1997-03-23 Internet

It’s 1997, March the 23rd to be precise. A Sunday afternoon. I’ve not long returned from PC World in Stretford England, the closest store that I believed would stock everything I need.

Everything I need: a US Robotics Sportster Flash “modem” & cables, and an Internet for Dummies book.*

I’ve plugged everything in, installed the driver software on my PC, and I’m ready to open the icon on the desktop: MSN, the Microsoft Network.

I’ve chosen the closed infrastructure of MSN just because it seems easy to get into, I don’t really care, I mean, it’s right there on the desktop! I’d read about the other United Kingdom “Internet Service Providers” (ISP) so I’m not totally in the dark. And I reason, once I’m running at a speed I like I can choose another ISP to suit my needs, at my leisure.

“ISP”. I’m one of the few people I know who understands what those 3 letters stand for, both as an abbreviation and as a concept.

This is a big moment. Big. I’m about to step into the slow lane of the Information Superhighway, to begin my small participation in the start of a golden era of unprecedented access to information, an era in which I know for certain it will be no longer possible to feign ignorance of a subject or to pass disinformation off as fact.

I’m breathless with anticipation, can’t you tell?

And after a few dings or dongs and a squawking raspy noise as the modem connects to the remote server, it works first time.

Now what?

Yes, I’ll browse the communities in Microsoft Chat, that’s what. “Browse” like in a shop, not like with an “Internet browser”, I’ve not used one of those before!

Looking in a couple of chat rooms I’m ignored, how rude! And then a third “What’s Cooking Online”, abbreviated to “WCOL”. I’m instantly welcomed by Norma (her real name) from Texas, one of the regulars and I guess a moderator, who throws a wall of text at me explaining the room’s purpose. I try my best to read that but the chat roils about me and it’s gone.

She’s from Texas, the USA, and I’m chatting in real time. Practically real time.

But I make my excuses and leave, I’m paying per minute for the privilege of connecting via the phone line, and while I’m “online” it stops all incoming calls.

Wow. It’s past midnight already, I’ve absolutely no sense of the passage of time. I’ll need to be careful how I manage things in the future.

Nothing productive happened the next evening either. Or the next.

*2023, February 22. A Wednesday evening here. Now.

I bought another book that day, the name of which escapes me now, but the Dummies one, wow, I learned a LOT from that one.

What’s just struck me, how did I know where to go and how did I know what things to buy to get online? It’s not as if I could open a browser window and search is it.

Magazines. Glossy, flappy papery things.

This post is prompted by Terence Eden‘s post Necroposting – blogging from before you started blogging – Terence Eden’s Blog I’m eventually going to change the posting date to the one you see right at the top.