Saturday, November 14, 2009

Vodka and the internet

Although it may seem like we’ve had the internet forever, the truth is that the advent of the World Wide Web is a fairly recent event.

Nineteen years ago this week, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau published a formal proposal for the World Wide Web.

Although Mr. Berners-Lee deserves a lot of credit for creating the internet, the real driving force behind the internet is a beverage that first came into being in 1405:


The word vodka is derived from the Russian word voda (water) and the Polish word woda. Vodka is by far the most popular alcoholic beverage consumed in Russia. Close to 90% of the alcohol consumed in Russia is vodka, and it’s generally consumed in shots, not in mixed drinks.

In the mid 1950’s, a group of Russian scientists, lead by Sergei Korolev, created the world’s first satellite, which they called Sputnik. It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that Mr. Korolev and his associates probably came up with the idea for Sputnik some evening after work as they were enjoying a few shots of vodka.

When Russia launched Sputnik in 1957, the United States and Russia were smack dab in the middle of “the cold war”. Although we were only eight years into the reality of a “red China”, four years away from the erection of the Berlin wall, and five years away from the Cuban missile crisis, there was a genuine fear of communism in America, as evidenced be “the McCarthy years.”

When the Russians launched Sputnik, American scientists became panic stricken.

In response to Sputnik, the U.S formed the Advanced Research Projects Agency in 1958. At approximately the same time, they also created NASA, which allowed us to put a man on the moon before our Russian adversaries were able to do so.

One of the main benefits of ARPA is that it provided a way for various government computers to talk to each other.

Preliminary work on linking computers together started as early as 1961, and by 1969, ARPANET came into being, which allowed computer interfacing at various locations:

what is ARPANET?.

Although Al Gore actually stated on CNN that he “created the internet” there’s a little more to the story than that:

The former Vice President was an early advocate of ARPANET, and would probably be considered to be the person most responsible for keeping the funding for the program intact.

And that’s the inconvenient truth.

After the Russians launched the first satellite, and got the first man into space (Yuri Gagarin) their technological edge started to slip, and it’s possible that vodka might have been the problem.

In 1950, per capita consumption of alcohol in Russia was .8 gallon per person per year. In recent years, it has soared to 4 gallons per person per year:

can you walk a straight line, Yuri?

In the good old U.S.A, the trend has been exactly the opposite, and per capita consumption is now down to about 2 gallons a year:

how dry I am

If you’d like to toast the Internet, or any of your special friends, the link below will make it easier:

Grey Goose

As for me, I’m about to dip into the first vodka martini that I’ve had for several decades.

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