BBC Two's "The Net," Episodes 2 and 5 from 1994

Back in March, I posted the first episode of a BBC Two series called The Net from 1994. It’s a great time capsule of how the media portrayed cyberculture in the early 1990s, very much like a TV version of early Wired Magazine.

Thanks again to Martin Brewer, who also contributed the Horizon show, here are two more episodes from the first season of The Net from 1994.

Note: Like all the other materials I post here, these videos are completely out-of-print and unavailable commercially, digitized from old VHS tapes. If they ever come back into print, or the copyright holders contact me, I’ll take them down immediately.

Episode 2 (April 20, 1994)

1. Investigating the computers controlling critical safety systems at the Sizewell B nuclear power plant in Suffolk. It’s never had a serious accident, but two days ago, it had its first unplanned shutdown in three years. (0:50)

2. Talking to ordinary people who just started using the Internet, lightly touching on issues of identity, online dating, digital music, emoticons, and slang. Very charming segment, with great shots of CompuServe’s software and NCSA Mosaic for the Mac. (7:45)

3. Jules Gibbons reviews FIFA International Soccer for the SNES. I love the British pronunciation as “Snez.” (13:15)

4. Report on Apple’s switch to the RISC chipset and the marketing of the Power Mac. Interviews with the founder of Aldus, a PowerMac product manager, and a director at BBDO, the ad agency that won their account from Chiat/Day (before losing it again in 1997). Shots of an unknown 3D modeling application, the graphic calculator, and a SoftWindows beta. Also, clips from early Power Mac ads and a “road show” to educate consumers. (16:05)

5. Computer-aided surgery and CAT scans with 3D visualizations at Guy’s Hospital in London. (22:15)

6. Very short clip about a company called Ultrabra using computer-aided design to “take the bra into the 21st century.” (28:05)

Episode 5 (May 11, 1994)

1. Fluffy coverage of the UK Internet infrastructure, loaded with language like “infobahn,” “cyberslobs,” and “digital superhighway.” Early UI interfaces for an Internet kitchen appliance, with an awkward 1 frame-per-second VRML interface. Great interview with a Blockbuster VP about video-on-demand, from inside a Blockbuster store using a ginormous cell phone. Footage of Al Gore talking about the Internet. (0:05)

2. Another fluffy explanation of the Net. How average people are using the Internet. Very basic explanations of email, Usenet, Web, Gopher, IRC, and FTP. Screen captures from Usenet, Ircle, and TurboGopher for the Mac. Shots of the W3C, World-Wide Web Virtual Library, and The Louvre website from Mosaic. (8:00)

3. Jules reviews Twisted for the 3DO. (13:45)

4. Nice look at Bletchley Park, the Colossus computer, and the 12,000 people that worked towards breaking German codes during World War II. Interviews with several of the women that worked there. (15:30)

5. How marketers are studying computer networks to learn about Generation X, with an emphasis on the San Francisco cafe and computer culture in the early ’90s. Interview with Wayne Gregori from SF Net, writer Andrew Hultkrans, and a very dated 3D tutorial for the inTouch iStation. (21:05)

6. Way too brief clip about parsing word frequency in Shakespeare’s works to detect plagiarism. (27:45).


    Haha this is fun stuff, my graduation thesis was around the internet upcoming. These episodes I used as a source… Would be nice to have a review from Channel 2 on how the “internet” is doing now. Invite the same guests again etc. etc.

    SNES pronounced as “snez”? – Is there any other way? This is a genuine question, I never realised there was another way to pronounce it. Or do you just spell it out as S-N-E-S?

    I think “Snez” is a Brit thing. Growing up, I only heard it referred to as “Super Nintendo,” “Super NES,” or pronounced like “S.N.E.S.” I don’t know why that pronunciation never caught on the States, since it’s much more convenient to say compared to our four syllable versions.

    We also never referred to the NES as “Ness.” It was always either “Nintendo” or “N.E.S.”

    No, Google Video’s just being extremely unreliable… Reloading a couple times showed me both videos. I need to move them somewhere else, since Google Video’s falling apart at the seams. Sorry.

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