A former Butte resident’s video on Internet predictions made by kids in the 1990s has gone viral — racking up nearly a million views in a matter of days.
Mind-blowing bulky computer monitors, “bowl” haircuts and, well, cats abound in the 1995 announcement, but the knowledge the handful of Helena fifth graders shared with the world looked well beyond the infant Internet’s capabilities at the time.
“Well, by the time we’re in college, the Internet will be our telephone, television, shopping center and workplace,” the kids say at the video’s opening.
Turns out they were spot-on.
This week, the YouTube video exploded, appearing in such national media as the Huffington Post, the New York Daily News, Slate, and the Atlantic.
These kids, hailed as “strangely prophetic” by news website The Daily Beast, were Ray Bjork Elementary students in Helena, and the video’s producer was Cindy Gaffney, who grew up in Butte.
Gaffney, a former Meaderville resident and 1972 graduate of Butte Central Catholic High School, spent years in the Bay Area studying computer animation and film production.
When she moved to Helena with her young son in 1995, the local schools and libraries were freshly wired to the Internet, she said on Friday.
Having seen one of the first versions of the World Wide Web with her own eyes at a Silicon Graphics International conference in California, Gaffney was aware of technological goings-on and wanted to make sure Montanans knew the importance of the advancements.
The way she went about it?
Creating a public service announcement with local kids after about a month of brainstorming with them about the possibilities the future held for the Internet. Ideas ranging from checking soccer scores in Italy to chatting with a friend in Australia were included in the PSA, which ran for a year in the area.
As many Internet aficionados know, adding a feline to a video will never hurt your appeal. A cat food cupcake Internet search added a “fun” touch to the announcement, Gaffney said. The fluffy presumed recipient of the treats made a cameo in the arms of one of the prescient preteens. Gaffney said the possibility of an online cat-loving subculture never crossed her mind at the time.
So what was the secret behind all the spookily accurate predictions?
Gaffney said she’d heard of all the possibilities the Internet offered from her peers in the field, including the possibility of Internet access on cellular telephones, once they got past the whole brick-sized phase. The catch at the time was bandwidth.
She said she has a lot of gratitude for the whole experience.
“I knew these things were possible, and now 17 years later, I get to see it all,” Gaffney said.