Revisiting Day When Internet Was Born

When the first exchange over ARPANET took place on Oct. 29, 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered Mississippi to desegregate its public schools and Sen. Ted Kennedy was in Congress debating the Vietnam-era draft law. Only a handful of people cared much about the first ARPANET exchange.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

When that first exchange over ARPANET took place 40 years ago on this date, only a handful of people cared much about the event.

On October 29th, 1969, here's what was news.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The Supreme Court ordered Mississippi to desegregate its public schools.

(Soundbite of TV broadcast)

DANIEL SCHORR: The obligation of every school district is to terminate dual school system at once and to operate now and hereafter only unitary schools.

SIEGEL: That was CBS's Daniel Schorr. No one knew on that day that he would be NPR's senior news analyst, these four decades later.

BLOCK: Also in the news the day the Internet was born, Senator Ted Kennedy was in Congress debating the Vietnam era draft law.

Senator TED KENNEDY (Democrat, Massachusetts): Let me make plain my own view that extensive changes in the draft system are what we need. It would do no good in the long run to add yet another patchwork change to an already outdated law.

BLOCK: On the same day, a New York City bank equipment executive predicted that within five years, Americans would be using fewer checks because everyone would have a new charge card that withdrew directly from their checking account.

SIEGEL: And in the week that the Internet was tested, a film starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman hit theaters.

(Soundbite of film, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid")

Mr. PAUL NEWMAN (Actor): (as Butch Cassidy) I'll jump first.

Mr. ROBERT REDFORD (Actor): (as The Sundance Kid) Nope.

Mr. NEWMAN: (as Butch Cassidy) Then you jump first.

Mr. REDFORD: (as The Sundance Kid) No, I said.

Mr. NEWMAN: (as Butch Cassidy) What's the matter with you?

Mr. REDFORD: (as The Sundance Kid) I can't swim.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NEWMAN: (as Butch Cassidy) Why you crazy, the fall will probably kill you.

Mr. REDFORD: (as The Sundance Kid) Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh.

BLOCK: "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" went on to become the top grossing film of 1969 and won four Oscars.

SIEGEL: And on this 40th anniversary of the Internet, we have a question for you. What was your first Internet experience?

BLOCK: Write to us at NPR.org. Please put the words Internet at 40 in the subject line.

(Soundbite of song, "I Can't Get Next to You")

THE TEMPTATIONS (Singers): (Singing) I can turn the gray sky blue. I can make it rain whenever I want it to.

SIEGEL: This is our final memory from October 29th, 1969: the number one song in the country that day, "I Can't Get Next to You" by The Temptations.

THE TEMPTATIONS: (Singing) But my life is incomplete and I'm so blue 'cause I can't get next to you. I can't get next to you, babe. Next to you. I can't get next to you. I just can't get next to you. I can't get next to you, babe. I can't get next to you. I can fly like a bird in the sky. Hey, and I can buy anything that money can't buy.

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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