SIGCIS 2011 Workshop: Paper Panel 1: Creating Culture through Materials and Methods

Name: Zbigniew Stachniak

Institutional Affiliation: York University, Toronto

Email Address:

Paper Type: Full Paper

Paper Title: Before the Web, there was the NABU Network

Paper Abstract: Since the early 1970s, much effort had been expended around the world on bringing the range of electronic information services directly to homes and offices by utilizing the common-carrier lines, TV cable, or other interactive network or broadcast systems. However, in spite of global R&D efforts, most of these information services, such as trendy videotex systems, were unable to become dominant information and service providers due to factors such as low transmission speeds and restricted interactivity.

NABU Manufacturing Corporation, founded in Ottawa in 1981, was among the first companies to explore the idea of providing fast and more interactive electronic services to individuals, based on the convergence of microcomputer and communications technologies. NABU considered cable television and satellite communication uniquely ideal technologies to deliver software and data to home computers because of their high bandwidth and networking capabilities. The resulting NABU Network was based on the concept of home personal computers connected to cable television or satellite networks that could supply a constant stream of computer programs and information to almost unlimited number of users at high speed.

Soon after it was officially launched on Ottawa Cablevision in October of 1983, the NABU Network offered a variety of information, home business, entertainment, and educational services as well an access to NABU "cloud" computing to a few thousand of personal computer owners in the Ottawa region. (In 1985, NABU Network was also launched in Sowa, Japan, as a result of collaboration between NABU and ASCII Corp.)

In this paper I explore the NABU Network concept as an attempt to radically reshape the social principles of accessing information, services, and computing resources in the early 1980s. I discuss the network in the context of social readiness to embrace the benefits of the public information highways based on microcomputer and information technologies; I disclose and analyze the reasons for less than enthusiastic acceptance of the new information providing services, as represented by the NABU Network, by the TV cable and satellite industry.