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Last fall marked my 10th year on the internet. It was early in my high school career and I had recently been an addict of BBS and other associated nerddom when a classmate gave me the number to an "Internet Provider." I had no clue what the fuck he was talking about, but was willing to pay the $10 and give it a shot. I was familiar with command line environments, and could get around with a modem, but I was not prepared for what I got. After dialing the toll 900-number for my account registration, I connected to what was then called cyberspace.com, and greeted with a black screen and a command prompt. Not knowing what was going on, it took me a few days to learn the ins and outs of unix. But this was not a BBS, and the uses were not immediately apparent. I did not realize that "internet" was referring to the infrastructure, and not the actual service. Fortunately I had a friend or two who had learned how to navigate the hard way, and I began to work my way in...

In the early days of the world wide web, when I was still running terminal emulators on my amiga 500 and using rancid shitstains like gopher and archie (if you know what that is, and have a differing opinion, fuck you, you're a dork). The intolerable bullshit that was (and still is) lynx was my first introduction to HTTP, which was one of a number of competing hypertext standards. At the same time, dedicated connections to the internet, and the ability to use desktop applications was limited to government and universities, and me being a 14 year old 133+ BBS h4><0r (though, in those days it was actually "3133+ h4c|<3r", how the language has evolved!) kept the more aesthetic benefits out of reach.

This was still a few years before the Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) was introduced, allowing dial-up modems to use desktop browsing and bringing the wonders of tedium to new height with [generally unsuccessful] experiments in ergonomics, aesthetics, cross-platform compatibility (or lack thereof), and bandwidth efficiency. This was back was when the internet was a bunch of geeks staring at black and white terminal emulators, this is when my computer had 1mb of RAM, no harddisk, and "hi resolution" was a little better than my TV, when I had a 14,400 modem which was top of the line and blazingly fast. This was the last refuge for nerds who could only communicate through text, before it became an international epidemic of social disability. This was the old internet.

There are, and always will be remnants of the old internet. I still use terminals on occasion, but decades of clear-text hacks and telnet vulnerabilities have led to similar, but more secure solutions.

The mighty FTP, while still a viable, and simple option for single user, and small bandwidth needs, is too cumbersome for the tasks of yesteryear: distributing files to several users. Instead it has given way to file sharing, and distributed, decentralized aggregated downloads. Gone are the dialup, terminals, with x-, y-, and z-modem protocols, with z-modem having the revolutionary option of restarting interrupted downloads. This was especially useful when your connection would drop 45 minutes in to that 1 meg file.

Usenet is still alive and kicking, despite the overwhelming number of product review sites, weblogs with comments, individual humor or special interest sites with forums. Similarly, IRC remains a popular cesspool of filetrading and dork talk, even though instant messengers provide a huge user base for their chatrooms.

Beyond these few mammoths, a large number of protocols became outdated, or unappealing. Gopher, which I mentioned before, was a full screen resource directory that resembled the top level internet menu on my piece of crap phone. In fact, that is one of many reasons i dont use the internet on my phone. Fucking gopher, im glad its fucking dead. It was named to be like a creature that can dig beneath the surface and make itself at home, and by following its tunnels you can get an earthy cross-section of its habitat. Unfortunately, they also named it for a common pest that ruins peoples yards, is blind, brainless, and well deserving of being beaten to death with a plastic rake.

Hytelnet was a similar service, while trying to capitalize on the usefullness of telnet, and the hyperness of putting hy as a prefix, this abomination probably lasted longer than the few times I used it, but there is no point in even figuring out how long that was.

Since access to the internet was always done through Unix boxes, users had to be competent with a command line environment, knowing this, I dont understand why so many people tried to make cumbersome tools that destroyed the efficiency of the underlying system.

One alternative was archie. Archie was a command line program that searched public repositories for files, since the index files were controlled, there was no chance in hell of finding something cool, like porno, or bootlegged software, and mp3s didnt exist yet. It did occasionally work for shareware and other legit files, but mostly, just kept saying it found nothing, or would return a loose substring match of something completely unrelated. Again, it died because it sucked, if only people were like outdated internet technology.

One thing that has persisted that I find almost unfathomable is MUDs. A MUD, if you dont know, is a Multi-User-Dungeon. What the hell is that? Quite simple, if you are old enough to remember Zork, then you are half way there. Ill give you a primer for it:

 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > look mailbox
 
 It is an ordinary mailbox.
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > open mailbox
 
 You open the mailbox, there is something inside.
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > take letter
 
 I dont know how to 'take letter'
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > get letter
 
 That is not here.
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > look mailbox
 
 It is an ordinary mailbox. Someone has opened it. There is something inside it.
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > look IN mailbox, fuckhead!
 
 How do I 'fuckhead'?
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > look in the mailbox
 
 How do I look in the 'the'?
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > look in mailbox
 
 Hey! There is a package in here.
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > take package
 
 I dont know how to 'take package'.
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > get pakage
 
 There is no 'pakage' here.
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > get package
 
 I dont see a package.
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > get package from mailbox
 
 What do you mean 'from'?
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > get package mailbox
 
 You take the package.
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > enter house
 
 There is nothing like that here!
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > go North
 
 Whats a 'North'?
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > go N
 
 Its closed!
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > open N
 
 Its locked!
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 
 > quit
 
 I dont know how to 'quit'.
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > exit
 
 How do you plan to do that?
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 > escape
 
 Escape with what?
 
 You are standing outside a house. There is a mailbox here.
 There are exits: N, NW.
 
 
.........Aaaaanyway, I hope that jarred your memory, or at least gives an indication of what I am talking about. A mud has the same logical interface, it doubles as a fantasy social environment where hundreds of people who find games like that enjoyable can meet over the anonymity of the internet and go on insufferable text adventures. For some reason these still exist. The plus side to muds, though is that you can talk to everybody at once, and fight text descriptions of scary monsters. With text, of course. You fight the text monsters with text.

There were other ways of getting around, and users all had profiles, that you could finger, and you could do client to client chatting, or just send a quick message over. In actuality, most of these still exist, but since terminal accounts are the exception, and have all been replaced with user-friendly, spyware laden spamsperm, except finger, there really isnt a modern corollary for the ISP, though most services that provide a username also allow some sort of profile.

Through the heyday of this, some other geeks, with enviable access were developing the very first graphical, desktop browser (that I know of): NCSA Mosaic, I would hear about it from time to time, and would occasionally make a small newspaper blurb, with promises of the coming technology; but, again, with such a product just being in development, there was no demand for PPP or something that could make a non-existant program run on an unsupported computer. When everything was UNIX, compatibility went as far as having VT100 emulation, maybe ANSI if you were a fancy pants.

Before the widespread release of Mosaic, and the flood of the commonplace internet era, the occasional web link would pop up in usenet. It was mostly references to documents explaining what the hell it was, and why people should care. As I mentioned before, the benefits of hypertext was evident, and there were several proprietary formats, used mostly for e-zines, and documentation. The world wide web project seized on the fertile ground of the internet and developed the HTTP standard.

Like most everything else in the computing world, there was a lack of consideration of the consequences. Just as PCs are still haunted by Bill Gates' proclamation that "nobody would ever need more than 640k" of memory, there are still some early issues in the HTML that caused competing browsers to spruce themselves up a bit which makes conflicting standards and headaches all around for developer types.

Since HTML was being developed by academics, and most of the visual side of it was still unavailable, it was made primarily with simple scientific reports in mind. If you dig up the original specification, HTML 1.0 was geared mostly towards formatting text in to flexibly sized tables for research results. If they had only known that it would soon be used primarily for carrying porn, I think they would have developed the imaging technology as well, early on at least. Obviously hindsight is always 20/20 and I dont think anyone could have predicted the explosion and the subsequent effects of the internet. After the release in 1993, it was a fairly rapid succession in to PPP technologies and everyone could experience the joy of webpages with pictures. This was in an era, remember, where pictures could take several minutes to download on a direct connection. So a shared, multiply relayed line downloading several simultaneous pictures was really something. Well, it was a start, at least.

While this was happening, something much more large scale was about to take place. The larger pay-for-service private communities, like compuserve and prodigy were about to get their asses handed to them by a large scale scam called America On Line. AOL was printing up their billions and billions of disks to send to every American citizen 20 times over. AOL set the evolution of the internet back in to the stoneage by bringing hundreds of thousands of computer-illiterate all caps typing morons on-line. Like compuserve and prodigy, they initially offered mail, their own forums and advertising-driven-website-like-moronicy. In order to compete and stay afloat in the coming "internet explosion bubble thing," AOL announced that they were allowing internet access. This was a half truth, as their browser still stayed within AOLs bounds, but instead gave usenet access to their users. This resulted in a massive flood of threads saying "HI MY NAME IS BOB I WANT YOUR LIST OF FREE NAKJED PIX!" across every group on every subject, which was then immediately followed by hundreds of "ME TOO!" It was the first dark age of the internet. Don't believe me?(remember this counts threads not individual messages, and it only shows one group, not where they were cross posted)

Eventually some of the smarter AOL morons realized they werent actually getting unrestricted internet access, and hearing that this "WEB" thing might have "FREE NAKJED PIXS!" they demanded that AOL stop short-changing them in this immediately obvious way, and go back to ripping them off in all the other, more subtle ways.

Not to be undersold, AOL then allowed users to make webpages, some of these monstrosities still lurk in the dark corners of their servers, waiting for their reincarnation 1000 years in the future, after the cockroaches quickly evolve and wonder what the hell we were, and why we were all dead. This is the time when the rest of society began to hear about email, and Jeff Goldblum did those annoying iMac commercials where he explained what a retard he was (now they collect testimonials from everyday retards, I guess Goldblums starpower wasnt working for them).

Between the sudden emergence of these factors, the internet blew the fuck up, but sadly, most people only think of it as the web, or think there is no difference between the web and the internet. Though with the success of the file sharing networks, the world might have opened their eyes just slightly, but just wide enough to get the shit scared out of them by the old world industries of the RIAA and MPAA.

[Note: arrrrrrrrggggghhhhhhhh]


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