Recounting My First Steps on the WWW

A few days ago Mel over at Stirrup Queens mentioned in a post, that her twins will never remember a time when the internet didn’t exist and how differently they navigate in the (digital) world, because they grew up around Google and iTunes and Amazon and online communities and everything else that makes up *the* Internet.

Her post got me thinking and I tried to remember when I took my first steps out in the “World Wide Web”. And then I felt really really old, because it seems like such a lifetime ago (and it actually was in a way). But even though I remember pre-internet-times, I never ever wish this thing hadn’t been invented. I have no idea how I would live without it ;-) Although, I admit, if it hadn’t been invented I would have never known about it either and then wouldn’t be able to hypothetically miss it now. If you could follow this weird train of thought.

Anyway, I thought it’d be fun to try remembering how it has been back then. I’m not sure (like I said, I’m old *g*), but I think that I first went online at our neighbour’s house in 1993 or maybe 1994. Their son, who was in his early twenties, had gotten AOL and one day one of my brothers and I went to check it out. I don’t remember what I had known about the internet before that day or what I had expected it to be. I just remember that we sat in their basement in front of a computer screen and waited till the modem dialed into AOL. I don’t remember what we did online at that day.

I graduated highschool in 1994 and went to university (stayed living at home though) and there I took a few more steps into the unkown WWW. It’s kind of funny, that I remember it as WWW now and not “the internet”, at least I think we didn’t usually call it the internet. We called it being online or using the WWW but nothing else, as far as I remember. The computer labs at university had a Unix OS, so there wasn’t really much we did first year students did there, but we had an email account and there were webbrowsers. Netscape Navigator. Anyone remember that one? I don’t think we had any idea how to use the internet for anything else than sending mails and looking up random stuff :-)
I have always been a “fan” type of person and thus the internet was great to connect with other fans of bands, TV shows, actors and I admit that for the first few years I mostly used it for exact that reason. I spent endless hours in fan-chatrooms and I think that was my favourite thing to do in the early days of my online life: To communicat in real time with folks overseas. Being able to just do that made me feel so grown-up and modern and hip in a way. I also remember that I had signed up for a fan mailing list, but I honestly don’t remember if it was for a tv show or a band. Anyway, that was my first contact with mailing lists via a listserv. I hardly ever use that feature anymore, but it actually was pretty neat back then.
Looking back on it now I realize that I never even tried to understand or explain how the whole “internet/mail” stuff worked. I know and understand most of it by now (probably because a few years ago I beta-ed a friend’s thesis about using internet in elementary school). But back in the days I just didn’t. I embraced the unlimited opportunities. And all the new stuff.

In 1997/98 I spent a term in Stockholm, Sweden and there they were so much more advanced in regards to the whole internet thing and their computer labs at university were open 24/7. So I got used to being able to use it pretty regulary and when I got back home I knew there was no way I could live with the lousy opening hours of the computer labs at my university. I was still living with my mom and my brothers then and after a lot of nagging we got internet at home. Via a 56 modem and a local provider. I still remember my mom’s shock over our first phone bill. We switched providers a few times and after a few years, when we got DSL we finally settled for one, which had a reasonable monthly rate.

Gosh, it was so expensive to go online then and actually getting online took so long. I mean, it was a 56k modem. I was still using the internet mostly for fan-stuff like hanging out on message boards, visiting fanclub websites and such. In 1998 I started my first own website (about two german actors) at Geocities. I still host the site, but at it’s own domain by now and Geocities isn’t even in business anymore.
In the late 90s and early 2000s I still got my news via TV, radio, newspaper. I still bought my CDs at a record store and books at the bookstore. I honestly can’t quite pick a date or year when that changed. I guess it happened gradually and slowly. Nowadays I get most of my news from twitter, blogs or online news sites. I sometimes still buy my music at a store, but only when I know the CD will be available and I’m at the mall anyway. Same goes for books, even though I mostly order them online on the bookstore’s website and pick them up at the store at the central station, where I’m passing through 4 days a week.

There are so many other things I do online which 15 years ago I had never thought I’d do. Maybe because I didn’t know it was possible. Or never thought it one day would be possible. I still remember the times when I had to walk up the stairs to my dad’s office and grab the encyclopedia from the shelves when I wanted to look something up. No I just type it into the google widget on my Android or check wikipedia via my phone’s browser. Has it really only been 15 years ago? And it makes me wonder, where we will be 15 years from now and if I’ll continue to be up for the new changes or if I, like so many of my parents’ generation nowadays, will one day be overwhelmed by all the new technology and the more and more digital way of life…

1 Comment

  1. Love this! I’m working on my complimentary post now and will link to this one. I’m going to read them aloud to the twins and let them know this was how we used to live :-)

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