Today just reminded us that there was indeed a time before the internet, as bizarre as that may seem. On Thursday, the show’s official Instagram page posted a clip from a 1994 taping in which anchors Katie Couric, Bryant Gumbel, and Elizabeth Vargas discover the World Wide Web.
‘Can You Explain What Internet Is?’
The video starts with Gumbel asking about “that little mark with the ‘a’ and then the ring around it,” which Vargas tells him means “at.” Couric believed the symbol meant “about” or “around,” thinking “at” sounded ridiculous.After a spirited debate about what “@” really represents, Gumbel exasperatedly asks, “What is internet anyway?”
“Internet is that massive computer network, the one that’s becoming really big now,” an off-screen producer informs the anchors. “What do you mean? What, do you write to it like mail?” Gumbel asks, disbelieving.
No matter how it works, Couric insisted she had no interest. “I’m afraid that if I subscribe to something like Internet…I would get hooked and I would never spend time with my family,” Couric says in another clip from around that time.
“I feel like I’m so inundated with information all the time that I don’t want more,” she elaborates in another clip. “Don’t you ever feel like it’s just constant bombardment of information?”
However, Gumbel notes that the information aspect wouldn’t bother him as much as the idea of people having a line of constant communication with him. “I the thing that I resent most is… at least when you’re home if the phone rings you have the option of not answering it. On the internet, people can send you messages all the time people you don’t even want to hear from.”
1994 Wasn’t That Long Ago
While it’s easy to look back on the clip and laugh about how little the anchors knew of what was to come, their observations were shockingly poignant, even prophetic. All of their concerns turned out to be real problems for the digital age. Too often now, we’re lamenting how we spend too much time on screens. Mental health experts now warn us about the dangers of digital dependency.
It’s also shocking to think that, as recently as 1994, these weren’t concerns for us. We didn’t have to make a conscious effort to be present because we weren’t always dividing our attention between real and on-line life.
Finally, it just makes you wonder where we’ll be another 19 years from now. Will they be sharing videos taken in 2023 of our blissful ignorance to some other life-changing technology? Only time will tell. If this is any indicator, though, Today will continue to serve as the ultimate cultural time capsule.