Monday, June 21, 1993, a day that will live in infamy. At least for me. That was the day that I first experienced the Internet. Picture this: I walked into my new office (I had recently changed jobs) and one of my new co-workers began talking about something called the “Internet” and asked me if I’d like to see it.
I really can’t remember what all we looked at that day (and please remember this was before the graphical web), but I liked it. So much so that by day’s end I had applied for my own account.
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1993 18:56:49 -0400 From: Express Access Business Office firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Welcome to Express Access! Welcome to Express Access Online Communications Service, We are happy to have you as a customer. If at any time you have any questions about our service, please feel free to call us at our offices and we will do our best to help. [[snip]] We hope that you enjoy using our service, and if there is anything that we can do to make things better for you, please let us know. Welcome to the machine.
Welcome to the machine, indeed.
As of today, I’ve been on the Internet 17 years, 2 months, and 26 days (but who’s counting). The Web was just getting started, but we didn’t have the Mosaic client loaded on our “stand-alone” machine (maybe we couldn’t even get it through the dial-up service we were on at the time). It was command-line all the way at the time: telnet, gopher, newsgroups, Listservs, and Pine email. I learned more UNIX commands those early years than I ever thought I would.
An event that stands out was ordering a book online soon after I got my account. I telnetted to “books.com” and looked at their offerings (as I recall, it was a file list that I saw). I ordered, gave credit card information, and, voila! the book arrived in about 2 days! Amazing! (I just now went to books.com & it resolved to barnesandnoble.com. I wonder if books.com was really B&N way back then.)
Compendia of information about the Internet were showing up all the time back then. Two that come to mind (and that I could locate online) are Brendan Kehoe’s “Zen and the Art of the Internet” (1992) and the original version of the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s “Big Dummy’s Guide to the Internet” (1993). You may remember additional ones. If so, please mention them in the comments.
I can remember being enamored by the depth of information on gopher servers. It was incredible how many layers of information could be found. But this was nothing compared to what was (and is) available on the World Wide Web. (While writing this blog, I discovered an interesting “History of the World Wide Web” from CERN.)
It was freewheeling in those days, and most any question you might have could be answered in one of the Internet Engineering Task Force’s RFC’s. Anything you wanted to know about the Internet could be found there, sometimes in excruciating detail. I’m in awe of the volunteers who served on the IETF and all the others that worked to get Internet standards formulated. Where would we be without them?
It’s been a great 17 years, 2 months, and 26 days. If you have memories of the early years of the Internet, please leave them in the Comments section.