Happy 30th birthday to the web. We’ve come a long way from AOL discs, embarrassing Hotmail addresses and dancing hamsters, to a world in which virtually all our time, money and attention seems to be mediated through the web in some way.
To mark this anniversary, some of us at Flying Object (of varying ages) went surfing through the information superhighway of our memories. Come join us, fellow netizens…
My dad ran into the kitchen waving a piece of paper he’d printed out of a ‘web-site’. He pronounced the two words separately, in the same way he pronounced ‘D-J’. “Look” he said. Beaming, he showed me a photo of a white wooden building with two petrol pumps outside.
“There’s a garage in Canada, and they’ve made a web-site with a photo on it — so you can see what it looks like!” he said, thrilled to his toes.
“Why?” I asked.
“Isn’t it incredible!” he said, wandering off. Walking back to his computer upstairs he didn’t look up from the piece of paper. This was my first experience of the internet.
I have distant memories of the perils of dial-up broadband service with the weird proto-techy screeching noise that happened when it was connecting (was this really the sound of the internet or did developers add it in for effect??)
I invented loads of time-wasting techniques to fill the interminable minutes you had to wait for it to kick into gear, like reading out the letters of the keyboard over and over again to the tune of the Alphabet song.
Meanwhile your mum would be shouting at you from downstairs because she wanted to ring your Gran and the line was engaged.
I can’t remember the very first time I used the web — but I do remember how different accessing it was. Our school had maybe 3 computers, and one of them was the computer with the world wide web ‘on it’. My grandmother was the first in my family to get an internet connection at home and I can remember using the computer at her house to do my year 7 homework — as well as some very early flash games. One stand out memory I have is how difficult it could be to use at times — and how it was reverently referred to as its own ‘thing’ — “surfing the world wide web” or “accessing the information superhighway” seem quaint now it’s so ubiquitous.
The web I remember using as a teenager seems like a very different place, largely free from commerce and big business, and made from an intricate web of personal homepages. Because not everyone was online then, people felt more free to share intimate parts of their lives, and to Young Tim, the internet was an incredible real world soap opera of glamorous lives from around the world. Some of the web’s forefathers are still out there (check out ‘father of blogging’, and my childhood hero, Justin Hall’s hypertextual life story, and his recent film about the early web), while I reckon there’s a strong line of descendance to be seen between today’s superstar vloggers and the pioneers of personal publishing.
Mmmm doop deep doop doop doop deep doop doop mmmmm DEEEEEE brmbrmbrmbrmZZZZEEEEEEE mee moo mee moo mee moo BSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH bloop bloop BSHHHHHHHHHHHHH beep!