On the 12th March 2014, the internet celebrated its 25th birthday. Can you believe it? It feels like only yesterday when your parents would shout up the stairs “Get off the internet, I’m expecting a phone call!”. I am assuming post 90’s kids will not remember such barbarity, so we thought we would have a laugh as we nostalgically stroll down technology’s bumpy, winding and rather pot-holed memory lane!
It’ll never catch on
The internet may have been born in 1989 but it didn’t start taking over households of the Western world until the mid to late 90s. So did your first experience of the almighty internet make you think “Wow, this is incredible! This is the future!”? The answer is most probably no, the reason being that there weren’t many pages to visit or things to do on the internet. Not many people believed it would ever catch on.
According to the BBC, the moment I reached their ‘Superpower: Visualising the Internet’ page there were 2,482,478,873 internet users in the world; 116, 9221,102,289 email messages sent today; 1,248,078,301 Google searches today; and 248,819 blog posts today. These figures only represent the moment I landed on the page, and are constantly increasing every second. Oh how wrong we all were when we believed the internet would never catch on.
Your first time…
Do you remember the first ever computer you had access to? It was a big, box-like screen, and standing next to it like a huge beefed-up security guard was the ACTUAL computer tower, another oversized, dirty cream coloured box with a hole in it that was used to gobble up floppy disks (now we are talking retro). Once the computer had eventually booted itself up, and everything was ready and raring to go, you then had to ‘dial-up’ to the internet. This decision to connect was then shortly followed by that horrendous dial up tone – I am half tempted to convey the sound in writing, but I trust that for all of you that can remember it well, it has been etched in your minds for all eternity.
Once you had managed to connect to the internet those poorly designed webpages were not exactly visually stimulating. Waiting for a picture to load was like watching paint dry. By the time that image had eventually de-pixellated, your parents were screaming at you to get off the internet because it’s costing them money for every minute you were ‘surfing’. At this point it’s important to point out that there wasn’t much to ‘surf’ at all – the term ‘paddling’ feels much more appropriate.
Unlike today, where every child, toddler and newborn baby seems to own their very own tablet, fights would often break out between you and your siblings over whose turn it was to go on the computer next. This would usually result in neither of you being allowed to browse, but instead resulting in your mother playing solitaire for hours on end in a bid to claim her territory.
There was no such thing as social media sites way back when. Instead, multiple chat rooms like Teenchat and Ukchat were in use, but they certainly were not safeguarded. The only thing stopping teenagers from going on Teenchat was their parents, who would have had to be looking over their shoulder the entire time, as there was no such thing as stringent parental controls. These chat rooms would allow you to become whoever your heart desired, shaded by the new-found anonymity of the web. The question that everyone asked was ‘ASL’, and for those of you who never dabbled in the virtual adventure of online chat, ‘ASL’ translates to Age, Sex and Location. It was purely random and uninitiated online chatting – you never needed to worry about which ‘selfie’ profile pic to use and you never had the facility to share links to any other content. It was purely the novelty of chatting to random people from across the country that got people hooked on this new phenomenon.
Google triumphs over Jeeves
Poor old ‘Ask Jeeves’ became obsolete as soon as Google established itself as the leading search engine. Google’s success to this day has been unrivalled and it is, hands down, the number one search giant on a global scale. People do not even use the phrase “search for it” any more – they’re just inclined to ‘Google it’. The verb ‘google’ is now in the official Oxford Dictionary, which summarises it with the following definition:
Search for information about (someone or something) on the Internet using the search engine Google: on Sunday she googled an ex-boyfriend [no object]: I googled for a cheap hotel/flight deal
Every single day the Internet is growing at an enormous rate and becoming more and more intricate and sophisticated. With all kinds of information at our finger tips, it is now easier than ever to teach yourself all kinds of skills and learn about life through the sleep-disrupting glare of a blue screen. The internet is quite possibly one of the twentieth century’s truly remarkable technological advancements, so for that we’d like to say happy birthday to the world wide web and thank it for everything it has taught us! Here’s to another twenty five years of net innovation!