Can a Street Urchin Understand the Internet?

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The Industrial Revolution, as documented by Charles Dickens in novels like David Copperfield and Great Expectations, was the beginning of the modern age; it's what led to the rapid technological advances that would eventually produce computers and the Internet. But would the Internet be of any use to one of the child laborers eking out a living in Victorian London?

To author and comedian Doogie Horner, it's a question worth exploring. Horner has a flowchart at Fast Company that breaks down, step by patient step, how a time traveler would best go about explaining the Internet to a 19th-century street urchin (named Oliver, natch). For example, you could compare the Internet to an endless library, or a series of tubes. "You mean like the tubes that run under the city?" says Oliver. "Yes," you say, "but instead of fecal matter they carry information."

Fair warning: it's extremely easy, on this flowchart, to end up dead. And research indicates that at least one Dickensian orphan, Philip Pirrip, is already on Twitter, so the risk may not even be worth it.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.