Perform Act, 1996 by Les Levine
Image courtesy of the artist
9/13/95 US Justice Department announces a dozen arrests of America Online users for using the network to lure minors into sex and to distribute kiddie porn. "We are not going to permit exciting new technology to be misused to exploit and injure children," says Attorney General Janet Reno. Sen. Orrin Hatch's comment that "visual depictions of children...can be producing entirely by computer...placing such depictions outside the scope of Federal law," reveals a new and intrusive approach to such laws: The original point of the legislation was to ensure that children would not be used as models, rather than to keep adults from seeing such material.
9/14/95 US Domain name-holders (e.g. cuny.edu or ibm.com) will now pay $50 annually to the government-backed National Science Foundation to register those names.
9/17/95 Two first-year, computer-science graduate students at UC Berkeley posted their discovery of a security flaw in Netscape, the current web browser of choice, to an Internet mailing list. Although Netscape Communications Corportation officials said the flaw would be fixed within the week, the finding "threatened to cast a chill over the emerging market for electronic commerce," according to the New York Times, which ran a front page story on the subject on 9/19. Some observers contend that the so-called flaw--discovered after a week of running numbers through the computer--has little relevance to encrypted, security systems.
9/19/95 The Washington Post published the Unabomber's entire, 35,000 word manifesto today. Post publisher Donald Graham and New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., said the decision was jointly made by the two newspapers at the urging of the Attorney General and the FBI director "for public safety reasons."
9/27/95 Computer book and software publishers O'Reilly & Associates release a report based on random phone calls to 200,000 households claiming that 5.8 million American adults are connected directly to the Internet; and another 3.9 million to commercial on-line services. 67% of those with direct Internet access are male, more than half are age18 34, more than half work in organizations with more than 1000 employees, and their median household income is $50-75,000. The most frequently cited occupational fields are education, followed by sales and engineering.
9/28/95 Microsoft and Visa International propose an industry software standard for on-line commercial transactions, but critics of the proposal say the partners are simply promoting technology they control. A standards war is likely.
9/95 Internet Troop No. 1 is chartered in Manhattan Beach, CA. It is the first Girl Scout troop to hold its meetings on-line.
9/95 Widespread media attention finally comes to Sun Microsystems' Java, which has been available for much of the year. The new programming language is expected to transform the World Wide Web into a far more vibrant and interactive communications medium by allowing programs to move between once-incompatible operating systems and by retrieving--when employed in conjuction with a web browser--programs and the data they generate from server-computers on which Web sites are run. Sun plans to make Java freely available, virtually assuring its acceptance as an at least initial industry standard.
10/2/95 NBC announces software that allows audio and video to be simultaneously received through the WWW at transmission speeds available to home computers. (Instead of high speed T-1 connections, only 14.4 kilobits-a-second modem speeds are required for delivery.) The downside is that video imagery will be updated only every 5 to 20 seconds, rather than the full motion, 30-frames-per-second viewing available via high-speed connections. Initially, the service will be expensive and undoubtedly used, in part, for pay-per-view-style events.
10/4/95 The media report AT&T's filing of a federal application to build and launch a multibillion-dollar global satellite network. Employing two-foot-diameter satellite-dish antennas, the system would allow computer users to bypass local phone networks to access the Internet. The system could handle 10 million customers and offer data-rate services ranging from 32 kilobits to 1.5 megabits.
10/9/95 UC Berkeley researchers have posted findings to computer security discussion groups suggesting that the basic structure of the Internet contains flaws that require a redesign to ensure secure financial transactions. They believe that the problem is rooted in Network File System (NFS), an Internet protocol that lacks the means to protect a document or program from tampering or interception en route from one Net user to another.
10/16/95 The Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press report the results of a survey about computer use conducted in May-June and based on a telephone sample of 3600 adults and an additional sample of 400 on line users. The results: 14% of all Americans are on-line users by virtue of substribing to an on-line service or, perhaps more important, having access to one at work; 3.5% make a connection daily; 28% of rural homes in the US, and 32% of urban ones have personal computers; e-mail is by far the most popular on-line activity; CD-ROM drives are preferred by many consumers to on-line services; and less than 33% of those surveyed would miss their commercial on-line services "a lot" if they were no longer available.
10/16/95 The Federal Register has published a proposal for an FBI controlled, wiretapping system so vast that as many as 1% of phone lines in high crime areas of the U.S. might be tapped. (Today fewer than one of every 174,000 lines in the U.S. are tapped with court authorization.) An FBI spokesperson called "full implementation" of the plan "absolutely essential for law enforcement and public safety," but refused to elaborate on the need for so dramatic an expansion of its wiretapping capabilities. Congressional approval would be required for the plan.
10/18/95 The Los Angeles Times reports that the FCC is expected to issue rules governing a new satellite band devoted to radio later this year or early next year. Several firms such as RadioStar are positioning themselves to deliver satellite radio by the end of the decade. Boosters maintain that it will offer CD-quality sound, 10 national music channels, and displays offering everything from a song's artists and title to reports of today's traffic snafus. The downside is that consumers will need to buy new radios and subscribe to satellite radio services. The traditional "localness" of radio broadcasts would be radically affected as well.
10/18/95 Security First Network Bank, a small Kentucky S & L, became the first bank to conduct real banking on-line. SFNB claims it has overcome security obstacles with a state of the art encryption system that allows consumers to pay bills, make deposits, and view their account balance over the Internet with complete peace of mind.
10/23/95 Electronic cash arrived today! Digicash, an Amsterdam firm run by American cryptography legend David Chaum, announced that Mark Twain Bankshares of St. Louis would the be the first bank to offer customers the fim's E-Cash. At the outset only a few companies are accepting E-Cash and the cost of an account is high (an expected $10 to establish an account and $2-5/month to maintain it.)
10/24/95 In a major First Amendment victory, Stratton Oakmont Inc, a Long Island Investment firm, has dropped a $200 million libel suit against Prodigy Services Company, in exchange for an apology. Stratton Oakmont agreed not to oppose Prodigyís request that State Supreme Court for Nassau County Justice Stuart L. Ain overturn his earlier decision holding the on-line service liable for comments made by its users. On 12/13 Justice Ain declined to reverse his earlier decision, citing "a real need for some precedent" in rulings affecting cyberspace. Attorney and First Amendment advocate Martin Garbus, who now represents Prodigy, said he would file for reconsideration. If Justice Ain declines, Garbus says Prodigy will appeal.10/30/95 Nielsen Media Research announces findings from its survey of Internet use conducted for Commerce Net, a consortium of businesses interested in promoting electronic commerce. The findings indicated that an estimated 24 million adults in Canada and the U.S.--10.8% of the population over age 16--had used the Internet in the past three months. The reports suggests that mass market penetration is imminent, but hasnít yet arrived. A summary of the survey is available free at http://www.commerce.net/ and http://www.nielsenmedia.com. A month later, Donna Hoffman, a Vanderbuilt University professor charged that the survey is fundamentally flawed. (It is being sold to businesses for $5-10,000 a copy.) Professor Hoffman, who worked with NMR to design the survey, withdrew her endorsement of it after seeing the raw data. She believes its sample was skewed to consumers who are older, and more affluent and educated than the average American. Her numbers suggest that fewer than 10 million US and Canadian adults use the Internet; while Nielsen's suggest 24 million users.
11/13/95 America Online and Intuit (maker of Quicken, the best-selling personal finance software) announced that they will join forces to develop electronic banking services that will enable AOL customers to access their checking, savings, credit card, money market funds and brokerage records on-line. They will also be able to pay bills and transfer funds, all via pointing-and-clicking. Although financial institutions haven't yet signed on, Intuit chair Scott Cook, said that he expects many major banks -including American Express, Chemical, Chase Manhattan, and Wells Fargo -to open virtual branches on AOL in 1996.
11/15/95 The Associated Press announced that it would begin to distribute its articles and photographs over the World Wide Web.
11/16/95 The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) commended Microsystems Software, Inc, the makers of the blocking software Cyber Patrol, for its decision to reconsider the blocking of gay and lesbian resources on the Web. Software makers seem prone to deeming gay sites "offensive"--even educational ones--without being familiar with their content. This occurred earlier this year with SurfWatch, which has also since reconsidered the blocking of lesbian and gay sites.
11/20/95 The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission opened Rulenet on its Web site (http://www.nrc.gov). A sort of "virtual hearing room," the first-of-its-kind bulletin board offers Web users the opportunity to comment on proposed rulings.
11/21/95 Bertlesmann AG and Axel Springer Verlag AG, two German media giants, announced that they will be joining forces with America Online to create interactive communications networks in Europe. The deal is a blow to any Microsoft attempt to dominate the European interactive on-line market.
12/1/95 A coalition of civil liberties group and commercial on-line service providers agreed to accept compromise legislative restrictions against the transmission of on-line pornography or material deemed "filthy," "lewd," or "indecent." In the face of inexorable Congressional pressure, the move comes prior to a House-Senate conference committee that will debate a measure imposing fines of up to $100,000 and prison sentences for those who transmit such materials. On 12/6, a House-Senate conference committee agreed to go far beyond the compromise language and adopt the draconian provisions of the Senate prohibitions against transmitting not only pornographic but "indecent" material. Indecency lacks precise legal meaning, potentially resulting in fines for the use of terms like "breast" and "penis." Free expression advocacy groups announced they will file suit against the restrictions, if they become law.
!2/12/95 House and Senate conferees agreed to require television manufacturers to include a violence-blocking computer chip--the so-called V-chip--in all new tv sets. It also mandated that the broadcasting and entertainment industries devise a voluntary rating system for violence within one year or face "guidelines" to be drawn up by the Federal Communications Commission. (See also 2/1/96)
12/4/95 The Rand Corporation's newly released report, "Universal Access to E-Mail: Feasibility and Social Implications" (at http://www.rand.org/publications/MR/MR650/) urges new taxes to ensure widespread access to e-mail.
12/4/95 Sun Microsoft and Netscape announced a coalition of Silicon Valley companies for a user-friendly version of Java software. The intention is to establish a new, software standard for the Net which, incidentally, challenges Microsoft's dominance in creating on-line standards that function monopolistically. On 12/6, IBM announced it would license Java. On12/7, Bill Gates held a press conference to announce that Microsoft had agreed to license Java, an acknowledgement that Microsoft's Visual Basic language for producing WWW applications is never going to be the industry's standard. He also said that Microsoft's new top priority is integrating Internet components and communications link into all of its software, as well as Microsoft's Network, which is being revamped just four months after its debut.
12/28/95 Following a German federal prosecutor's statement that the material on more than 200 Internet discussion groups is pornographic, Compuserve blocked access to the Usenet groups for its customers worldwide. The US-based company called the action a temporary move, while it considers ways to tailor its service to an individual country's law. The move was criticized by free expression groups for blocking access to non-prurient discussions of subjects like homosexuality. 1/28/96 The T-Online service of Deutsche Telekom blocked access to the Web site of Ernst Zundel, a Toronto neo-Nazi, after German prosecutors warned the company that it was investigating whether it was "helping to incite racial hatred." 2/13/96 Compuserve announced that it would restore worldwide access to most of the more than 200 sex-related data bases it had blocked. (Five sites allegedly trafficking in child pornography remain blocked.) Instead it will provide free a version of Cyber Patrol, blocking software for parents.
12/95 A survey by Inteco revealed computer sales in Europe are booming but the number of households with personal computers at the end of 1995 was still far below figures for the US (37%). Spain topped the list at 21%, followed by Britain and Germany (19%), France (15%), and Italy (14%). Computer manufacturers have made the large European market a fiercely contested battleground; the American firms Compaq and IBM currently lead the pack.
12/95 During 1995, the percentage of US households with more than one telephone line nearly doubled; rising to 16%. The world's leading marketers of personal computers for 1995 were: Compaq (10% market share), IBM (8%), Apple (7.8%), Packard Bell (5.3%), and NEC (4.8%).