The Machine That Changed the World: The World at Your Fingertips

Here’s the fifth and final episode of The Machine That Changed the World, this one focusing on global information networks including the Internet, and the communication benefits and privacy risks they create. This is the most familiar material of the documentary, so I’m going to skip the notes and annotations this time. I hope you enjoyed the documentary as much as I did.

And, as promised, here’s the BitTorrent file for high-resolution copies of all five videos. It’s a 3.1GB download with five H.264 encoded MP4 files. (If you only want a single video, use your BitTorrent client to select only the videos you need.) Enjoy!

(Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.)


Robert Lucky (AT&T Bell Labs), Dave Hughes, Kathleen Bonner (Trader, Fidelity), George Hayter (Former Head of Trading, London Stock Exchange), Ben Bagdikian (UC Berkeley), Arthur Miller (Harvard Law School), Forman Brown (songwriter, died in 1996), Tan Chin Nam (Chairman, National Computer Board of Singapore), B.G. Lee (Minister of Trade and Industry, Singapore), Lee Fook Wah, (Assistant Traffic Manager, MRT Singapore), David Assouline (French Activist, now a senator), Mitch Kapor (founder, Lotus), Michael Drennan (Air traffic controller, Dallas-Fort Worth)


    Thank you so much for this. It’s been very informative and entertaining to say the least. I found it especially interesting to compare the views and expectations on/about computers from the early 90s to my own experiences of today.

    Even growing up in the 80s a computer was pretty exotic and daunting. Rarely something you had any real contact with. I remember my computer-savvy older brother had a C64 which he fiddled around with. But being the younger brother I seldom got an opportunity to do the same.

    These days my niece and nephew seem to take things such as internet access and video games completely for granted. Lucky punks! 😀

    Nice find, and thanks for the effort.

    Thank you so much for rescuing this amazing documentary.

    My son will start college next year and plans to study computer science. This will help him enormously to make up his mind!

    Thank you so much, dude. This Documentary also aired in germany and I still have it on VHS. Great to have it on my blog now too 😉

    Thanks so much for making this available to everyone.

    It’s amazing to see the speed of progression for the computer and I hope more people get to learn of it’s history.

    Worked for me, and hundreds of other people on the torrent. I even use uTorrent. Maybe it was a temporary DNS issue? Try it again?

    Anyone else having a problem?

    I can’t seem to download the torrent file. It just hangs. I tried it yesterday and today.

    A million thanks Andy! Great job!

    The torrent worked fine for me, and I’ll be seeding it for awhile too.

    anyone else have problems with episode 5 in the torrent? mplayer will play it but quicktime chokes on it… quicktime 7.4.5.


    I have been literally searching for this for YEARS!

    The closest I came was finding 3 of the episodes in poor condition at the Los Angeles City Library.

    This is a historically significant chronicle of the history of the computer and I am so glad somebody has made this available since the producers: WGBH, BBC have not been interested enough to put this series on DVD and sell it. They could have made a lot of money. Look at the interest in this series that is 17 years old!

    Recently I had found that a college professor has posted the episodes on the following URL:

    But the quality is very poor and it is only a low bandwidth stream.

    Thanks again.

    Fred K

    @rob: Hmm, not sure. I’m using the same version of Quicktime and it works fine for me. Anyone else having that problem?

    @Joshua: Are you using Safari? Some people have had issues with .torrent content handling from my server, for some reason… Try downloading the torrent first and opening it in your BitTorrent client directly.

    well, i guess i’ll have to take the md5sum of the file on the machine i downloaded it on and on the machine i copied it to.

    i’ll post the md5 here and you can check it.

    i’m still on the torrent so i hope i’m not spreading corrupted data if its bad on my torrent machine…

    i get an md5sum of 269b72b4e84966d6f71ef75fc350dbcc for part 5. i’d be grateful if someone could verify this for me.

    absolutely brilliant – just finished watching the last part. i loved the whole series. thanks so much for your hard work.

    I also am having problems with part 5 from the torrent — iTunes doesn’t like that file when I try to add it to my library. Seems to play okay in QT Player though. Any chance of a re-encode of this part, or should I just try redownloading?

    Also: thanks for posting all this great documentary content! I love it. And I’m the guy who was thinking about paying $50 for Code Rush too.

    > iTunes doesn’t like that file when I try to add it to my library

    Part 5 is tagged as a TV show in the metadata , whereas 1-4 are tagged as movies. Do a “Get Info” on each file wherever they may be, go to the “video” tab, change the video type to “movie” or “TV show” as you desire, and the files will all appear in the same section.

    Thank you very much for making this series available for download via torrent, I can’t wait to watch it!

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I’ve been looking for this on DVD forever. I think this is one of the best documentaries out there. It’s a shame that PBS (or whoever owns it) does not burn it to DVD. With your bit torrent I will do it myself and treasure your gift forever. Thanks again.

    I’m using the BitTorrent client, and it’s just hanging with an error message of [4.27.2 2008-07-29 16:57:09] WARNING : Tracker announce still not complete 70 seconds after starting it- going up over 2000 seconds now –

    I would really like this series – I’m one of the folks who programmed my VCR to record the series back in 1992-1993 when it played on PBS. Tape finally perished of old age . . .

    I would buy this on DVD — very important historical details on the history of computing that would be valuable to students today –

    When I was a 12-year old geek, the fact that the robot arm unplugged itself at the end of the outtro used to really bother me, because of Asimov’s “robots can’t hurt themselves” rule. Nowadays, I think it’s being quite eco-friendly.

    Thank You!

    For almost all my life online, I have been looking for these documentaries; they shaped most of my early understanding and motivations for becoming a software developer. The moment these come out on DVD I will have them.

    Thank you very much for posting this important historical documentary.


    I am on a university network which bans all torrents, I can’t even download files with the torrent extension. Even if I manage to get a .torrent file through other means, all bit torrent traffic is shaped down to nothing.

    I can tolerate watching it streamed, but maybe you could get the mp4s posted somewhere that will host them? I’m not sure who would be willing to donate that much bandwidth.. Maybe a university?

    The earlier parts of the documentary? Interesting, but not all too in-depth. The later installments? Wow. Such a vivid snapshot of where we were into the 80s and early 90s and such an excellent lead-in to where we are today.

    Anyone else having trouble loading in episodes 2-5 onto their iPod? They definitely appear to be MP4s but my iPod refuses to load those episodes. 1 loaded fine, I had to convert episode 5 and it worked too. But 2-4 give me an error when I try to convert them to iPod using the Advanced menu item. I get an error -2 right away.

    Thank you so much for posting this documentary. I taped this when it originally aired and all I had was a poor quality VHS tape before I downloaded your copy of the series.

    My youngest son and I just finished watching the whole series. He took a particular interest in the series because he was born in 1992.

    THANK YOU!!!

    My krufty old VHS copy (recorded on a single LP-mode tape) is on its last legs, and I’ve been looking for a clean copy of this for ages…


    GRATZ, TNX so much

    I’ve seen this when it aired in the 90’s, recorded it on VHS, bought the book…

    My recordings where not that grand, as in 3 of the episodes I had anoying back noice and very poor sound quality making it useless to try to change them over to a digital format… Been looking the internet & asking around for them eversince… Today I stumbled upon the webpage again and said what the heck I’ll give it another try… And there came your page first in the search engine… I coulden’t believe my eyer at first and even more when I browsed through and came upon the torrent link…

    So Thanks for making me extremly happy with this belated New Years present :-)- …

    Best I recieved so far…

    Great documentary, I enjoyed very much watching it. Even if it was produced 17 years ago, it is very catching now. I’d wish there’d be a show of comparable quality analyzing the today’s status of computer development and impact on society.

    Thanks a lot for sharing!

    Holy-frickin’-moley… I cannot believe this! I’ve been searching for this series for years!!! Saw it on PBS back in 91 or 92. Thank you so much for making this available. It’s like the holy grail of computer documentaries. Never understood why it didn’t make it to dvd. Anyway – thanks!!

    My network also bans torrents, but I just used Firefox with the DownloadHelper addon to capture the video as it streamed. Takes a bit longer, but worth every second!

    Great series. I was lucky to record it in 1992-93 and while the VHS is still watchable, I wish they would produce a part 6 to bring it up to date. The narrator is still around!

    Thank you very much for “the machine that changed the world”. I saw it and recorded when it first came out. fantastic. I had the show on three tapes, and can only find one.

    I hope to download this version on DVD, as soon as I firgure out how to do it.

    This is a historic tape. It really summerized the computer industry. I was there at the start of the computer age, and was convinced that the world only need several kinds of computers: sensus, nuclear power design (I was in the nuclear world), artiliary, and big banks.

    How little did we know then.

    ken burke

    Lovely! I’ll be seeding for a while. Should this torrent go down, the hash is:


    It’s a fast download, too. Thanks again!

    I have been searching for this series since I was doing part of my PhD course in Computational Linguistics at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh (1991-1992), PA, USA, where I had the privilege to watch all the episodes on tv.

    Thanks a lot for sharing your brilliant initiative of rescuing the complete series, for it is priceless and the best video-chronicle available on the history of computers.

    Yeah well. Computers and the internet have indeed changed the world. But is a good thing? A lot of kids are staying at home thanks to this technology.

    Thank you so much for making this available. Several years ago I wrote to a local PBS station asking if copies were available. I never got a response. I loved this program when it first aired. It is such an interesting and important history examination.

    Hi, thanks for this wonderful doc. I would like to know if there are subtitles available , i have not been able to find them anywhere, but maybe i didn’t search well.

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