Blast from the past

The College Reporter, the student newspaper of my alma mater, Franklin & Marshall College, has digitized all its issues from 1987 through 2001. Score one for the anal editorial staff that kept a good archive all these years. The archive is scanned images of each page of each issue—not the most versatile format, but a nice preservation method.

I was a longtime Reporter staffer: weekly columnist, then editorials editor, then editor in chief through my senior year. Somewhere in that digitized archive are all the columns I wrote during my tenure. A few of them are quite good; I’ll try to hunt them down.

In the meantime, let me direct you to my first-ever newspaper editorial, on page 7 of the October 12, 1992 issue (here’s the engine; direct links don’t work). Be forewarned, it’s pretty trite, although I’m pleased to report I wrote with a strikingly similar voice.

Update: My all-time favorite column was on February 21, 1994, page 5. Unlike most of my writing from a decade ago, it still holds up.

While we’re at it, here’s my all-time favorite unpublished college essay, on a typical David Wertheimer paper-writing night. I’m pleased to report my business school assignments are usually done around midnight.

Internet as proper noun

Wired News: “It’s Just the ‘internet’ Now.”

Wired News, long the place of record for online notation, has decided to drop the capital letters from Internet, Web and Net. All well and good; this has been happening elsewhere for years (I recall debating the merits of the capitalization with the editors at The Economist back in 2000).

What it references is the acceptance and commoditization of the terms. This happens frequently with new words that lose quotes or hyphens as their meanings become universal. Consider, for example, the slow conversion from “e-mail” to “email.”

However, Wired News’s justification is all wrong:

The simple answer is because there is no earthly reason to capitalize any of these words. Actually, there never was.

That’s not necessarily true. These words were capitalized because they were once considered names—that is, Internet was a proper noun, not just a noun. By dropping the caps, the writer has acknowledged that there is nothing personalized or particular about the word in use.

Example: “xerox” is often used as a noun and a verb as well as a company name. In print, one would write, “My photocopier is a Xerox home-office model,” but drop the capital letter to say, “I need xeroxes of this document.” The same lowercasing is now being applied to the web and the internet.

The problem here, for this author at least, is in the singularity of the terms. There’s only one Internet, one World Wide Web; these are still proper nouns in many ways, despite the increased commonality of their usage. The typical use of the article “the” before these words gives increased value to their status as proper nouns, not just nouns of ordinary use.

Personally, I am okay with the shift away from the capitalization, but I’m not ready to let go of it just yet. I do like Wired News’s assertion that internet and web each define a medium, not unlike radio and television. Still, the Internet and the Web still denote specific locations to me. Think about these analogies:

The Internet:Broadway vs. internet:street

The Internet:Manhattan vs. internet:city

The Web:Central Park vs. web:park

Even if the terms’ commoditization is complete, Wired News’s assertion that they never deserved their capital letters forgets the era when the Web was a fascinating new world, a destination in its own right, rather than a common vehicle for airline ticket sales. Perhaps the Internet’s maturity is just about complete.

Mostly back

The TWC folks are scheduled to come to my apartment on the 14th and identify once and for all what’s wrong with my service. I have a joint call scheduled—both a service foreman and a line technician converging on my home—which was no small customer service coup.

In the meantime, the spotty service continues, but you’ll be happy to know (come on, I can see how happy you are from here) that I haven’t paid for my cable modem since July, which is apparently both the least they can do for me and the only thing they can do for me.

More news if it ever gets fixed.