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July 18, 2005


Darren Shaw

I don't remember a specific moment when the world suddenly seemed flat, but I can see how it gradually got less curved.

Back in the early 90s I can remeber we'd be on holiday on the Greek islands waiting for the English language newspapers to be delivered, 2-3 days after they were published. This year, I've been away working in Israel, sat on my hotel balcony listening to my football (soccer) team playing in a local English derby game, live.

The thing that always gets me, is just how quick these things happen. Can you imagine paying over the odds for 3 day old news anymore? Yet that was only ten years ago.

Bill Higgins

For me it was May 1996; I was 18 and on the verge of graduating from high school. My dad had just bought me my first GUI-based computer (sadly not an IBM; rather a Packard Bell running Windows '95). I had a good friend who was an exchange student from Germany whose family came over to visit the US with her before she went back. At the time, I was really starting to become interested in computers and it turned out that my friend's brother was a computer science PhD student in Berlin. He said that he wanted to show me a program but it was on a computer in Germany. He proceeded to connect to the Internet and telnetted into his computer server at his university in Germany. He typed commands (which slowly echoed back over the 14.4 kbs modem) and ran the program.

I didn't realize what he was doing at first, so when he told me that he was typing commands on a computer in Germany, it totally blew my mind because he was using my meager computer with no special software - just an Internet connection and the simple DOS-based Telnet program. The world all of a sudden felt a little smaller.

Vincenzo Graziano

I remember the first time I used the Internet. I was a teenager. It was amazing! All at once I could chat with a lot of people coming from places I did not even hear about. My world was Italy. I didn’t want to chat on international chartrooms since the language was still a barrier. Through the Internet I got to know so many people all over my country; this gave me the chance to visit beautiful places that probably I wouldn’t have visited. I discovered a country, mine, that is so diverse and beautiful. I have to say, it was great. But then something happened. I realised that I was spending too much time on the Internet. This was affecting my social life and therefore I decided to give up with the Internet for a while and I joined a youth voluntary centre. I spent six years in that centre and I think I have learnt many lessons that will keep me company for all my life. Probably the most important lesson is that we are all different. We all speak different languages even when we speak the same language. We can live the same experience and then we feel completely different emotions. Why do I say this? Well, sometimes I have the impression that we don’t notice that there is a lot of diversity just round the corner; we only need to pop out and meet it, and we will have “flattened the world”. I like technology. I need it. It is like my father’s car. When I was in Italy I used to drive it to go the voluntary centre. How many memories I can recall. The issue here is that a car does not decide where you have to go and whom you have to go with. So I think that we flatten the world everyday when we decide to drive somewhere we do not know in hopes of discovering something.
Darren said “This year, I've been away working in Israel, sat on my hotel balcony listening to my football (soccer) team playing in a local English derby game, live”.
I do the same Darren. I try to find in England whatever reminds me of my land. I read Italian newspapers on the Internet to know what is happening in my country. But sometimes I get up in the morning, turn the radio on and listen to the news in English. Then I go to university and everything around me is so different. When it gets dark and I go out with my friends everything is different again: the way people enjoy themselves, the way they express affection to me, everything! And I think: “…wow, it is still exciting like when I first came to this country”. I do like to read my Italian on-line newspaper but I could not do without with the excitement I feel when someone says or does something that I do not understand. It makes me feel like a little Columbus who has discovered another unknown part of the world.

Chris Caine

For me it was 1986 when I was in Lansing, Michigan discussing public policy with State Legislators and using what happened in Sweden a few hours earlier to help put the issue into a more complete perspective.

It had an impact on all of us.

Kari Halsted

For me, it was the summer of 1993, when I was a summer student for the National Research Council of Canada. In my e-mail appeared an announcement that Andrew Wiles had proven Fermat's Last Theorem (or, at least he thought he had). The fascinating part (I admit, the math was a little beyond me) was looking at all the places that e-mail had been, as recorded in the headers. Princeton, Stanford, Cambridge (UK and MA) and on and on. All these people who knew someone who knew someone who knew ... eventually me.

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