The Net, ten years ago

Internet access is available anywhere these days — even on tropical islands in south-east Asia. Several weeks ago, I was on the island of Ko Tao in southern Thailand. Myself and several of my mates were discussing our views on the price of Internet usage. Most of us were in agreement that the standard Ko Tao rate of 2 baht per minute (about AUD$5 per hour) — which was standard across all of the island's many caf├ęs — was exhorbitant, unacceptable and unjustifiable. One bloke, however, had visited the island ten years previously. He thought that the rate was completely fair — as he remembered that ten years earlier, the entire island had boasted only a single place offering access; and that back then, they were charging 60B/min! Nowadays, the standard rate in most parts of Thailand is about ½B/min, or even ¼B/min if you know where to look. This massive price difference got me thinking about what else regarding the 'Net has changed between 1998 and 2008. And the answer is: heck, what hasn't?

After my recent series of blog posts discussing serious environmental issues, I figured it's time to take a break, and to provide a light interlude that makes you laugh instead of furrow your eyebrows. So let me take you on a trip down memory lane, and pay a tribute to those golden days when text was ASCII, and download speeds were one digit.

What it was like...

  • IRC was all the rage. High-school teenie-boppers knew their /msg from their /part, and they roamed the public chat networks without fear of 80-year-old paedophiles going by the alias "SexySue_69". ICQ was a new and mysterious technology, and MSN had barely hit the block.
  • 56kbps dial-up Internet was lightning fast, and was only for the rich and famous. All the plebs were still on regular old 14.4. Downloading a single MP3 meant that your entire afternoon was gone.
  • IE3 and Netscape 3 were the cutting-edge browsers of choice. Ordinary non-geeky netizens knew what Mosaic and Lynx were. "Firefox" was (probably) a Japanese Anime character from Final Fantasy VII.
  • Most of our computers were running the latest-and-greatest offering from Microsoft, remembered (with horror) for all eternity as "Windows 98". Fans of the Apple Macintosh (and yes, its full name was still used back then) were equally fortunate to be using Mac OS 9.
  • On the web design front, table-based layouts were the only-based layouts around.
  • If you wanted to show that you were really cool and that you could make your website stand out, you used the HTML <blink> tag.
  • Long before MySpace, personal home pages on Angelfire and GeoCities was what all your friends were making.
  • Life-changing interactive technologies such as ActiveX and RealPlayer were hitting the scene.
  • There was no Google! If you wanted to search the 'Net, then you had a choice of using such venerable engines as Lycos, Excite, or even HotBot.
  • AOL were still mailing out their "Get started with AOL" CDs all over the world for free. Bored young high-schoolers worldwide were using this as a gateway to discovering the excellent utility of CDs as damage-inflicting frisbees.
  • Forget BitTorrent: back then, unlimited quantities of pirated music were still available on Napster! Search, click, wait 2 hours, and then listen to your hearts' content.
  • There was no spam! Receiving an e-mail entitled "Make millions without working" or "Hot girls waiting to meet you" were still such a novelty, that it was worth printing them out and showing them to your mates, who would then debate whether or not the said "hot girls" were genuine and were worth responding to.
  • People (no — I mean real people) still used newsgroups. They were worth subscribing to, replying to, and keeping up with.
  • Blasphemies such as Word's "Save as HTML" feature, or Microsoft FrontPage 98, were still considered "professional web design tools".
  • Character encoding? UTF-8? Huh?
  • Drupal was not yet born.
  • The Internet was still called the "Information Superhighway".

What it's still like

  • There's still Porn™. And plenty of it.
  • The same people who still look at porn, are still reading Slashdot every day. And they're still running the same version of Slackware Linux, on a machine that they claim hasn't needed a reboot since 1993. And they're still spilling fat gobs of pizza sauce all over their DVORAK keyboards. Which they still believe will take off one day.
  • There are still n00bz. In fact, there are more now than there ever were before.

Comments are closed