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These, according to a government report on obscenity, “served as a catalyst for the rental or purchase of movie projectors, screens, cameras, and other equipment.” Porn was, for the first time, demonstrably helping sell a new technology. Thus, as cable TV moved into people’s homes, formerly illicit fare moved in with it.

But not until the arrival of the videocassette recorder and the video camera was that fare a prime force behind technology’s spread.

That relationship has been the focus of a study by the historian of technology Jonathan Coopersmith, an associate professor at Texas A&M.

His paper “Pornography, Technology and Progress,” published in a scholarly journal called , reveals the wide variety of ways sex has first encouraged the acceptance of new technologies and later actually been part of the further development of those technologies.

The first VCRs, in the late 1970s, were not only very expensive but made in two competing formats, VHS and Betamax. Pornography, Coopersmith shows, gave people not only a motive for purchasing the machines but also, at first, the only recorded tapes to use with them.

Sexually explicit videotapes hit the stores in 1977, a year regular Hollywood releases, and over the next few years, more than half of all recorded tapes sold were X-rated.

Niue is a South Pacific island that now has 10,000 phone lines—4 for every man, woman, and child in the land. “It happens because like all technology throughout history, information technology is motivated simply by what people want. It’s what people do to improve and ease their lives, as they see it.

Guyana gets as much as 40 percent of its gross domestic product from incoming phone calls. Lane III, a lawyer specializing in Internet matters who has written a book titled , “the willingness of consumers in the United States and western Europe to pay high per-minute charges for simple access to phone sex has had a direct impact on the ability of small nations to rebuild (or in some cases build) the telecommunications infrastructure they need to attract other types of business.” Why should sex, of all things, be one of the fuels of the information revolution? Technology after technology, one of the first things people do is use it for sex.

Local opposition to dial-up sex followed, and local phone-sex numbers gave way to long-distance and 800 ones and then international ones.

By 1996, an estimated 1.5 percent of all international phone calls were pornographic. Most of those calls are routed through remote countries, some so remote that most people have never heard of them, like Niue and São Tomé.

Sex has become one of the forces shaping information technology.

Every new information technology since the printing press has spawned pornography.

Unless you’ve never been online, visited a video-rental store, watched cable TV, or turned on the set in a modern hotel, you know how much technology has changed the landscape of sex in recent decades. The information-technology revolution has not stopped at the bedroom door but burst through it, deluging us with X-rated cyber cams and DVDs and chat rooms and phone-call services.

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