Happy birfday, InterWeb.
21 years ago, I was a little unusual in that I regularly contributed to the North Texas VaxCluster Bulletin Board System (NTV BBS). We used telnet to communicate with people down in Houston, and California, and such. I was so impressed when one of our regular contributors fired off some messages from Bangkok, Thailand. We were living in the future, at 1200 baud dial-up.
Graphic interfaces? Are you kidding me? It was all text. ASCII test, actually, and on a monochrome amber monitor.
I remember, two decades ago, considering whether to pay for the online service to get the Fort Worth Star Telegram for something like $20 a year, but then deciding not to. (The beginning of proof of the end, even back then. They were beginning to see that their marketing plan wasn't ready to deploy effectively.)
I remember firing up ProCom Plus on that XT Turbo with the new 20 meg hard drive, and that slight thrill as the external modem trilled and connected, blocking all other calls as it did so, so that I wouldn't be kicked off. No other phone. No interruptions.
I remember working nights in a help desk at Xerox in 1995, and deciding to go retro with the Windows 3.11 computer, going online with text-only programs, even though we technically could use graphic interfaces. As Xerox was part of the backbone of the Internet, I was amazed at the speed with which we could
ARPA put up ARPNet 40 years ago this month, and the Internet was technically born right then, some quarter-century before most of the world knew anything about it. It used to be a privelidge to get on the Internet; I remember having to sign some special paperwork to get an email account assigned to me at UT Austin back in the fall of 1990, and later at UNT in 1991. Now they automatically assign you one, and terminals are sprinkled around campuses like litter baskets or like payphones used to be. But like payphones, they're no longer much used, because the entire place is a WiFi hotspot, and everyone has a laptop, an ebook, or a superphone.
There used to be a technology gatekeeper at the doors of the internet: only those geeky enough to have a computer and keep it going, and willing to install and utilize their modems, would be able to get on. As such, there were some pretty bright people on there, back then. Now, in the Age of the Common Man, any fool can get on the internet as easily as he used to turn on Good Times or watch an ABC After-School Special. And they do.
The Internet is bringing us a tool for a world that is slightly different than we imagined even 15 years ago. It is paving the road for a new sexual revolution, allowing complete strangers to find each other far easier than ever before, for meaningless couplings.
Look at the data we can get.
Look at the connections we can make.
But people mostly still just use it to watch YouTube and porn.