#BEDM14 Day 7 – What Part Of The Internet First Blew Your Mind?
Argh. I suggested this blog title with a particular thing in mind to write about, and now I can’t remember it. Let me ramble and see if it comes back to me…
I started using the internet properly in the Autumn of 1998. I had just started university and my parents had bought me the very first iMac, which I was desperately in love with (still am) and had just become available in the UK. In fact I got one of the first models shipped here; a ‘RevB’ variant with improved hardware that I hadn’t even heard mention of until I opened the box and found it to be different to the specs I had read about in magazines. Back in those heady days, you accessed the internet through a 56k telephone modem, was still paid for by the minute (much to my mother’s distress) and engaged the line so no other inbound or outbound calls could take place. We have come a long way in sixteen years.
I got excited about “getting the internet” because I knew I’d be able to download stuff and read websites. A 56k modem in real-world use, once you take all variables into account, can sustain downloads of about four kilobytes per second. (On a good day, if you have 4G, good coverage, and low contention, your mobile phone can sustain speeds three orders of magnitude faster than that.) Downloading a shitty-quality MP3 took TWENTY MINUTES. And if your download got interrupted you had to start again. But it was amazing! (I still have a song I downloaded from the Napster days: Boys, by B.O.N. See if you can find it, it’s good.) These days of course I’m a bit older and more principled and I do believe in paying for the things I download. Later on, in the early days of broadband, downloading video became practical, then streaming video, and now iTunes and Netflix can squirt 1080p video to me in faster-than-real-time, which would have made my 18-year old brain basically explode.
But I guess what properly blew my mind about the internet, and still does when I sit back and think about it, is the ability to communicate that it affords us. This is the thing about the internet that changed my life. Up until then my friends were people who lived near me, who I went to school and college with. But now, instead of just knowing people I went to school with I was chatting to people from all over the country and even the world on websites like OutInTheUK. Not long after that I was going down to Brighton to visit people I had never met before, and meeting boys off of the internet and doing shenanigans with them.
I’ve never been the same since.