Information superhighway

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The information superhighway or infobahn was a popular term used through the 1990s to refer to digital communication systems and the internet telecommunications network. It is associated with United States Senator and later Vice-President Al Gore.[1]



There are a number of definitions of this term. Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age defines the term as "the whole digital enchilada - interactive, cable, broadband, 500-channel [...] then-Senator Al Gore Jr.introduced it at a 1978 meeting of computer industry folk, in homage to his father , Senator Albert Gore Sr" (71).

The McGraw-Hill Computer Desktop Encyclopedia defines the term as, "a proposed high-speed communications system that was touted by the Clinton/Gore administration to enhance education in America in the 21st Century. Its purpose was to help all citizens regardless of their income level. The Internet was originally cited as a model for this superhighway; however, with the explosion of the World Wide Web, the Internet became the information superhighway" (464).

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines the term as "a route or network for the high-speed transfer of information; esp. (a) a proposed national fiber-optic network in the United States; (b) the Internet." The OED also cites usage of this term in three periodicals:

  • 1964, M. Brotherton. The McGraw-Hill Book Company published, "Masers and Lasers; How They Work, What They Do." On Page 5, Brotherton writes about laser beams and uses the term "superhighways" for communication.
  • the January 3, 1983 issue of Newsweek: "...information superhighways being built of fiber-optic cable will link Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D. C. in a 776-mile system on the East Coast."
  • the December 19, 1991 issue of the Christian Science Monitor: "Senator Gore calls NREN the "information superhighway" - a catalyst for what he hopes will become one day a national fiber-optic network."
  • the October 26, 1993 issue of the New York Times: "One of the technologies Vice President Al Gore is pushing is the information superhighway, which will link everyone at home or office to everything else—movies and television shows, shopping services, electronic mail and huge collections of data."
  • the October, 1994 issue of the American Journalism Review: "Over the last year countless articles have trumpeted the coming of the information superhighway. Infobahn entrepreneurs promise interactive television with text, video and audio delivered to living rooms via fiber optic cable or enhanced phone lines."[2]
  • the working paper No.179, 1994, of the Center for Coordination Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology: "The information superhighway directly connects millions of people, each both a consumer of information and a potential provider. (...) Most predictions about commercial opportunities on the information superhighway focus on the provision of information products, such as video on demand, and on new sales outlets for physical products, as with home shopping. (...) The information superhighway brings together millions of individuals who could exchange information with one another. Any conception of a traditional market for making beneficial exchanges, such as an agricultural market or trading pit, or any system where individuals respond to posted prices on a computer screen is woefully inadequate for the extremely large number of often complex trades that will be required."[3]

Other uses

Nam June Paik, a 20th century South Korean born American video artist, claims to have coined the term in 1974. “I used the term (information superhighway) in a study I wrote for the Rockefeller Foundation in 1974. I thought: if you create a highway, then people are going to invent cars. That's dialectics. If you create electronic highways, something has to happen.”[4]

See also


  • Freedman, Alan. McGraw Hill Computer Desktop Encyclopedia. New York: McGraw Hill, 2001.
  • Hale, Constance and the editors of Wired. Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age. San Francisco: Hardwired, 1996.
  • M. Brotherton, "Masers and Lasers; How They Work, What They Do," (McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1964).

Further reading


Magazine covers


es:Autopista de la información ja:情報スーパーハイウェイ構想 pl:Infostrada ru:Информационный хайвей

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