The Past Seen from the FCC's Perspective. The Promised Future Is the History of the Past.

Author:Serafini, Dom

One needs perseverance, discipline, and patience to finish reading From Gutenberg to Google, a new book by 73-year-old Tom Wheeler, a former cable TV lobbyist and onetime chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the U.S. government regulatory agency for everything that has to do with electronic communications.

Although the book is tedious, it has a clever subtitle: "The History of Our Future," which encourages readers to turn the pages in the hopes of finding something exciting. One never really finds it, though. Ultimately, the book includes very little information about the future and a little too much about the past--much of which is already widely known. In addition, contrary to the book's title, Wheeler devotes more space to Facebook (10 pages), than to Google (just five pages), and it's nothing of significance.

Wheeler notes early on that the "editor in chief" of the book was his wife, Carol, who seems to be a technology history buff. "It doesn't get in the book until it makes sense to her," he wrote. Wheeler also credits his research assistant, Matthew Spector, for breaking his habit "of capitalizing the word 'internet'."

Now, that's something interesting that Wheeler's book doesn't cover.

The question of whether the word "Internet" should be capitalized has been so passionately debated and is so controversial that it even has its own Wikipedia page. It was only in June 2006 that The New York Times announced that it would be joining The Associated Press in changing its style rule to write the word "internet" in all lower case letters. Nevertheless, we at VideoAge respect tradition and will continue to write "Internet" with the uppercase "I."

Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler's 286-page hardcover book--of which 32 pages are notes, and 12 are the index--was published by Brookings Institution Press, part of a Washington, D.C.-based private research group that, over the years, has been accused alternatively of political biases at both ends of the spectrum.

This is Wheeler's third book, but one wonders if he is the same Thomas Edgar Wheeler who wrote such interesting and amusing books as Take Command: Leadership Lessons from the Civil War (Doubleday, 2000), and Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails: The Untold Story of How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the...

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