Old fart internet

by Radio Somewhere

Remember when the internet wasn’t about selling?

I started really using the internet just before Mosaic came along. I remember wasting hours navigating those never-ending numbered lists in Gopher to read text-only content; and waiting several minutes to download an image file via a 14.4 dial-up connection only to open it with Lview — and realize I’d downloaded the wrong file.

Once Mosaic (and then Netscape) came along, webpages displayed graphical content, but navigating most early portals, such as Yahoo, was not that much more elegant than Gopher. But there were no ads! And lots of us built simple little websites to share with people who cared about the same stuff we did.

Usenet was a black hole into which many hours of the day got sucked — especially if you were a doctoral candidate with a dissertation to write. Between rec.arts.tv.soaps.abc, misc.fitness, and alt.drunken.bastards, I’m amazed I graduated on schedule.

No ads there either. Occasionally, someone would use a newsgroup to publicize a project or cause — or even something to sell. But you’d just skip onto the next post in the thread if you weren’t interested. (There were newsgroups where items were bought and sold, such as antiques and collectibles, and used cars — but you visited them rather than them pestering you.)

For a brief little window in history, no one was seriously selling anything online. And it was great.

No annoying ads. No pop-up windows. Only a few passwords to remember — and it was not really that risky to use the same one everywhere you went because your online identity was of no value to anyone. And, no updates every time you turned on your computer.

As if it isn’t bad enough being sold to, the pressure to be always promoting oneself gets tiresome also — as though there’s no reason to be online unless you get someone to notice you. You see, if you aren’t being noticed, then there’s no hope of ever moneytizing anything you do.

Twenty years ago, we didn’t worry about that. We made a website; about a rock band perhaps; or a classic car being restored; passed on the url to a few friends; perhaps mentioned it in a Usenet post; and then were happily surprised to get an email from a stranger in another part of the world.

It’s very gratifying to me to find that spirit still alive in the world of blogging — which is why I am still doing it!