Date Published: 05-Nov-2009
This may come as a surprise – the Internet is 40 years old this autumn. Doesn’t seem that long, does it?
Well of course it depends on what you call ‘Internet’. It’s really more the anniversary of the grandmother of the Net we know.
In 1969, all that existed was an experiment to prove that decentralised, distributed communication could work. Sounds complex, but it could hardly be more simple. Conventional communications are hierarchical.
Think of the 1916 Rising. (An unexpected example, but bear with me. . .) I’m not sure if it was part of the plan, but because the GPO was the nerve-centre of the postal system, its occupation by the volunteers stopped virtually everything except local mail throughout the country.
The military lesson was obvious – a centralised communication system is terribly vulnerable. Local mail is harder to stop. So, can a nationwide system be at the same time entirely local? Surprisingly, yes. If you connect every sub-post office to its nearest neighbours, and those to their neighbours and so on.
A message is not sent into the centre to be routed back out again, but passed from one local office to another ‘across country’ until it reaches its destination. The brilliant part is that this still functions even if you occupy or blow up the majority of the offices; your letter just has to take a longer route. But the Internet as we know it took shape gradually over the ’70s and ’80s, as they allowed first universities and eventually the general public to play.
Thanks to e-mail and chat rooms – and thanks particularly to cheap local call rates – it quickly took off in America. But it was from Europe that the next big change was to come. In the ’80s, Europe was experimenting with online public information systems.
France had the Minitel for sending data over phone lines, Britain was doing it using broadcast TV. But these ideas were still essentially hierarchical.
All that changed at the start of the ’90s when the World Wide Web first appeared. The Web took advantage of the distributed nature of the Internet – and took it further.
Any modern personal computer can read websites; what fewer people realise is that it can also be a website. You can host your own site on your home computer and open it to the public. And as every page on the Web can link to any other, it is the most distributed, non-hierarchical form of communication ever invented. (Though to reward the inventor, the British promoted him to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, which I can’t help think was missing the point.)
The ball was back in America’s court then, where a university in Illinois made the breakthrough which created the Web we know today: Pictures! Sound, animation and full video quickly followed, and soon we had an all-singing, all-dancing Web that now becomes hard to distinguish from television or the general media avalanche.
And though this is great, it is also perhaps a shame – because it makes it easy to forget that the Internet is the first truly two-way form of mass communication, accessible to around a quarter of all people on Earth, yet owned by nobody except the people who use it. It’s the world’s biggest exercise in democracy.
And that was never part of the plan. Richard.Chapman@gmail.com
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.
Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.
She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.
Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.
Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.
When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.
Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.
And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.
All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.
“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”
That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.
For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here
Rory takes on fresh challenge as lauded DruidMurphy returns
Date Published: 03-Apr-2013
TUAM AQUACULTURE COMPANY TO CREATE 30 JOBS
After twenty years Sarah lands dream role in Druid
Date Published: 04-Apr-2013
Sarah Lynch has been living and breathing Druid Theatre since she wangled a job as a runner fresh out of college two decades ago at age 20. After holding down just about every role imaginable there – from company manager to director to stage manager – her appointment as general manager to one of the country’s most prestigious theatre companies last October seemed almost inevitable.
Because once she had tasted the fruit of Druid she was going nowhere . . . and going everywhere. Sarah’s tenure at Druid since 1998 has brought her on a journey that has reached just about every corner of the globe and almost all the islands off Ireland in between.
After graduating from Limerick with a degree in French and English Sarah spent a stint teaching in a secondary school. But it immediately became clear that wasn’t the road for her.
“One thing I was always certain of was I’d be involved in the performing arts, whether on stage or off stage or behind it. The immediate reaction of the audience is such a buzz,” she grins.
Her earliest memory was of her grandfather, Bud Clancy, on stage with his trumpet and dance band. “I must have been three or four because he died shortly after that. But it never left me. I got bitten by the bug. I started playing the trumpet. A friend of my grandfather taught me how to play and I was with the Limerick brass and reed orchestra known as the Boherbuoy Band, I was just a kid with all these adults.”
She learned to play other brass instruments such as the French horn and cornet before turning her hand to the guitar and song-writing. “I taught myself guitar. Sometime I tinker on the piano and I think that’s my next instrument. I love percussion. You can’t get me off a drum kit for love or money. Many is the night I’ve made a fool of myself on one of those,” she laughs.
In 2010, Sarah released her debut album, Letter to Friends, which was launched by playwright Enda Walsh, whose short play, Lynndie’s Gotta Gun, she had directed as part of the 2008 Galway Arts Festival.
The collection of songs was produced by Wayne Sheehy, a musician she had met when opening for Juliet Turner on Turner’s Burn the Black Suit tour.
“I could probably have done it ten years ago but for the manic schedule with Druid and touring so much,” she reflects. “I haven’t done much with it since. I used to play gigs in the Róisín Dubh. The bigger twin is theatre at the moment. The bigger twin bullies the other twin. You don’t get much time to do music.”
After fleeing the classroom, Sarah knocked on the door of a former college mate, Andrew Flynn, now with the Galway Youth Theatre, who kindly offered up his couch. He also managed to get her a job as a runner – the person who does everything from making tea to helping with props – on a Druid production of As You Like It.
“I remember working with Mark O’Halloran, I had great fun with him. There was Helen Norton, it was Maeliosa Stafford directing. He’s coming back to the Druid after ten years to star in Tom Murphy’s A Whistle in the Dark. He left me as a runner, now I’m general manager.”
Much of Sarah’s time behind the scenes at Druid has been spent on the road. In 2009 alone, Druid toured to Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA presenting 364 performances in 26 venues.
Indeed so much of life has been out spent living of a suitcase that she gave up her base in Galway to move back in with her family in Caherdavin, on the Galway side of Limerick city.
The tour of the Cripple of Inishmaan by Martin McDonagh was so long the crew were instructed to pack two suitcases, one with summer clothes, the other winter gear, as they would be spanning the seasons. Her job now entails a lot of commuting, but driving is where she gets a lot of thinking done.
Sarah’s decision to apply for the more home-based job of general manager was one she made discreetly while on the Druid Murphy tour around the US. She had to undergo her interview in between shows at the Lincoln Center in New York. It was the most nerve wrecking experience of her life, she admits.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.