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dave

The Internet turns 25 today! Share your first experience on the 'net'.



On March 11th, 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee proposed a new digital information management system that would go on to become what we know know as the Internet. It would go on to help spawn wonderful companies to help catalog this new Wild West such as Altavista, Yahoo, Ask, and Google. It would improve our social lives with things like Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook. And it would cost immense amounts of worker productivity thanks to things like Stumbleupon, Digg, and Reddit.

The Engadget community stretches far and wide. Many of us were around in the BBS days and many others may have been born after the Internet was invented (crazy!). When did you first start using the World Wide Web, what were you using, and when did you realize it was a ridiculously cool thing?

(I realize including the AOL dialup screen fosters the annoying idea that AOL was the Internet, but in the early 90's, it represented many people's first experience connecting to it.)

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19 replies
TgD

I can't exactly remember my first internet experience, but here are some tidbits of my early internet day.

Memorizing the dialup modem sounds
Using Netscape navigator as my browser
Using Altavista as my search engine
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Jkellyca

In the late 70s I was doing undergraduate research in a protein crystallography lab. We used a telex to communicate with collaborators. It was huge when we got access to ARPANET for sharing large data sets. I was a CLI kind of guy and I have to admit that when web pages started to appear I thought the whole thing was a gimmick and beneath serious consideration. I came around. I also remember using Netscape Navigator and Altavista. My first email account was on delphi.com and I used Eudora to access it. It feels like a lot more than 25 years ago.
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dave

My first experience was probably using AOL sometime in the early 90's (I want to say sometime around 1993) when my parents signed up for a subscription. That was back in the days where you received X amount of minutes per month. At the time, they didn't really offer unfettered access to the web -- they had their own internal portals you would go to.

Eventually, they had an update that included some sort of basic web browser. I remember my parents being apprehensive about letting me use it. But back then, it was a bit boring. There wasn't really anything indexing the internet, so you'd have to know which websites to go to ahead of time.


Anyway, I find it kind of ironic that I now work for the company that first shaped my early digital life.
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dave

Related: This is kind of a fun read. Things that only web developers in the 90's would remember (but I think it's relevant to anyone who used the internet back then).

zachholman.com­/posts­/only­-90s­-developers/
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Jkellyca

Hey, sometimes   is still the easiest fix ;-)
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Paulmethod

Should've included all the background midi (autostart="true") as well.
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Dav1d0vv

It was 1992ish. The first kid in the neighbourhood who's family got the internet lived down the street from me. I remember 6 or 7 of us kids being huddled around the CRT looking at the browser, trying to understand what was happening. We searched for the world "purple" - there were no results.
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lobo4123

My first experience using the internet was Prodigy in either '91 or '92. Beyond chat rooms, a game based on nickelodeon's guts, and some BBS' I don't remember a whole lot. While it was amazing at the time, I don't remember it being anything other than a novelty.

It wasn't until my family switched to AOL (probably '94) that I really explored the internet. I can only imagine growing up in the present internet-age. I had begun to get into programming making simple e-mail bombers/IM punters... It was amazing what kind of mischievous things I was up to when I was 10-15, especially when online resources were hard to come by.

Some of the fondest memories I have of childhood are playing online games like Air Warrior and QuakeWorld.
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zzz

Being a small kid I remembered keying with the weird typewriter my dad for his internet needs at USGS in Palo Alto. We had some kind of 'typewriter thing' at home he would use for his emails, and it didn't seem unusual for sure at the time (early 70s) to mess around the thing. Then came the dial-up BBS's many of us spent time waiting for or trying to make things happen, then nights spent on FirstClass, ... And two decades later, in a lab in Geneva (where the web was born), a bit of a different experience with my first website visit thanks to one of our computer specialists who worked at CERN too. I remember him telling me "check this thing out, it's cool" and I couldn't restrain thinking how lame this thing was compared to other alternatives we already had. I guess I was wrong... ;)
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jeffisme

I was playing softball in Central Park when I ran into the bleachers trying to catch a fly ball and split open my face. I didn't have health insurance to cover the bills, but then one of my teammates said she knew of a writing gig (I am a freelance writer) that could help. The Garry Kasparov-Deep Blue match was about to start, and IBM needed someone to cover the Kasparov camp for its Web site.

I knew of the Web but really had very limited experience with it. the match demonstrated its power very quickly. Every day, three times a day I would post stories and was of course beating everyone in print, but I remember the message of its power really hitting home to me the night I wrote something about Kasparov's science advisor, Fred Friedel, being such a worrier that "he would bring an umbrella on a trip to the Sahara." About four hours later, in the middle of the night, Friedel's phone rang, and it was a friend from Germany, asking him, "would you really bring an umbrella to the Sahara?" Fred had no idea what this guy was talking about, and as he told me the story the next day, I understood for the first time that it really was a World Wide Web.

There was another aspect of it, too. Contrary to its promises, IBM tried to censor me, and when I wrote a story in which Kasparov expressed his anger at the IBM group, the editor was told it couldn't be posted, but someone pressed the wrong button, and there it was online and again around the world. IBM accused me of subterfuge, but as I said to them, laughing after they locked me in a room with a guard out front, "I don't even know what HTML stands for."

They fired me, and it cost me $400, just because someone pressed the wrong key. Another quick lesson learned: get paid in advance.
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Dignan17

I'm pretty sure I first got online around 1991-92. I was a proud Prodigy member (or at least my family was). It's true that back then, for the vast majority of people services like Prodigy and AOL were the internet. I was big time into Final Fantasy BBSs on Prodigy, sharing tips and strategy about FFII/6. Fun times.

I tried AOL a few times. In the early days I think you could keep using free trials, then you had to associate those trials with a credit card.

I do remember that back then, Prodigy metered our usage of the internet. I'm pretty sure there was actually a time limit, not a data limit, but I'm not certain about that.

After those days I remember a lot of firsts. 1998 was big, as I remember playing GTA1 and downloading my first MP3s. Downloading an MP3 on dial-up was madness. Doing anything on dial-up was madness. Fortunately I went off to college in 1999, where my school had just gotten broadband...just in time for Napster to explode!

Anyway, I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Prodigy. I'm amazed to see on Wikipedia that people were still using it at least until 2005. I'm pretty surprised that AT&T isn't using the domain name for anything. Heck, they should turn it into a nostalgia site :)
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Ordeith

I was dialing in to university networks and using telnet to get information in the very early 90's. I had just "upgraded" to a 9600 baud modem. Compared to the 1200 baud on my Atari before it, it was a speed demon.
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Paulmethod

First time on the internet was a trial of Prodigy on a 9600 baud modem when I was in elementary school. This was eventually replaced by 56k modem / AOL years later in middle school & high school. I remember the annoyance of having to disconnect in the middle of a download because of call-waiting interrupting the connection. Used T-1 at my part time job and cable modem broadband when I started college. I remember browsing BBS (eventually replaced by forums - network54, UBB). It was an innocent and magical time for me, I spent a lot of time on the encarta CD as well (like on Wikipedia now).

First search engine was webcrawler (then went to yahoo and eventually google) and I remember using Netscape Navigator.
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nostriluu

I started the first consumer ISP in Canada. I wasn't savvy enough to get incredibly wealthy, but it's been part of a career of interesting innovation and open source oriented work so I can't complain. www.zooid.org­/­~vid­/io­/short­_history­_of­_io.html

Tim Berners-Lee is a great guy. Not only did he 'invent' the web, he's also behind the Semantic Web / Linked Data, which is moving our computer systems past glorified typewriter status. He's very open and progressive.

Funny story about AOL, I was doing work in a hospital network in Toronto and a sales rep came by to talk about some software system they were selling. They wanted to show a typical user screen, so they'd populated it with Canadian cities. However, all the email addresses were @aol.com, which was never really used here.
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alvao

I remember using guides to cheat in Warcraft II. Back then glossy, slow-loading graphics were enough to make the Blizzard site awesome
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Sagamihara

After years on Fidonet in the late 80s/early 90s, my first taste of the web would have been spring of '94 at university running Mosaic on a _color_ SparcStation.

At first the closest I got to that at home was running Lynx on dialup - for those who never tried Lynx - it's a text-based browser that worked surprisingly well....

This was before Altavista, and before WebCrawler too, just a bunch of pages aggregating links, like Lycos and Planet Earth Pages. Those were the days... :)
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suennva

I think I got my first machine, an Apple MAC Plus, in the late 80's...with it's 1 MB of RAM...lol! I worked for a disk drive company in Silicon Valley (remember 14 inch platters that held like 10 MB and cost thousands?). The company used Apple computers and us employees got an insider's deal on them but they were still over $2,000, as I recall. An IT guy I worked with upgraded it for me to a 40 over a 20 model which I believe related to storage capacities but I can't remember exactly what it meant. My first internet experience was AOL and to this day I still use the same email address. I had to pay for hours and later $20 a month billed to a credit card for the AOL access. I don't think us old timers will ever forget the unique noise the modem made trying to connect. Also, frequently AOL couldn't handle the traffic and it sometimes took forever to get on. Today I get impatient when the computer is slow by today's standards so I can't imagine not bashing the computer if I had to go back to dial-up connections.
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geislert

I worked for the Air Force and was stationed in Turkey in 1989. I had moved from a Commodore 64 to the Amiga 500 to the 2000. The small computer career field didn't exist yet so a fellow Radio Tech, Dale showed me a system that he maintained. It was a Unix mini connected to .mil net, the militaries portion of the internet. We could login from base housing give the server a request to "get" file from another server, SIMTEL, in this case and then log off. You would then could log back in and the local server would have the file ready for download.

This was before browsers so we used telnet to display file directories and navigate through them. It wasn't until I was station back in the United States in 1993 that I would dial into AOL.
So what was before this even was the Bulletin Board Systems like Wild Cat, and people that maintained those little slices of the internet, like The Frozen Banana BBS, Grand Forks ND; circa 1986.
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MIDIAA

AOL account + Compuserv account + 14.4 dialup MODEM on an IBM Aptiva PS/1 running Windows 3.1 with a 486 pentium back in the 90's. Impossible to surf the web, but I liked watching the loading line going across the CRT.
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