The Amish Internet

29 August 2009 at 1:56 pm 1 comment

| Peter Klein |

It’s the Budget, a 119-year-old Amish weekly newspaper published in Sugarcreek, Ohio. “The Budget is the dominant means of communication among the Amish, a Christian denomination with about 227,000 members nationwide who shun cars for horse-drawn buggies and avoid hooking up to the electrical grid,” says an AP story. The national edition, which has a strong following in the US and Canada, simply aggregates dispatches produced by local writers. “People call the Budget the Amish Internet,” says its publisher. “It’s non-electric, it’s on paper, but it’s the same thing.”

The example highlights the benefits and costs of different types of networks. Open-access, open-source networks governed by just a few simple protocols like TCP/IP and HTML are not necessarily the best solution for every problem. Sneakernet is more secure, for example. In the Amish case, according to the AP story, the Budget’s customers limited access, threatening a rebellion when the newspaper recently announced plans to produce an online edition. “The writers, known as scribes, feared their plainspoken dispatches would become fodder for entertainment in the ‘English,’ or non-Amish, world.”

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Michael E. Marotta  |  3 September 2009 at 7:13 pm

    That is a metonym, is it not, referring to an effect by its cause? To say that a newspaper is an “Amish internet” is to warn that we are losing our sense of history.

    About 1000 years ago, in the early 1970s, I participated in a mailing called The Libertarian Connection. Based on the idea of a science fiction fanzine or other Amateur Press Association offering, the LC accepted two pages from each subscriber — more could be purchassed — collated them and sent them out every six weeks. Comments back and forth on articles took three months.

    (Among the contributors were Tibor Machan, Murray Rothbard, Harry Browne, Robert Poole, Jr., and a galaxy of lesser lights.)

    More recently, preparing research for an upcoming article on the numismatic symbolisms in The Wizard of Oz (or the complete lack thereof), I found an exchange from the New York Times Letters circa 1990 that took about two months to play out. Perhaps the New York Times could be called “the Gotham internet.”

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