Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Monday, November 02, 2009

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 play network games research customers' problems.

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.

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10 Comments:

At Monday, November 02, 2009 8:32:00 PM, Blogger Old NFO said...

Good points Robert! I remember my first email account was in 1978, and it was a military account with a 75 baud dial up!!! We thought we were cooking with gas when we got a 1200 baud line...LOL

I remember running on an IMB XT with NO hard drive, two floppies and 640K of memory, and yes, the Procomm modem too!

Just proves we're old farts... sigh...

 
At Tuesday, November 03, 2009 9:27:00 AM, Blogger JPG said...

I hadn't thought about the "olden times" on the UNT Vaxcluster in some time. I wasn't near geeky enough to participate on my own, and certainly I was non-student, non-staff. Somehow, you helped me get registrered and I happily participated in a chat group in, when? -- '91--92, I think. One of the participants was an OLD-line IBM computer type, who said he could recall when ALL the real computer progammers could meet in one residence. I do recall his name, but, if he's still with us, BR might not appreciate me mentioning it here.

If memory serves, I was using a machine with 8088 processer, two 5-1/4 inch floppies, and an add-on 20 meg hard drive. That, the little amber-screen monitor, and a HUGE dot matrix printer, barely fit on the build-in study desk in my apartment bedroom.

Only a couple of years back I threw away a binder holding printouts of a few spiritied chat group discussions. Boy, that FELT like it was some cutting-edge stuff . . . .

 
At Tuesday, November 03, 2009 10:08:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Boy, I well remember that 50 lb. Diablo printer, with the metal daisy wheel, that sounded like a machine gun going off. You got it in 1989, and it was about 18 years old, then. It literally had a metal plate over the area where the keyboard would have gone, as it was built in a typewriter cabinet. Wish I had that printer, now. I fooled more than one teacher in high school into thinking that I was typing my papers on a typewriter, with that printer.

I always wondered why you saved screen dumps on paper, rather than on floppies or HDD.

 
At Tuesday, November 03, 2009 10:37:00 PM, Blogger Tam said...

Yup, '88 was my introduction to the 'net, too, via local dial-up BBS's at a screaming (for the time) 2400 baud...

 
At Wednesday, November 04, 2009 1:12:00 PM, Blogger john said...

Wow I was online in 1981 via the source and compuserve. Shortly after I discovered private -pirate- BBS's. My online computers were, appleIIs through he school, A micro color computer An Apple iic, A Visual Commuter PC (clone) no hard drive. I loved those days.

Like MTV and the SciFi Channel. Great until the rabble got a hold of it.

Long live the geek!

 
At Wednesday, November 04, 2009 2:06:00 PM, Blogger charlotte g said...

I am nostalgic about when we look back at right now and how primitive we are. I never used a computer from 1970-something until 1990-something for anything but work or text; got e-mail at work and now again. Still, I use my machine for research, some shopping, instead of recipe books at times, and to store photos. I am coming along. Just curious about where we are going next.

 
At Thursday, November 05, 2009 10:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charlotte used a computer in 1970? I still used a slide rule then. I could not afford (or carry) a calculator of the time.

Tonight on work travel in east Texas I goggled Guy Fawkes, read fishing sites from Californian to Texas and the usual blogs I look at including this one, read my old hometown newspaper, looked for an apartment since I may be here for a while and read about the murders at Fort Hood a little to the west of where I am at. Amazing the changes in about a generation.

I saw my daughter Sunday and from some distant past a floppy labeled formatted came out of my luggage, I told her she could have it and think she is still laughing about how old I am.

ben

 
At Friday, November 06, 2009 8:36:00 AM, Blogger LauraB said...

I still miss SLMR (Silly Little Mail Reader).

Having once run a little place on Mustang's Wildcat! BBS ware, this brought to mind a lot of memories. (Like trying to think of yet another way to describe - er - assets...)

 
At Monday, November 09, 2009 9:08:00 AM, Blogger Gerald said...

20 odd years ago, I ran the KISS BBS here in Bangkok. At that time there weren't many people running a BBS and we all knew each other. Not only were modems expensive, but getting a telephone line was darn near impossible. I was a member of the Bangkok computer users group or BUG for short and we would download utilities and send mail during the night when charges were lower.

 
At Tuesday, November 10, 2009 2:52:00 PM, Blogger TOTWTYTR said...

I miss SLMR too, it was a neat little program.

AT&T was right about the technology, but wrong about who would bring it to us.

 

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