Before “Tosh 2.0,” there was “Internet Tonight.” Today in 1998, a new television channel focused solely on computers and the burgeoning Internet culture premiered. While other channels played with shows about computers, usually featuring the sleekest, most expensive things you could buy, ZDTV built a rabid fan base by being practical. “Call for Help” featured the booming voice and endless patience of Leo Laporte walking newbies step by step through their computer problems. “The Screen Savers,” with Laporte and Kate Botello (later replaced by Patrick Norton) catered to the advanced user with demos and interviews of the computing world’s major players. Filling time were shows on computing and finance, gaming, and the future of technology with John C. Dvorak, television’s most entertaining grouch since Oscar. “Big Thinkers,” a truth-in-advertising program if there ever was one, interviewed luminaries like Douglas Adams and Michio Kaku.
The cable channel changed its name to TechTV within a couple of years to entice a larger audience, and was finally sold by former Microsoft exec Paul Allen to G4 Media in 2004, who then eventually stripped out all the practical computer shows and focused solely on gaming.
ZDTV’s demise created a hole in the computing world, one that was filled by Laporte gathering his fellow TechTV hosts and crew and creating a web-based network called This Week in Tech, or TWiT. The spirit of the shows we all loved lives on, joined by new geek-centric shows covering all corners of technology, from the latest iPad to ham radio.
Celebrate today by checking out TWiT and catching up with some of your favorite people, or take a look back with this classic clip from “The Screen Savers,” when a recently freed Kevin Mitnick went back on the Internet live on the air.Tweet