thing to go ‘I do not know this thing’ but a whole other matter to suddenly realize after the fact just exactly how much you don’t know you never knew, to begin with.

I figure this is a worthy topic of discussion here. 'What would the world look like if the internet as we now know it never rolled out to joe public?'


  • My life would be totally different. Both my work and my hobbies are dependent on the internet. I devote a lot of my time to Atlantic Sentinel, Forgotten Trek and Never Was, none of which could exist without the internet. I imagine career-wise I would probably have ended up working as a traditional journalist for a newspaper or magazine.

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