SixteenIntroduction

Symbiosis means a mutually advantageous association of organisms or persons, the term coming originally from biology. It sounds a bit high-falutin', but it is quite a good way of saying that communications and computing have been helping each other. All modern communications equipment has a computer in it, and most computers have means to communicate with other computers.

The two subjects used to be entirely separate. When Charles Wheat-stone worked on his telegraph and Charles Babbage on his difference engine (the earliest form of a computer) they did not think for a moment that their endeavours would, in the fullness of time, lead to a new, interrelated discipline.

Computers have already made a brief appearance in our narrative when talking of digital exchanges and digital signal processing. In the present chapter the emphasis will be on computing. Firstly, I shall try to tell the extraordinary story of a bunch of teenagers who created a multibillion-dollar industry and became billionaires in the process. Then will come the story of a Government anxious to evolve plans for maintaining communications in the wake of a nuclear disaster, and how it led to the unpredicted and unpredictable emergence of the Internet, e-mail, the World Wide Web and the opportunity for everybody to talk to everybody else using that new medium.

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