Monday

Memories of When the Internet Was Less Serious

Do you remember when the web was young? It was used by geeky students, the military, academia and Star Trek fans (obviously some overlap on those). Now it certainly wasn't as slick and smooth as now but it was certainly a much more open way of sharing information than it is today. I certainly remember the first time I spoke to someone online across the globe through some flaky text only IRC program and it gave me a genuine thrill. Any computer that was connected to the net was accessible and would welcome you with open arms.

In the mid 90's I ran an evening internet course for anyone who was interested. It had tremendous support but it was difficult to run mainly because the 20 people in the class had to communicate down a 28.8k modem sitting on my desk... But people didn't seem to mind, the thrill, the excitement was there...even when it didn't quite work.
For instance when I demonstrated Internet Relay Chat - a chap called Mike from my class managed to arrange a date with a someone called Lilly from Detroit. We were all nearly as excited as Mike just waiting to hear how the date went (Mike worked in Detroit for a few weeks a year). In the end, it didn't actually happen as it turned out Lilly wasn't actually from Detroit, or in fact was called Lilly - but was actually a rather disturbed and lonely welder from Chicago called Norman.

But despite Norman, there was a sense of community and sharing. It was tough to find stuff of course, you had to use programs like Gopher and Archie to find information, which they occasionally did. But after you needed to figure out how to connect, download or access the results.  There was also much less of a worry that you were being stalked, monitored or logged, although using a VPN wasn't really an option either.

1990s (ASCII) Computer Art 

However despite it being hard work, there was a side benefit - often you had to learn how things worked in order to use them.  Heck, you even had to sometimes read a manual to get a program to load or have a hope of using it. There was no alternative in the earliest days of the 1990s internet, even when you connected to a site or online system you'd often get stuck in some obscure text editor with no option other than to learn the commands.

Of course, most of the internet nowadays is point and click which is pretty much like the operating systems we use.  This works up to a point, but when things go wrong or you need to consider something like security most users have very little idea of where to start.   I thought my children would power passed me in technology knowledge but that hasn't happened.  Partly because they don't seem that interested but perhaps also they've have never had to spend two weeks typing in the code for Minotaur's Cave (and fixing the syntax errors) before they could play the game!


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