My love affair with the internet began in 1995, in those dark days we used Netscape, and Google was still three years away.
I wasn’t by any means an early adopter of the information superhighway, the world wide web, or as we now call it – the home of cat videos and porn (and presumably cat porn, if that’s your thing… weirdo) – in fact, I wasn’t even curious about it until I started my university course in Software Engineering. The closest I’d come to using the internet before then was sitting around an RM Nimbus 286 at college the year previous, whilst friends (Including my fellow writer for this website John, no doubt) got excited about reading Bulletin Boards (BBS). The excitement grew if the connection lasted longer than a couple of minutes.
In September 1995 I embarked on a brief academic journey into the world of Software Engineering at Christ Church University in Canterbury, Kent. I had applied for a Video Game Design course in Milton Keynes, but – I shit you not – the course was cancelled due to lack of applicants!!! – It was in a classroom in Canterbury that I got my first real taster for being online in a way that is still vaguely recognisable today.
My kids have never known a time before fast access to the internet. Wifi is a way of life and they get confused and disoriented when Netflix buffers or Siri won’t answer their question immediately. They will never understand the pain of a 56k modem. I love the reaction I get when I tell them that my very first lesson on that Software Engineering course was… how to browse the internet! They look at me like I’m lacking in intelligence, the unspoken implication being ‘someone needed to teach you that? Surely it’s a genetic ability passed from generation to generation?!’
I clearly remember that tutorial. “Lady (yep) and gentlemen, on your desktop, you’ll see an ‘N‘ icon with Netscape written below… double click on that. Ok, this is a browser, your gateway to the worldwide web. Now go to the address bar and type…” This was it, we were shown how to use the dominant search engine of the time, Yahoo!
Challenged to search for something particular to our personal interests my default in those days was to seek out song lyrics and guitar tab. Not everyone was on the same wavelength and in a mere couple of hours word had spread of an amazing use for this fabulous and extensive resource. Porn. God damn!
I wasn’t content with just looking at pages on the internet though, I wanted to make one, I wanted to be a part of this, so I set about researching and soon found tutorials explaining how to code in HTML. Soon I was spending more time learning the language of the internet in my spare time in that computer lab than in class learning whatever it was I was supposed to be learning. My university stint only lasted one academic year, and although I would never graduate, several tripod and geocities websites later I’d learned enough to create and maintain a website. I’ve been doing it ever since, and although resources like WordPress have made life a whole lot easier for a modern webmaster (that’s still a term, right?) those skills continue to prove useful.
We’ve come a long way in the last 20 years and the internet has become an integral part of most of our lives. We have the ability to broadcast almost every facet of our lives, freedom of speech and the ability to voice opinions, affect change, and create for good – or… consume endless forms of media, watch infinite amounts of increasingly horrific pornography, lose hours on buzzfeed or mashable and set up email scams on behalf of Zimbabwe princes who need to move millions of pounds.
I’d like to think most of my peer group use the internet in a positive way, as a means of communication and as a resource for information, education and embetterment. Don’t shatter that perception, not on International Internet day.
October 29th has been celebrated as International Internet Day since 2005 and celebrates the date in 1969 that the first electronic message was sent from one computer to another.
What are your earliest memories of the internet? Let us know in the comments below.