First Day Reflection

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Walking into the seminar, I was surprised to see a few familiar faces. Knowing that the class just had 12 people, I thought that I wouldn’t know anyone, yet I was wrong as a couple of my new friends were in the class. This made me definitely a little more comfortable in the discussion setting. I felt that I was ready to participate after cramming in the reading the night before.

The first thing from the conversation that I found interesting was the topic of the how dependent we are on the Internet and its connectivity today. Back when Lick, Taylor, and company were thinking of the Internet, it was a revolutionary idea to have the “symbiosis” of computers¬†and humans, and the overall concept of constant connectivity. This led me to think about how this constant connectivity has affected modern society. What keeps coming to mind is the Arab Spring. The connectivity first thought of by the likes of Lick and Taylor helped begin one of the most influential waves of revolutions that the world has seen in quite some time. Individuals in Tunisia, Egypt, and other Middle East countries used the sheer power of the internet and its connectivity to plan and execute protests against their suppressive regimes. Without the Internet would many of these protests have been successful? Would sufficient people have attended if these protests were not advertised on myriad social media platforms? There are obviously so many hypothetical questions that could be asked in these kinds of situations, but this is truly why the Internet fascinates me. When my kids grow up and study history, they will no longer study the inception of the Internet, but rather how the Internet led to the shape of the modern world. That is also why I am so interested in the Internet and hope to work with it in the professional world. Although people are scared of the increasingly immense connectivity, I feel like it is inevitable that the Internet continues to make an even greater impact on our lives, and I would love to be on that frontier to use the Internet to affect the world in a positive manner.

Going into this class I had zero idea how the “ancient” computer worked. Batch processing, timesharing, IMPS, computer cards, packet networks, and all the little things were all foreign concepts to me. The concept that was most amazing to me, was how they utilized the IMP to solve the issue of connectivity. Instead of trying to change every computer’s language (which probably is what I would have tried to do), the visionaries simply took a step back and realized that using IMPs that could communicate could solve the problem in a much simpler way. Learning about that taught me a lot about problem solving. It shocked me how such a massive problem could have such a simple solution. I feel like I take that with me as a I continue as a Harvard student. I know I will encounter so many different problems, but no matter the size there is always a solution.

Another quick takeaway I had was the incredible diversity of people in the seminar. I feel as though I did take advantage of the amazing peers I had in high school, but a class like this will force me to learn from my peers, and develop incredible relationships. A few questions I still have:

What was the functions of these computers back then? How were they used?

How did such large computers with minimal connectivity become what they are today?

What is the impact of Moore’s Law? How could he predict that?

Overall, this seminar will teach me not only valuable lessons on the Internet, but also lessons on problem solving and other practical issues that I will encounter in my years here at Harvard. I look forward to many more meaningful discussions with my peers and professors on a subject that is so fascinating to me.

I hope you have enjoyed Hollenberg’s Thoughts on the first day of seminar. More to come later.

 

 

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