In his book The Shadow Presidents, author Michael Medved relates the extreme disappointment of H.R. Haldeman over his failure to implement his plan to link up all the homes in America by coaxial cable. In Haldeman’s words, ‘There would be two-way communication. Through computer, you could use your television set to order up whatever you wanted. The morning paper, entertainment services, shopping services, coverage of sporting events and public events…. Just as Eisenhower linked up the nation’s cities by highways so that you could get there, the Nixon legacy would have linked them by cable communications so that you wouldn’t have to go there.’ One can almost see the dreamy eyes of Nixon and Haldeman as they sat around discussing a plan that would eliminate the need for newspapers, seemingly oblivious to its Big Brother aspects. Fortunately, the Watergate scandal intervened, and Nixon was forced to resign before ‘The Wired Nation’ could be hooked up.
I posted this once, but I feel I have to explain it. There was a popular series of cheap paperback books in the ’70s and ’80s called The Book of Lists. They had lists of things, trivia, etc. It was the internet before the internet. And in one of the first editions of this book, from 1980, there was this entry, part of a series called “Six Outrageous Plans That Didn’t Happen”. And in this list were some grandiose or terrifying plans by people in power that, thankfully, did not come to fruition.
Remember this is 1980.
And one of the plans listed in this bit of trivia is a plan by Richard Nixon to “link up all the homes in America by coaxial cable.” News, shopping—all if it was to come into the homes of America via computer. And Nixon had this idea in 1973 (or earlier). And the perspective of this book written in 1980, is “Thank god this didn’t happen because the government would be spying on you.”