Student Impressions of Internet History Milestones

Student Impressions of Internet History Milestones (Jerz’s Literacy Weblog)

This morning I gave my students a randomized list of key events in the history of the internet, and asked them to estimate the year when each event happened. “Average” gives the average of all student guesses. “Actual” gives the actual date. “Diff” gives the difference.

 

 Event

Average

Actual

Diff

 
 

 IBM founded

1980.6

1911

69.6

 
 

 first computer with a disk drive

1983.7

1956

27.7

 
 

 first computer sold with a keyboard and monitor

1984.8

1960

24.8

 
 

 mouse (pointing device)

1988.0

1963

25.0

 
 

 word “hypertext” coined

1988.0

1965

23.0

 
 

 internet created

1986.6

1969

17.6

 
 

 working computer hypertext system demonstrated

1989.0

1968

21.0

 
 

 first e-mail message sent

1987.0

1971

16.0

 
 

 Apple Computer Co. founded

1982.1

1976

6.1

 
 

 first commercial computer game

1984.6

1978

6.6

 
 

 CD (compact disc)

1986.4

1981

5.4

 
 

 Microsoft Windows

1987.9

1983

4.9

 
 

 HyperCard (hypertext system for home computers)

1991.0

1983

8.0

 
 

 World Wide Web created

1990.8

1990

0.8

 
 

 first graphical web browser created

1990.0

1993

-3.0

 

Some of these details are fairly obscure — at least, for the vast majority of people on the planet who don’t get their jollies researching the history of technology. So I’m generally pleased with what I saw.

The collective intelligence of the class was able to sort these events roughly in chronological order, which suggests they have a certain familiarity with the medium of the internet. But it looks like they underestimated by about half the amount of time that has passed since these milestones. They got more accurate with more recent events.

The average answer for the date of the creation of the World Wide Web is correct, but graphical browsers are actually a few years older than the average figure guessed by the students.