Sunday, March 15, 2009

The "Old" Internet 

I read this article with fascination. Has it really been that long?


I purchased my first personal computer in 1996 for $2700. It was a sleek looking black ACER machine with a 28.8 modem, a 2 gig hard drive, and 128 mb of RAM. It wasn’t the top-of-the-line machine, but it was all I could afford at the time.


The internet was something wild and new back then. I had logged on a few times at work, sharing my office connection with our school library. We had one internet connection and account for the entire building. When I was online, no one else could be, so I used it sparingly. But the experience whetted my appetite. What was this thing they were calling the World Wide Web?


I put my computer together and looked at all of the discs that came with the machine. One of them advertised a free month of internet service for signing up. It was from a company called G.N.N. (Global Network Navigator…or something like that) and it seemed like the best deal. I inserted their disk, plugged my PC into the phone line and dialed in. I was informed that my free month included 40 glorious hours per week of online time.


I reached a screen that gave me three choices…the World Wide Web, chat, or newsgroups. I barely knew what the World Wide Web was. I clicked on “chat” and found myself in a world of chat rooms of every topic known to man. I also had a list of internet sites I had brought home from work and tried some of them out. The pages took several minutes to load, but it was cool when they did.


My next big investment was a 58.8 modem which promised to double my speed. Who could argue with that? Then I paid fifty bucks at an electronics store for a copy of the Netscape browser. Hehe. In those days you paid for your internet by the hour so you had to be efficient. I remember reading articles about how to download email and web pages for offline viewing. I also remember going to get dinner started while waiting for pages to load. I learned how to wire a second line into my house so that I wouldn’t tie up the main line when I was online.


I went through several other trial offers before I hooked up with a local internet provider which promised to, “take the training wheels off of the internet”. I learned to download software and pictures.  I met some friends and began to enjoy the online experience more.


The internet is now such an ubiquitous part of my life that it is hard to remember the old days when you were thrilled when a page loaded in under a minute. The newness of it all…I could send email to someone anywhere in the world and they would get it in a few minutes! I could chat with someone in New York or New Delhi in real time! Voice chats…just like talking on the phone…sort of ! A few years later I downloaded “Stairway to Heaven” from Napster. Oh my! I still have hundreds of songs on my hard drive from those days.


It is fun to look back and reflect on those days when AOL, Compuserve, and Prodigy ruled the World Wide Web and “you’ve got mail” caused your heart to race. I’ve got mail! I did Yahoo searches and could not believe that I could find information on seemingly everything. I wasn’t just a guy in a small Oklahoma town. I could connect with the entire world!


I now have internet on demand at home, at work, and even on my cell phone. Who knew?

I haven’t heard the “dong, dong” of a dial up modem in years.  I rarely watch news on TV anymore, choosing to get my information online. I pay almost all of my bills online.  It is truly a different world from 1996. My kids are both very internet savvy.


I remember dialing up as soon as I got home because if you waited too long you were not likely to get online that night. The internet providers had a limited number of modems and you had to stand in line.  Of course, you had to keep in mind the number of hours you had left. I knew people who had internet bills in the hundreds of dollars due to hourly usage! I was always very mindful of how much time I had left.


Ahh..the old school days. Anyone else remember them?



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