The primary session on computers and telecommunication had taken place in March and I didn't get to CCF until May, but I got to be involved in the processing of reports from the meetings so I was one of the first people to see the very speculative early proposals for what would become the internet and I got to work at the later sessions, including the June meeting where final reports on various topics were presented. Admittedly, my role at those sessions was mostly to make sure chairs and tables were set up and that snacks were on hand, but I had also gone through the reports and helped prepare summaries of some very interesting discussions, and I got to stand in the back and hear the presentations.
It was the initial panel discussions at the Chautauquas which had led to the first consensus on what would emerge not long afterward as the fledgling internet. The ideas developed there would soon be implemented and the result was a shared network which first became accessible to a rapidly growing segment of the public in the form of Usenet in the early 1980s. It was that concept, of adopting common protocols to bring together existing private and government networks which created the internet as we know it and for which Al Gore has taken credit with some justification, as the point man on bringing all these experts together through these Chautauquas. I guess I can take some small credit to for helping the process along. Looking back at what was discussed at the time it surprises me how perceptive many of the participants were about the implications of technology which was really only just beginning to emerge and also how quickly the ideas were put into action. Usenet first went online by the end of that year.
Although, as a libertarian, I am chronically skeptical of the efforts of government, this experience was one which demonstrated how positive the role of government can be when it is primarily a passive and not an activist role. All the Chautauquas did was to bring people together to share information. There were no official conclusions, no real legislative outcome, no government initiatives to create the internet, just a promotion of ideas and innovation coordinated from a position of governmental neutrality. It did informally give the stamp of approval to government agencies and even the military in opening up their networks and sharing technology, but what it did not do was lay out rules and regulations, though Gore did eventually author legislation formalizing some of the relaxation of access required. The technical and administrative aspects of the internet were left to develop naturally.