Top 25 Quotes in Tech

5. Unnamed dog sitting at a computer:

Googleosity: 2,000,000

Quote type: Insightful, amusing epigram

Circumstances of origin: In a New Yorker cartoon by Peter Steiner in the July 5th, 1993 issue

Why it’s notable: Steiner’s cartoon–whose caption is endlessly riffed upon to this day, often by folks who probably can’t identify where it came from–neatly summarizes the democratizing effect of the Internet. In retrospect, it’s amazing that it did it sixteen years ago–before Netscape, before Yahoo, and before many Americans had ever logged onto the Net at all.

4. Elwood Edwards, husband of an early AOL employee:

Googleosity: 2,040,000

Quote type: Time-honored WAV file.

Circumstances of origin: Recorded in 1989 on a cassette recorder; debuted with AOL 1.0 in 1989

Why it’s notable: Edwards, a broadcast-industry veteran and husband of an early America Online employee, is the voice behind the three words that have been heard billions of times by millions of people over the past twenty years. (He was also responsible for the less iconic “Welcome,” and “Goodbye,” and “File’s done!”) “You’ve got mail!” is as emblematic of AOL as the surging sea of demo disks it once pelted us with; it was made into a movie and continues to serve as the inspiration for maybe half of all headlines relating to AOL. In short, it’s hard to imagine AOL without it.

3. George W. Bush, president of the United States:

Googleosity: 2,400,000

Quote type: Political blather.

Circumstances of origin: Uttered by the 43rd president during a presidential debate on October 8th, 2004. He also referred to “the Internets” during a debate on October 17th, 2000 and in an interview on May 2nd, 2007.

Why it’s notable: It may have been a simple slip of the tongue–okay, one made repeatedly over the course of years–but “the Internets” and its variant, “the Interwebs,” have transcended simple memehood. On much of the Internet, the terms are used in discussion of Internet-related matters that isn’t otherwise particularly wacky. I wonder if the former president knows he gave the Net this little gift, and if so, what he makes of it?

2. Al Gore, vice president of the United States:

Googleosity: 3,490,000

Quote type: Political blather.

Circumstances of origin: During an interview on CNN’s Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, March 9th, 1999.

Why it’s notable: Want to take a convenient cheap shot at the 45th vice president of the United States ? Join the untold legions who have accused him of having claimed to be the inventor of the Internet. Hoax-debunking site Snopes.com says that Gore “did not claim he ‘invented’ the Internet, nor did he say anything that could reasonably be interpreted that way.” Well, maybe–taken literally, Gore’s words do seem to say that he was a co-creator of the Internet, at least. (Originally known as ARPANET, the Internet went online in October 1969, when Gore was a recent college graduate.) As a Congressman and Senator, the famously tech-savvy Gore did play a major role in communications policy; if he had said he’d been instrumental in “developing” or “expanding” the Net rather than “creating” it, his statement would have unassailable–and it wouldn’t be in this article.

1. An intergalactic villain in Zero Wing, a 1991 videogame:

Quote type: Botched translation.

Googleosity: 11,800,000

Circumstances of origin: It’s a piece of threatening dialog in the European edition of a Japanese game for Sega’s Mega Drive (aka Genesis) game console. Wikipedia helpfully provides the following improved translation: “With the help of the Federation Government forces, CATS has taken all of your bases.”

Why it’s notable: Beginning in early 2001, it became the most pervasive Internet meme this side of Rickrolling. It continues to flourish, spawning thousands of variants in discussions of everything from politics to public utilities to sports. Most of the people who riff on it can presumably tell you it originated in a game. But the percentage who can tell you which game–let alone who have actually seen it–is probably minuscule.

Any nominations of notable quotes I failed to include here–including ones that deserve to be better known than they are?

Subscribe to the Today in Tech Newsletter

Comments