Ina Fried

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To Be Fair, NBC Has Been Ignorant About Tech Since Long Before the Olympics

As the London Olympic games honored World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee, NBC hosts Meredith Viera and Matt Lauer admitted — almost bragged — that they didn’t know who he was.

Wow, pretty embarrassing.

But it turns out that isn’t the most embarrassing display of Internet ignorance by a pair of “Today Show” hosts.

Check out this clip of then-“Today Show” hosts Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric, reportedly from an unaired segment in 1994.

In the segment, the hosts debate how to pronounce the @ sign.

Gumbel thought it was pronounced “at,” but Couric thought it was “about” or “around.”

But it was Gumbel that wasn’t really clear on the whole Internet thing.

“What is Internet anyway,” Gumbel asks after reading. Couric explained that it was a massive computer network that was becoming really big.

“What do you write to it, like mail?” Gumbel said.

It’s a shame, because it took attention away from a pretty cool tribute to the history of tech and the way it has transformed modern life and communications. Text messages, status updates, photo sharing and smartphones all played a part.

Indeed, every seat had an LED panel to create a stadium-wide megadisplay.

“One more thing I don’t understand,” Viera added.

Evidently someone handed them a memo, because Viera was able to correctly identify Berners-Lee several minutes later, as he typed out a message (on a NeXT cube) that was shown on that oh-so-confusing LED screen.

“This is for everyone,” Berners-Lee wrote.

The Twittersphere was, naturally, quick to pounce on the NBC gaffe. One commenter remarked that perhaps deposed “Today Show” host Ann Curry could have helped them out, and others noted that it was NBC that said it couldn’t livestream the ceremonies because it needed to add its expertise.

Here are some highlights:

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus