Mesh Networks and BBS. Re-inventing the Wheel?

An important Italian online magazine just “discovered” today the possibility to build a “parallel-Internet” by using WI-FI antennas, no need to purchase an access-plan and (allegedly) free form NSA’s peeping eyes. Of course, the buzzword is “revolution”.

I can’t stop being amazed by the candid ignorance of these contemporary “digital cognoscenti” or “digital natives”. They think that the ICT world was born with Facebook and that beforehand there only was a gravitational singularity.

Today only some mature former(?) geek can remember of the BBS Era and witness how does the world worked at those times: mesh networks are nothing but a way to create an independent network like Fidonet was; with the only difference that Fidonet was software-indepedent, while mesh networks might become hardware independent too. In this sense mesh networks are an evolution and not a revolution, and omitting the “r” at the beginning of the word makes a great difference.

But semantics isn’t the (only) issue to deal with. Why, somebody might in fact ask, should we be concerned by this granny’s style rant? Things evolve so do people: who cares anymore about relics such as Bocamodem or Fidonet?

Answer: because the experience of the BBS Era is the basis of all of the modern (social, political and economical) ways to exploit a network and a lot of answers to a lot of questions have already been provided. Just think of issues like online anonymity, forum posting liability, online free speech, online journalism: these are just a few examples of the topics that once were hot and today we still struggle with. The difference between yesterday and today is that the “old school” users were and are more conscious about the actual impact of technology in their own life, while the “digital natives” actually are part of a dumb generation of technology’s passive users. A condition that is everything but different than the one reserved to the human part of The Matrix: fuel for the machines.