Five years. I've been connected to the internet in my home for five years. (Sometime later this month, but why wait to do the entry..)
It's been... interesting!
Five years. I'm still as in love with all things internet as I was that very first day. I still stay up way too late every night. I still go into a state of panic at the idea of a power failure, or worse, a vacation!
I bought my first computer in March, 1995, with the idea of getting on the internet. (Well, I also needed a typewriter as the old electric had finally given out.)
I knew nothing about computers. Nothing. However, I knew more than anyone else in my house, and I was motivated.
We heard about a discount computer store, which was recommended by a friend. (She's still a friend, but no thanks to this episode!) Big mistake. I won't go into the details but it took weeks to make the thing functional (during which my learning curve was very steep; I guess no experience is all bad) but I was still left without a modem. The computer was a 486, 66 MHz with a whole 500k hard drive and 8 megs of RAM. State of the art, at the time, and about as expensive as state of the art computers are now.
Months later, after learning my way around windows 3.1 and enduring some unrelated family crises, I got around to having a modem installed, by a reputable place this time, and chose my first ISP. It was odyssee.net, a local company which has since been bought out several times. They provided me with eudora for email, a newsgroup program, and netscape.
The world wide web existed in those days but its scope was different. It was much less commercial. Yahoo was there, and a few other search engines (excite, infoseek) and some news services; most networks had an online presence of sorts (CNN, sports networks) but you couldn't find everything like you can now. I remember searching in vain for information for a school assignment on the Group of Seven (Canadian) painters. Now, it only took me the time to type it into google and wait for the page to load.
What I really wanted, though, was chat. I'm not sure why but it was probably similar to the reason that I now maintain this journal and participate in the journalling community. I just.. need to.
At the risk of sounding snobbish (or worse), much as I love my local friends, I feel stifled mentally. When the most stimulating discussions in my community go on at the hairdresser's, there's just something wrong.
Nor would I feel totally at home in an academic ivory tower. I've been there. I need more than one world and right now, the internet does a pretty good job of finding whatever I'm looking for (and plenty that I'm not!)
Web chat existed then, sort of.. but without java it was nothing more than a frequently reloading bulletin board. Not good enough. I knew chat rooms were out there, but having no idea what to do or where to look, I played in the newsgroups for awhile and made some email friends, one of whom told me how to go about getting on IRC (internet relay chat). I didn't quite know what to do once I was there, and tried channels such as 40+ and general chat, but nothing stuck. I finally landed in a Beatles fan channel, and stayed there for well over a year.
The first thing that struck me there was.. they liked me! (I really wasn't used to being so quickly liked. I'm shy and quiet until I feel comfortable in a situation. Don't laugh, I am!) I made friends, some of whom I met in person. All the experiences were positive - no axe murderers in the bunch. The channel spawned three marriages during my time there and at least one child. Imagine, owing your existence to an internet chat room.
At that time, being online was still the exception; I was pleasantly regarded by my friends as a freak, and had to endure constant warnings about perverts and kidnappings and all the horror stories that abounded. Nothing bad ever happened to me; I did witness some hurt feelings due to someone's misrepresenting himself, but I took comfort in the fact that I always suspected there was something creepy about that person, and applauded myself on my instincts.
I'm not sure why I left that channel.. it happened very slowly. I'm still in touch with two people that I met there, one on a daily basis (hi Stephanie!) and one occasionally. I'm also left with a stack of cassette tapes (we traded by mail) and a newfound appreciation for Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
I passed through various chat rooms after that, including the CNN room in its infancy - way too right-wing for me!
I spent some time playing IRC games - trivia and madlib - but the channel politics and feuds became too much. By then, java games had been invented, and I had upgraded to a more powerful computer, so I spent months playing backgammon on the microsoft "zone". That was fun, except for the poor losers. Again, politics. I had enough.
Which brings me to spring, 1999, when I discovered online journals.
That story in a future entry.
"Getting People Lost Since 1993"
For some reason I seem to have an unnatural affinity for corn these days..
See also the Cornmaze Network which has a map and listing of corn mazes in North America (YES! Canada too!)