5 Insane File Sharing Panics from Before the Internet

#2. The Cassette Will Kill Music! Again!

The RIAA absolutely hates your iPod. They hate it like it personally came into their homes and urinated on their sick grandmothers. They want that thing dead, and it's easy to see why: Digital music is a new development that enables stealing on a mass scale with little to no consequences. It must be stopped at all costs! Of course, we've been fed this same bucket of stupid before; the bucket was just a different color last time. Also a little clunkier, and it made clicking noises when it got old:

The Walkman. Don't ask, "What's that?" Get off our lawn, you punk kids!

The Sony Walkman was invented in 1978, jump-starting the 80s, which some of us remember as the greatest decade in the history of music. Some of us were also on a lot of cocaine for pretty much the whole thing. There might be a relationship between the two clauses.

But it didn't take long before the music industry started claiming the loss of a (completely unverifiable) billion dollars a year from people taping their favorite tracks off the radio for free.

At this very moment, there is a shaggy hipster screen-printing this exact image.

This created the massive ball of wadded up panties that was the Home Taping Is Killing The Music Industry movement. The counterpoint to this alarmism, that sharing music on cassettes was a good way to gain exposure for up-and-coming acts and would increase sales (sound familiar?) was dismissed as the mere attempt by criminals to justify their crimes. The record industry's single biggest money-makers of the last several decades were spawned exactly by the tape-exchange culture, and you can hear its influence in modern music every minute of every day: The sample.

Without home taping, we might not have the rap industry we do today. And without the rap industry we have today, the RIAA would certainly not have that diamond-encrusted turbo-jet they fly to their court-hearings in, and we're almost positive they couldn't afford the law services of Satan himself to win them.

#1. The Printing Press Will Kill Literature!

It has been suggested that the printing press owes its existence to both the rise of trade with the East (which brought paper-making technology that cheaply replaced parchment) and, believe it or not, The Black Plague.

Read ye a book, serf; not a shipping manifest, not a king's decree - a book, serf. A fucking book, serf.

Specifically, it was the combination of an increase in the price of copying books (because all the monks who used to do that died from plague) and the increase in raw materials for paper (from the surplus of rags accumulated from the many dead) coupled with the surplus of source material brought by refugees from plague-torn Byzantium. So there you go, kids. Literacy: Born of pain and suffering, and forged from mountains of the dead.

At first, printers in England attempted to self-police this chaos by forming the Stationers' Company in 1403, essentially a printers' guild. Eventually, however, Parliament stepped in and passed the Licensing Order of 1643, which turned the Stationers' Company into a veritable police force for censorship. They gained unprecedented authority to arrest authors, printers and publishers and destroy offensive manuscripts in exchange for a monopoly of the printing trade, basically making them the Microsoft of the Renaissance.

In response to the Licensing Order of 1643, a writer and poet named John Milton published the Areopagitica, an influential treatise on the philosophical defense of free speech and press against pre-publication censorship--which back then didn't just mean editing choice phrases out of your novel; they could actually haul your ass to jail for writing offensive crap.

Just something to keep in mind, commenters.

So why risk incarceration to speak out? Was Milton just a hardass, lookin' for literary punch-ups like a bookworm samurai? Well, Milton actually believed that the freedom to publish was God's Will. And far be it from man to deny the will of The Almighty.

That's right: This article was ordained by God himself. Especially that part about Mr. Rogers and the dinosaurs. We're practically saints up in this bitch.

You can read more of Ralf's stuff at (Maybe) The Dorkiest Thing You've Seen All Day

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