I was reading our slideshow on the adoption of emerging technologies, and I thought about one of the most important stories in Vanity Fair's oral history of the net -- the one where AT&T repeatedly snubs the new technology that would one day reinvent its industry.
Paul Baran:The one hurdle packet switching faced was AT&T. They fought it tooth and nail at the beginning. They tried all sorts of things to stop it. They pretty much had a monopoly in all communications. And somebody from outside saying that there's a better way to do it of course doesn't make sense. They automatically assumed that we didn't know what we were doing.
Bob Taylor: Working with AT&T would be like working with Cro-Magnon man. I asked them if they wanted to be early members so they could learn technology as we went along. They said no. I said, Well, why not? And they said, Because packet switching won't work. They were adamant. As a result, AT&T missed out on the whole early networking experience.
Bob Kahn: AT&T probably said, Look, maybe we would have 50 or a hundred organizations, maybe a few hundred organizations, that could possibly partake of this in any reasonable time frame. Remember, the personal computer hadn't been invented yet. So, you had to have these big expensive mainframes in order to do anything. They said, There's no business there, and why should we waste our time until we can see that there's a business opportunity? That's why a place like arpa is so important.
Bob Metcalfe: Imagine a bearded grad student being handed a dozen AT&T executives, all in pin-striped suits and quite a bit older and cooler...And as I'm giving my demo, the damned thing crashed.
And I turned around to look at these 10, 12 AT&T suits, and they were all laughing. And it was in that moment that AT&T became my bÃªte noire, because I realized in that moment that these sons of bitches were rooting against me.
To this day, I still cringe at the mention of AT&T. That's why my cell phone is a T-Mobile. The rest of my family uses AT&T, but I refuse.