By Janet Guyon
Long, long ago, when the internet was but a gleam in some futurist's eye, people got all their phone service, and their telephones, from one company. It was called AT&T and as long as anyone could remember it had operated as a regulated monopoly with total control over communications service and technology in the U.S. It was a dull business, but it was a cash cow. It employed one million people.
But the lords at AT&T were restless. They wanted freedom from a 1956 consent decree that kept them out of a shiny new business called computers. It was the 1980s, and they could see the future: One day people would send data, video, photos, and text over a distributed computer network. To get into this business, the AT&T lords needed to sell people not just telephones, but computers.