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Information Superhighway

Last Edit: 10/01/17

The Information Superhighway (infobahn) is a term that was/is used to describe the Internet and digital communication. Generally speaking, it's a term that was/is used to refer to the Internet. Usage of the term was at it's peak in the early 1990's: the term was popularised by Al Gore - a keen supporter of the high speed computing and communication - in the late 1980's and early 1990's. His role as Vice President of the United States of America in the 1990's was important in providing the leadership to transition the Internet from a federally funded backbone network to a commercial backbone network. While the general assumption is that Al Gore coined the term - due to him using the term throughout his political career - research has suggested that the term was used from the 1940's to describe tele-communication systems. What is without doubt: is that Al Gore popularised the term and it's usage in the 1990's.

Al Gore with Vint Cerf, the idea of the information superway was envisaged by these two men, and Bob Kahn, the late 1980's.

Throughout the 1970's and 1980's Al Gore displayed a keen interest in computer science: he supported legislation that would increase public access to ARPANET in the 1980's. On June the 24th, 1986, Gore sponsored the bill "Supercomputer Network Study Act of 1986" that would report on fiber optic networks and improve communications among supercomputer centers in the United States. This bill was not enacted in the following year. Gore would work alongside Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf in formulating a plan named the National Information Infrastructure (NII); Cerf and Kahn would say of Gore: "As far back as the 1970s Congressman Gore promoted the idea of high-speed telecommunications as an engine for both economic growth and the improvement of our educational system." On January the 24th, 1991, Gore sponsored the bill "High-Performance Computing Act of 1991", which was enacted by the President on December the 9th, 1991. This bill is usually referred to as the "Gore Bill". During this period of time, 1986-1991, Gore would refer to the development of high speed network communication as the development of the "Information Superhighway".

While Al Gore was often quoted as envisaging a telecommunications information system that could be used by the citizens of the United States, it was only until the World Wide Web was developed (1990/1) that it became clear that the Internet could become Gore's envisaged "Information Superhighway". It was fortunate for computer scientists that the World Wide Web came to prominence at the same time that it's key advocate/supporter came to power: Al Gore became the 45th Vice President of the United States (1993-2001). Al Gore fell from national prominence (in the US) - due to his failed presidential campaign of 2000 - and the use of the term "Information Superhighway" subsided and has largely become redundant (2014). Vint Cerf - pictured above with Gore - had coined the term 'Internet' in 1974 and it was this term which would be used to describe the IP networks that interconnected to form the Information Superhighway in the late 1980's - early 1990's.