Phil Gyford posts on his ten years being on the Internet. I get namedropped, which is always nice.
OK, to be honest it’s a couple of weeks until the anniversary of when I first ventured online, as it took that long to get my little Mac LC II talking to the Internet, such was the complexity of the unfamiliar fragments of software required. But, armed with the Internet Starter Kit, I finally made it and began exploring.
Which isn’t to claim I was some kind of pioneer; obviously the net was already well past adolescence and the media had probably stopped having to explain what “Internet” was at every mention. But even so, Ted was the only person in the world I knew who was online, so this did feel like an expensive solo mission into the unknown.
That was me, in Japan, having been connected to the ‘net since the late spring of ’94. I remember spending a long time getting my brain around the concept of email (why not write it out, I wondered) and then, later, trying to imagine what a graphical browser might look like when I started hearing about Netscape. Why would you want to see things? I asked. Answer: porn.
For a long time being on the ‘net meant going in using Apple’s ZTerm, and keeping the phone line occupied for hours. One of the earliest texts I have (saved somewhere, should go and find it) is a conversation between me and Dan Waldhoff, who was my Mac connection near where I lived in Japan. I’m asking him where the hell I can find simple household bleach. I think it was Dan who was responsible for getting me into the ‘net and showing what it could be used for. I also immediately joined the Japanese version of AMUG, and went to them for software and hardware problems. In a country where nobody seemed to own an Apple (biggest brand was NEC) this was essential.
My computer at the time? A Powerbook 145B.
And now? The next ten years? I must admit to a feeling of exhaustion. There’s still plenty to get excited about of course. Even though the fields have long-since been paved over, this place is crammed with people doing wonderful, ingenious things and I’m lucky enough to count many as friends. But at the same time everything I do online these days feels like a chore. A decade ago a new email was a thrill; now it’s another item on the todo list. The Internet’s now just a job and a vast, rickety structure of never-ending commitments I’ve built up over ten years, and I’m not sure where to go from here.
Fortunately, I don’t feel so despondent. Every new development seems to reinvigorate me, even though the actual time I have to explore these things (Flickr, Blogger, RSS, etc.) is limited. I also too spend way too much time on the web, but not because it’s a chore. But that thrill of connecting to “cyberspace” and having words pop up from nowhere is definitely gone, and while I wouldn’t say it’s a chore, but the web has become that most familiar of things, a necessity.