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Old 12-08-2017, 09:02 PM
CastletonSnob CastletonSnob is offline
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Early days of the internet.

I'm interested in hearing about what the early days of the internet were like. I know I could just Google it, but I'd rather learn from people who actually lived through that time.
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Old 12-08-2017, 09:09 PM
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It took all night to download ascii porn over 300 baud modem.
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Old 12-08-2017, 09:16 PM
cochrane cochrane is online now
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You kids and your fancy modems. We had to make do with two Etch-A-Sketches connected with a string.
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Old 12-08-2017, 09:22 PM
jtur88 jtur88 is offline
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In 1997, I was interested in going to some minor league baseball games. I started with the internet. Many teams and some leagues did not even have their own website, much less a schedule of their games. So I did some phoning around, discovered that the Capital City Bombers played in Columbia SC (not Raleigh or Richmond or Annapolis or Dover), and I went to work. I had an account at one of those free webpage sites, and I compiled the first list ever on the www of all the teams and leagues in minor league baseball, and what city they played in, including the independent leagues.

In those days, an early version of Windows existed (95, I think), but I was still on text-only dialup with a freenet-based browser.

Last edited by jtur88; 12-08-2017 at 09:24 PM.
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Old 12-08-2017, 09:23 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is online now
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The early net was primarily bulletin boards that offered ftp downloads. You dialed into each bulletin board separately.

They had discussion threads, and lists of files you could download.

Later the world wide web began linking things together. Some of the bulletin boards migrated. Most files were still on ftp sites. You searched for them with Archie, Veronica, and Gopher. Nearly everybody used ftp in those days.

http://www.hartnell.cc.ca.us/faculty...net/gopher.htm

I remember being very excited when html web pages began appearing. Nando News was free and had a good news feed.

It wasn't long and CNN's web site launched.

Last edited by aceplace57; 12-08-2017 at 09:27 PM.
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Old 12-08-2017, 09:28 PM
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beowulff beowulff is offline
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Yeah man, I tell ya what, man. That dang ol’ Internet, man. You just go on there and point and click. Talk about W-W-dot-W-com. An’ lotsa nekkid chicks on there, man. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. It’s real easy, man.
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Old 12-08-2017, 09:30 PM
FlikTheBlue FlikTheBlue is offline
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i remember the dial up access and the phone line sounds computers made while trying to get on line. The more noise your computer would make the worse the connection would be.
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Old 12-08-2017, 09:31 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is online now
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Watch War Games with Matthew Broderick.

You'll see what it was like using an acoustic modem and dialing into bulletin boards. My first modem was 300 baud. I later upgraded to 1200.

Dot matrix printers are used in the movie.

The movie is a pretty good time capsule. Except for taking over a missile control system. That didn't happen.

Last edited by aceplace57; 12-08-2017 at 09:34 PM.
  #9  
Old 12-08-2017, 09:44 PM
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Bulletin boards weren't really "the" internet, were they? That was just a bunch of people all connecting to one person's personal computer, right?

At that time, the actual internet was mostly used by universities and government agencies, wasn't it?
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Old 12-08-2017, 10:04 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is online now
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CompuServe was very popular.

The colleges and Universities were linked in a network. I don't recall what it was called. Only faculty with research projects had access in the early days.

A lot of bulletin boards did migrate to the web. You could search for files and then login to the bulletin board or ftp site that hosted them.

I remember when Yahoo was most people's home page. It was considered a web portal with links to everything.

Geocities offered free web site hosting. There were hundreds of web sites there.

Last edited by aceplace57; 12-08-2017 at 10:08 PM.
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Old 12-08-2017, 10:20 PM
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Remember all the different search engines? There was what, Altavista, Webcrawler, Magellan, Yahoo, etc.

And who else used Netscape?
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Old 12-08-2017, 10:53 PM
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The really early Internet (1970s, 1980s) was mostly developed by researchers. Of course there were different networks and services like Minitel, Bitnet, Compuserve, private bulletin boards, Telex, all sorts of commercial networks, but the point is that connectivity and compatibility varied.

Maybe what you want to know is nothing technical, but rather the "user experience"? Note that your corner grocery store or the kid down the street was not necessarily online, for the same reason they did not own a mobile phone even though they could have -- why would they? So the user base was (a bit) more exclusive and professional, perhaps? It was not 99% spam and scams and malware and foreign cybercriminals. Also remember the first web browsers and also the "Eternal September" were not until the early 1990s.
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Old 12-08-2017, 11:04 PM
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Happy Lendervedder Happy Lendervedder is offline
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Autumn 1993: A young Happy was a freshman at the University of Michigan. I remember going to the computer lab and signing up for an email address with my buddy. We got to choose our usernames that would be our email/login for our entire college careers. I opted for a combo of my first and last names, my buddy opted for an abbreviated version of his favorite band (ledzep). For the first three months of the school year that year, my friends and I were mesmerized by this "email" thingamajigee. Mostly we just sent emails to each other insulting each others' mothers. Regardless, it was so mind-blowing that we could communicate via computer, send each other messages without a phone.

My first experience with the Internet outside of school came in 1996, when the girl I was dating had AOL at home (her parents' house), and getting online was such a big deal-- signing in and dialing up, complete with the loud screeches and honk-honks. If her mom or dad picked up the phone, we'd get kicked off. You also had to be aware of the amount of time you spent online as you were charged by the minute. Trying to look at a picture would take 3-10 minutes for it to show up. I remember one time she found some dirty pictures, and wanted to show me; I remember watching this picture appear on the screen one stupid line at a time over the course of, like, five minutes, and thinking "If you just took your shirt off, I could see tits so much quicker right now."

In 1999, I took an English class that required us to write an essay on "Great Expectations," except we had to coordinate what our topic would be with everyone else in the class because we would be "hyperlinking" to each others' essays on the intranet (maybe it was the Internet, I don't remember). This was my first experience with that sort of thing: being able to click on words on a page ("Pip" or "Magwitch" or "Estella") and be directed to another page within that "web." (I distinctly remember thinking "Hyperlinking? This is so weird. What's the point?")

Also, there was Napster, which was totally life-changing. Free access to every song you could imagine, and then some. Even access to remixes and mash-ups that you didn't even know existed. I still have the digital copy of the first CD I downloaded and burned off of Napster-- 12 songs, mostly mash-ups and alternate takes of pop songs, including Eminem, Britney Spears, Wyclef Jean and Michael Jackson. I still remember the codes: red dot (bad file, don't download), yellow dot (possibly bad), green dot (go ahead and download). And it would take upwards of 30 or 45 minutes to download a song if your connection was slow, maybe 5-10 minutes if it was good.

I don't know if that's what you meant by "early days of the Internet," but those were the early days to me.

Last edited by Happy Lendervedder; 12-08-2017 at 11:08 PM.
  #14  
Old 12-08-2017, 11:46 PM
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Originally Posted by CastletonSnob View Post
I'm interested in hearing about what the early days of the internet were like. I know I could just Google it, but I'd rather learn from people who actually lived through that time.
Well, for one thing there was no Google. The early search engines, which had weird names like Alta Vista and Magellan and Lycos, were so small and limited you could easily game the system so that your website came up early on the results under generic search terms. Every business owner wanted to come up in the top ten results, which is fine if you only have 2000 web sites but gets to be impossible after the first million, but was easier in Yahoo, which was a literal category list that you could edit and add to yourself (sort of like Wikipedia).

Every page was part of a Web Ring, had a hit counter, and rotating gifs. The blink and marquee tags were the bane of everyone's lives, and Frames was an overused and poorly implemented design choice.

The browser wars were between Netscape and Internet Explorer, neither of which implemented CSS correctly, and even displayed colours differently.

There used to be unspoken rules of conduct, called netiquette, which applied to behaviour as well as web design, all of which is largely ignored these days, sadly.

And nobody really understood where it was heading. Most speculation of the web's future was way off from what it has so far turned out to be.

(If you want to know what it looked like, though, the SDMB basically still looks the same as it always has since those early years - it really ought to spruce itself up a bit and join the 2010s)
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Old 12-08-2017, 11:50 PM
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Those were the days when spam email for porn sites still had very explicit images embedded and spam filters weren't really that much of a thing.

There were also computer viruses that, if you left your computer on, would dial out on your modem to 900 numbers and foreign exchanges that would charge $5 a minute to your phone bill in the early hours of the morning.
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Old 12-09-2017, 12:02 AM
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Oh, I remember some really ugly, eye-burning sites. You rarely see a whole page of lime green text on a black background anymore. But the worst were the ones with background music, that the author felt you just had to hear so they coded the page to turn your computer's volume up as high as possible.

There used to also be these other things called IRC (internet relay chat) and Usenet (a big open forum of several tens of thousands of topic sections), but those are pretty back-alley these days. I think I heard that AT&T blocks any access to Usenet these days.
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Old 12-09-2017, 12:12 AM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Yeah man, I tell ya what, man. That dang ol’ Internet, man. You just go on there and point and click. Talk about W-W-dot-W-com. An’ lotsa nekkid chicks on there, man. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. It’s real easy, man.
[Hank Hill]Boomhauer, I told you for the last time. That thing is just toy. Get out here and drink some beer beside the road like a real man and cut your grass[/Hank Hill]

First of all, people are confusing the internet with the WWW. The latter is still only a small part of the former that has been around since the late 1960's but with restricted access. I am not even that old so I can't comment on the early internet itself.

I can tell you all about the early 1990's on though. The web itself was both instantly fascinating and complete shit by today's standards. There were no good search engines when I got a copy of Netscape 0.8 beta in 1994. You just had to find your way by jumping from link to link and hoping you guessed right.

They sold printed directories of websites in the college bookstore and it was only about as thick as a small town phone book. However, there was porn from the beginning. Some people claim that porn built the web and they aren't wrong. That was the first web industry to turn a profit. However, we certainly aren't talking about Pornhub type videos here. It was generally rather poor scans of single pages from old porn magazines and some tiny, short video clips. Colleges and universities, some early adopter businesses and a whole lot of random dweebs provided the rest.

Usenet isn't the web but it was still very active at that time. It took knowledge and some esoteric tools to know how to use it but many people figured it out. It had everything from discussion groups like the cave man ancestor to this one to fetish porn and even applications but you couldn't just download them with a click. You had to decode many part messages and then use tools to put them back together so that they would work. If you were missing even one then you were SOL.

I noticed the potential for the web just like I did for Bitcoin right away. I thought about buying up lots of desirable domain names in the very early stages but I didn't because I was just a poor student at the time and didn't want to lose any money

I would say that 1997 is when the web started to really take off. Major commercial sites started appearing even though they were very primitive compared to today. 1997 - 1999 were insane. I worked in tech at the time (and still do). It was annoying to post a resume with certain keywords in it. You could post almost any type of tech resume in the Boston area and the phone would start ringing literally within 5 minutes and would not stop for days. Very few of those companies exist today. Meanwhile, Amazon and Google were just getting ramped up. Amazon was a well-known company at the time even though it was just an online bookstore but Google wasn't back then. It didn't take hold until the very early 2000's and now it is one of the biggest companies in the world.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 12-09-2017 at 12:16 AM.
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Old 12-09-2017, 12:47 AM
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Aren't we still in the early days of the Internet?
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Old 12-09-2017, 12:54 AM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Aren't we still in the early days of the Internet?
No, it is finished. What you see now is all there ever will be. All of the good ideas are taken and spent.
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Old 12-09-2017, 01:20 AM
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Bulletin boards weren't really "the" internet, were they? That was just a bunch of people all connecting to one person's personal computer, right?
No, they weren't. The weirdest thing about the early age of networking was that there were so dang many completely independent networks out there, which might have communicated each other long enough to share email and maybe mailing list messages. I'll give examples a bit lower down.

Quote:
At that time, the actual internet was mostly used by universities and government agencies, wasn't it?
And some specific corporations. The first .com domain name was symbolics.com, where Symbolics was a corporation which made Lisp Machines, or very expensive high-end computers meant to be used for AI programming and other research work by people writing code in the Lisp programming language. Another early Internet company was BBN, or Bolt, Beranek, and Newman, which built the first routers (IMPs, or Interface Message Processors) and the first OS which implemented Arpanet servers, TENEX, for specially-modified PDP-10 mainframes built by yet another early Internet company, DEC, or the Digital Equipment Corporation.

That kind of stuff takes you back to the late 1960s and through to the early 1980s, during which time there were many other networks for a lot of other kinds of system, with different networks for different kinds of computer. For example BBSes were linked together by a few networks, one of them being Fidonet, which gave BBSers, who ran individual systems on home computers with modems going back to the later 1970s, the ability to share email and request files from distant systems and carry on discussions in fora much like the SDMB, which they called echoes. It was fundamentally an intermittent network, with systems periodically dialing each other in a phone-tree fashion (to reduce long-distance charges, which were murderous at the time), picking up new email and echo messages and leaving the email and messages they had, and things gradually propagated at telephone speed. This is called a store-and-forward network.

A system similar to Fidonet, which predated it by a few years, was UUCP, or Unix-to-Unix Copy Protocol. It was another dial-up store-and-forward network, but with a smaller and less well-organized graph of which systems were usually connected to each other. The UUCP equivalent to echoes was Usenet, which survived long enough to be ported to the Internet and, indeed, survives to this very day.

The email addresses of Fidonet and UUCP reflected their respective connectivity styles: Fido addresses looked like 1:170/918, which means "Zone 1" (North America), "Network 170" (some local calling area), "Node 918" (a specific computer); that would be sent up the chain to the various "heads" or "coordinators" of the network, and then back down to the recipient.* UUCP addresses, on the other hand, spelled out which path the email should take, hop by hop, in what's known as a bang path (because everyone knows the ! is pronounced 'bang!'), which looks like this: foovax!backaix!hockeypux!kremvax!hunter which explicitly spells out that, from the system I'm on now, send this message to foovax, then to backaix (must be an IBM site...), then to hockeypux (Hewlett-Packard?), then to kremvax (Privyet!), and then put it in hunter's mailbox on kremvax. People would notate these addresses with options, such as "{sunshine, mipsen, perdue}!utzoo!spencer", which means that the machine utzoo can usually be reached from sunshine, mipsen, or perdue, and as for reaching those systems, it's up to you. People drew ASCII-art maps of the UUCP network at various points in its history, and there was, in fact, a UUCP Mapping Project which lasted until mid-2000.

A number of old network maps.

WIRED on the end of the UUCP Mapping Project, from 2000, when WIRED was relevant.

*(Yes, there was a big debate about whether people should create or propagate encrypted email, and a court case based on a shiny-new 1980s-era electronic privacy law regarding the privacy of email on BBSes. Thompson v Predaina, involving known kook Linda Thompson... and if you go searching for information about that case now, you see a ton of hand-wringing about it when it's just beginning and then it drops off the map entirely. The case never went to court. Wasted some quality time with Google figuring that out.)

So the cheap systems had Fidonet, the middling-expensive computers running Unix had UUCP, the IBM mainframes had BITNET (or, Sir Not Appearing In This Post Because It's Already A Fricken Essay), and the rarified few had Arpanet, which would evolve into the Internet given time and politics. Did they share email? Of course they did. How did they share email, given that they each had vastly different email addressing philosophies? This is software: They used bizarre hacks held together by configuration files and caffeinated sysadmins. This resulted in some hideous names.

"The Hideous Name" is the name of the paper Rob Pike and Peter Weinberger wrote in 1988 about how terrible some email address they were seeing around them were. The terrible part was how weird they had to get to jump networks: If you're sending from a UUCP network, you need a bang path so UUCP software knows what to do, but if you then hop to Arpanet, you need an @ in there somewhere so Arpa's email severs can handle it, and BITNET likes %, and at every step, there are people being clever with address translation software which attempts to automatically munge addresses so they'll Just Work and the result was just bizarre. Like this:

Code:
research!ucbvax!@cmu-cs-pt.arpa:@CMU-ITC-LINUS:dave%CMU-ITC-LINUS@CMU-CS-PT
That's UUCP (research!ucbvax) going to Arpanet (@cmu-cs-pt.arpa) going to the blistering bowels of insanity. It's an example of what the Internet, as we have it today, brought us: Most people no longer have to know or care how many different little networks their data flows through to get from one end of the Internet to the other. Everything's standardized around a single standard. The Internet ate the world.
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Old 12-09-2017, 01:48 AM
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Waaaay back when Ebay was young, you could leave feedback for anyone at random. One particular individual took this to genius levels. I've kept this bookmarked for nearly 18 years.

You have to read them directly, as me quoting them will not do them justice.

https://feedback.ebay.com/ws/eBayISA...erid=andy46477
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Old 12-09-2017, 02:02 AM
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So much confusion.

Arpanet started in 1969 or so. In 1974 we used it at Illinois to log into Stanford to use their paranoid person simulator, Parry. Usenet started in 1979, before the internet, using UUCP and mail servers. You used it on Unix systems with programs like rn, which let you subscribe to newsgroups. I know that in 1988 or 1989 there was one low volume alt.sex group, so you can see how primitive it was.
Email was sent specifying paths to the computer with the person you wanted to send mail to. There were a couple of backbone machines (decvax at DEC, ucbvax at Berkeley and ihnp4 at Bell Labs Naperville) which had the IP addresses of just about any machine you wanted to talk to. Business cards would read {ihnp4,decvax,ucbvax}!erc3ba!sd

Domain addressing, with Domain Name Servers started in 1984. (Cite) The internet quickly went downhill from there because the spammers could use it.
The first spam ever was from a lawyer (natch) advertising immigration services. I think I got a copy.

Before Netscape there was Mosaic. You used a local ISP in the early '90s to get on to the internet. We went to the card catalogs of a number of university libraries. 1200 baud modems were quite slow indeed.

AOL, Compuserve and the like were not the internet originally, since you used the software on the disks they flooded the world with to log into their private servers, and initially could send email to other users only.

Many of the fun things on the Internet did not start on the Internet. PLATO, which I used in 1974 - 1977, had message boards, text messaging, MUDs, multiplayer interactive games, email, and a newspaper. (I wrote a Star Trek column.) It ran on a couple of Cyber 7600s, and had terminals around the world.

When BBN was working in IMPs - computers that were nodes - they used Lockheed SUE minicomputers. (Everyone made minis in those days.) It was microprogrammable, and we had one in our lab for research. I wrote a simulator for it, and this got sent off to BBN. I don't know if they ever used it, but if they did I can claim at least a small part in creating the internet.
  #23  
Old 12-09-2017, 02:31 AM
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You kids and your fancy modems. We had to make do with two Etch-A-Sketches connected with a string.
You may joke, but I connected an Etch-A-Sketch to two stepper motors and a microcontroller. There might be a way to put it on the 'net, somehow.

If someone hasn't done so already.
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Old 12-09-2017, 03:01 AM
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In 1985 Victoria Australia we had a net connection but it wasn't 'The' internet. By connecting our rotary telephone receiver to a receptacle holder we could 'dial' in to a government network and research statistics on-line. Dad was in the judiciary. But you couldn't do that and use the phone at the same time, it was one or the other. The real internet was yet to come but when it did come it was still a phone or net proposition in the early days.
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Old 12-09-2017, 09:03 AM
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Started using email on ARPANET in 1977. Remember being listed in the actual book of people on it that had names, addresses, email addresses.

Was using Model 33 TTYs and dialup to access a 360 in the late 60s.

ARPANET was highly controlled in terms of who/what could use it. So to communicate with many fellow CS folk, we had to use UUCP. The maps, the routes, the time delays, etc. were horrible by today's standards but a miracle back then.

NSFNET came along in 1985 and a lot more people got Internet-like access. Networks started to link together. But you still had to route email between networks.

FTP sites were important. You put files on an FTP server for others to download. For PC software, Simtel was a major resource. Archie was the first "Internet search" program that scrubbed FTP sites so you could find things easier.

IMDb started out as a list of USENET postings and later search software to find what you needed. It later became an mail-query service. You sent an email with a formatted query to it's server and you got an email reply with the result.

There were several such email-oriented DB servers around.
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Old 12-09-2017, 09:23 AM
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I wasn't around for the ARPANET / 300 baud / !bangpaths stuff. My first exposure to the internet was in 1991. "Internet" meant:

• being able to send emails to people other than those at your own school; it was one of two major networks at the time — the other being BITNET. Practically everyone supplying their contact information would provide both —

Allan Hunter
<ahunter@ccvm.sunysb.edu> {internet}
<ahunter@sbccvm> {bitnet}

For comparison purposes, think "Facebook" and "Myspace"

-----

• Communities! I was a subscriber to the Info-Mac Digest. I'd go upstaird to the computer lab, sit at one of the terminals and log into the mainframe and retrieve my email, and there would be an issue of the Info-Mac Digest to read. Mac users would ask each other questions and answer those they knew the answer to, comment on new products, and so on... and

• FTP! ... in addition to the informational and chatty posts, there was always a slew of freeware and shareware listings, all of which had been uploaded to the Info-Mac Archives and could be downloaded. You used an FTP client, such as Fetch. It meant my computer rapidly became customized, populated with applications and interface modifiers and capability-extenders of various sorts.

• The early web. I'd been using the internet for quite a while before I first encountered web browsers and web pages. There was one Mac in the computer lab amongst all the terminals, and it had Mosaic on it. To go anywhere you needed to know a somewhere to go to to start with. (There weren't really any well-known search engines yet). Libraries were good because they would have an index page with links to interesting and new things. The phrase "surf the internet" arose because the way web browsers were used was that you landed somewhere to start with and you followed links to new pages, then on those pages you'd follow links to yet more pages. It was an adventure — you didn't choose a destination and go directly to it, because for the most part you didn't know what was out there or have a way to search for what you wanted — you probably knew a dozen or so starting pages that you'd memorized and you went exploring.

There were no videos or images. Web pages contained TEXT. Links were always blue until you had clicked them and been to that address, then they changed to purple.

• Emailing file attachments. You couldn't just attach a binary file, like a photo or a Word document, by dragging it into your email window or clicking a paper clip icon. That all came later. First of all, email did very undependable things to binary data, so you had to encode it as a text file. Mac users used a format called BinHex. PC users and Unix users utilized something called UUEncode. The binary file would be converted into text strings that were compliant with ASCII (which was sort of the predecessor to UniCode). Then you would insert that into the body of your email message. The person at the other end would save the email message body as a text file and run their decoder on it to convert it back to binary.
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Old 12-09-2017, 09:36 AM
Qadgop the Mercotan Qadgop the Mercotan is offline
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Many of the fun things on the Internet did not start on the Internet. PLATO, which I used in 1974 - 1977, had message boards, text messaging, MUDs, multiplayer interactive games, email, and a newspaper. (I wrote a Star Trek column.)
I remember my adventures with PLATO fondly, starting in 1979. Debating about Tolkien, discussing medicine with people from around the globe, making snide comments about other people's ignorance.

In other words, what I do online hasn't changed much in 38 years.
  #28  
Old 12-09-2017, 10:01 AM
naita naita is offline
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Note that "the early days of the internet" is not a very precise question. As you see from the answers so far it can be interpreted as anything from the 1970s to the 1990s, which were vastly different decades as far as internet development went.

My first real meeting with the net was starting uni in 1994. That was one of the last years the Norwegian University of Science and Technology didn't include _anything_ about the net in the introductory computer courses. I had elementary spreadsheet, wordprocessor and programming stuff, but nothing about networked computers.

The student organisations offered an internet course though, covering, as far as I recollect: usenet, worldwide web, ftp, gopher and archie.

Two years later the uni introduction course included html and java.

Last edited by naita; 12-09-2017 at 10:01 AM.
  #29  
Old 12-09-2017, 10:45 AM
nate nate is offline
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This is a pretty funny (to me, anyway) story that I like to tell:

When I was in 7th grade I ran a BBS that was pretty popular. This was in 1993 or so and I decided I wanted to offer free internet e-mail to my users. E-mail wasn't really available to the public at this time and only those at universities seemed to use it. So I signed up with a company called UUNET to handle the transactions and every night my computer would dial their long-distance number and upload any sent messages and download any received messages for the users.

This service lasted until my parents got the phone bill after the first month. At the time, I was really naive about people's desire for porn. Did you know there were services back then that would send pornography through e-mail in plaintext code (UUENCODE/DECODE)? So a picture would be split up into tens of e-mails, the user would copy and paste the contents into a text file and run it through the decoder that would produce a .gif. Anyway, during this month of e-mail service, my computer spent probably half the day connected to UUNET sending/receiving e-mail and it being a long-distance call, the bill after the month was around $800 or so. My parents quickly shut that shit down.
  #30  
Old 12-09-2017, 11:07 AM
Dangerosa Dangerosa is offline
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I used to hang on green screen BBSs that you'd dial into with a modem. They were a little like this, but much more primative.

There wasn't an easy way to search the internet. There were some data services (Lexis/Nexus) that you could access from a University library, but they were pretty difficult to use.

We used to type memos and send paper around the office in inter office envelopes, and then file in in huge filing cabinets. When we first got email, it was strictly inter company - you couldn't send it to anyone outside the company - computers really didn't talk to each other that way yet in corporate America. Fairly quickly, Corporate America got their ip addresses assigned and their domains set up and then you could start communicating with the world.

Personal computers didn't have an IP stack on them by default, so if you wanted to connect to the internet for real, instead of through a functional terminal, you needed to load one up. To do so, you had to be comfortable in what one of my young techs called "the dark place" - DOS. (unless you were into Unix in which case none of this applies because you were probably on usenet long ago.)

Popular home terminals like Prodigy and AOL came along to aggregate services - like BBSs, simple research (encyclopedia level), and travel arrangements, but not much shopping.

Then the web hit. IP stacks were built in. Most people still used dial up at home, but they didn't need the intermediary, they could just start at the web through Netscape Navigator. Amazon hit, and shopping opened up. And that is about the time the modern internet you know and love started.
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  #31  
Old 12-09-2017, 11:44 AM
chappachula chappachula is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagnasty View Post
They sold printed directories of websites in the college bookstore and it was only about as thick as a small town phone book.
When Yahoo began in 1995, the internet was small enough that a phone book could contain it all.
Yahoo was originally run by human librarians who created a hand-made list of interesting web sites, organized by category.
You could pick a category, such as "recipes", then a sub category such as "soups" then a subcategory such as "chicken"--and you would find a recipe for chicken soup!!! And even better, sometimes there would be 3 or 4 different recipes in the same category!!! It was wonderful, and almost unbelievable!!!!!!!!!

Last edited by chappachula; 12-09-2017 at 11:46 AM.
  #32  
Old 12-09-2017, 11:50 AM
jasg jasg is offline
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We connected to the internet at work sometime in 1992. A year later, after using Gopher and FTP, I remember downloading the first web browser from the U of Illinois. Mosaic reminded me of a Mac program called Guide from Owl Ltd. that I had used in the mid-80s.

Before that, I went through a series of dialup systems using modems starting with a 300 baud acoustic one in a walnut box - made for an office desk. My roommates and I had dialup access starting in the late 70s using a Teletype KSR-33. We really wanted a CRT but they were expensive - one of the companies we dialed into had a project to build a cheap CRT terminal but the engineer, a student named Steve Wozniak, found a more interesting project to work on...
  #33  
Old 12-09-2017, 02:34 PM
Darren Garrison Darren Garrison is offline
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Let's see--bought my first WinTel box in college in 1992. A 486 with 4 MB of RAM and a 170 MB HD. At the time my school's computer lab was a room full of floppy only 8088 plus three 286es with 1 MB of RAM and 40 MB HDs. None of the student accessible computers belonging to the school had any type of local or remote networking, and I doubt many of the instructors that did have a computer in their office had a modem (some instructors still used various Apple II models.) Modems weren't standard equipment on computers at the time, and when I added one (at a blazing 0.014 megabit per second) I would guess it made me one of less than a dozen people--student or teacher--that had a computer and modem on campus.

I used the modem on my computer to connect with local-call bulletin boards, using those for downloading shareware stored on the BBS servers, the local chat rooms, and Fidonet. That was the pattern for the first couple-three years. Then Microsoft started something called the Windows 95 Preview Program, where you could sign up to receive a beta version of Win95 (but not be in the "real" beta tester program, constantly getting new builds), which also included free unlimited access to the also beta Microsoft Network. It was basically a (not excessively) more fancy version of a BBS that didn't even access content outside their own servers at first, but eventually added Usenet newsgroups. (I don't even remember if they had web access.)

After Win95 went live, the MSN started charging, and obscenely, so I moved to my first ISP. This was also structured like a BBS, but also had an "internet portal." To use this, you had to download and configure 1 or 2 special drivers (that weren't built into Windows) before you could make use of TCP/IP, then dial up the ISP and choose the "internet portal" area of their service. From there, I would use early browers (including Netscape Navigator) along with FTP, Usenet newsreaders, and IRC. It wasn't until 2003 that I got away from dial-up and got a cable modem. (The speeds available at the time were 256 kbs, 768 kbs, and 1.5 mbs. I started off with 768 kbs but quickly upgraded to 1.5 mbs. Ever since then, the provider has been periodically bumping up their bandwidth options, and now has a starting speed of 60 mbs and a premium speed of 100 mbs.)

Last edited by Darren Garrison; 12-09-2017 at 02:35 PM.
  #34  
Old 12-09-2017, 02:34 PM
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ftg ftg is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AHunter3 View Post
Links were always blue until you had clicked them and been to that address, then they changed to purple.
Which still happens on well behaved sites for me today. It's a browser setting that some sites, unfortunately, do not obey.

Oh, UUENCODE. Fun and nightmares rolled into one.

I had used Lynx (text based browser) before I used Mosaic. Once I saw Mosiac, it all changed. I felt like I was in a Gibson novel.

Last edited by ftg; 12-09-2017 at 02:35 PM.
  #35  
Old 12-09-2017, 03:23 PM
filmstar-en filmstar-en is offline
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I watched the development of the Internet from an interesting perspective. My job at the time was designing networks for large corporations. They all had networks that linked their offices and sites together so their employees could access computer systems. They didn't use the telephone network and a dialup modems between big offices, they had dedicated links called private leased circuits. In the 1980s these were typically 64kbps to 2Mbs. If you paid a big Telco enough money you could get a link between two sites on either side of the world. The links were connected to routers and then to local area networks. These private networks were known as Intranets.

They used a IP - Internet Protocol, a bit, but big corporations preferred to use whatever their computer suppliers were selling to get computers to talk to each other. The networks were awash with traffic like Appletalk, Decnet, Novell IPX, IBM SNA and many other protocols. IP tended to be used by the academics in research facilities - the beards and sandals - but it was also used by me to connect to the switches and routers.

On a personal basis I used dialup modems to access bulletin boards. They ran discussion boards like this, in glorious 80 x 25 character terminal mode - no graphic user interfaces then. However, that is how computing was back then, everything was in a green text screen. Windows only really got going around 1990.

The bulletin board system I used in the UK was called CIX, its user base were all geeky guys, I believe it may even be still alive to this day. The system ran on a Unix computer with a big rack of modems connected and subscribers would dial in and discuss technology and ways of making the system better. The BBS was connected to other BBS in the Fido dialup network and the computers would all exchange postings and email. AOL, Compuserve, Prodigy and others did the same on a much larger scale. As this became more popular Microsoft joined the party with MSN. This was all using a text based interface. The BBS by this time were a bit more refined, you could upload and download files and images. The bigger companies expanded their user base by sending out huge numbers of CDs on the front of magazines or making them available in stores. You installed the software and paid monthly for a subscription.

One day, there was an announcement on the BBS about an Internet gateway becoming available. What was this? Apparently, it helped connect to university networks, but you could do a lot more if you configured you PC to speak IP and become another machine on this network. There was some discussion about starting up a rival system to bulletin boards just selling Internet access - an Internet Service provider. The guys who were used to handling computers with lots of modems switched to selling internet subscriptions.

I showed my colleagues this in around 1992 and they were not so impressed. You could search using a program called Gopher and there were a discussion boards and you could download files. However, in the corporate world, the main development was integrating the many and varied forms of email. That changed when Tim Berners Lee came along with HTML and a HTTP web servers and a Web browser. That is when the whole idea started to get traction. The graphical interface, with colours and pictures, appealed to marketing people, soon after there were the first Internet cafes. The big BBS companies switched to become ISPs and just about every telecom company jumped on the bandwagon.

I don't think anyone really understood what they did at the time, but it was really to create a new public data network. Each computer on the network could send packets to any other computer, this was quite a different approach than everyone going through a central BBS computer. Moreover, the hyperlinking feature of HTML meant that you could hop from one server to another automatically - surfing. That made it usable.

Pretty soon there was a race to produce the best browser and webserver. Meanwhile the corporates wanted internet links to their intranets and they started installing web servers. ISPs proliferated and soon became a far bigger market for communications equipment than the corporates.

This flaky, unloved, protocol IP became very important and my job changed to making it work at scale. It was successively retrofitted with various features that improved the way it worked. However, its key feature was that it was free. No-one owned it and could demand royalties, it was Open Source. Without that, there would have been no Internet.

The growth of the Internet is quite easy to chart in terms of how many networks it supports each year. Its design limit is now seriously stretched.

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  #36  
Old 12-09-2017, 04:34 PM
rbroome rbroome is offline
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I had been using BBS's at home for several years but my defining moment learning about the Internet was in 1991. I was at work (I worked at a large Government research site-NASA and Navy) and needed to locate the TIFF standard. We all had desktop computers on a LAN that in turn was connected to the internet-though not many people were used to that yet. I knew I could call up the library and get the document via inter-library loan-that was what my boss expected me to do. But I got an idea and called a friend who was one of the onsite system administrators. I asked him if he could help. He said he didn't have a copy himself but he would try to help. A few minutes later he called back and asked me the name of the closest printer to my desk. Out came the TIFF standard. I was floored. I asked him how he had done that? I then learned about Gopher and Archie. At the next meeting of the staff I proudly informed everyone that a new world had arrived and everyone needed to jump on the bandwagon. They were kind and didn't shut me down. In my defense-even in our medium to high tech world except for the computer folks many people didn't have any personal experience with finding information on the internet at that time. A couple of years later I was involved in SGML publishing and heard about HTML and the web from the wrong end of the telescope....
  #37  
Old 12-09-2017, 05:58 PM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ftg View Post

FTP sites were important. You put files on an FTP server for others to download. For PC software, Simtel was a major resource. Archie was the first "Internet search" program that scrubbed FTP sites so you could find things easier.
ftp is still useful, even though most people don't get it. My last project included automatically sftping to Taiwan to download scads of manufacturing data, and automatically writing sftp scripts (using expect) to get only new data.
There are some times when browser based file transfers don't cut it.
  #38  
Old 12-09-2017, 06:38 PM
Grumbacher Red Grumbacher Red is offline
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I can't believe this is being talked about like it is such ancient history. Good Lord.

Well, lemme grab my Geritol and put down my walker...I don't know if I can remember waaaaaay back to the mid-90s...

My first foray into the Internet was early Ebay around 1997-98. I used to be a member of an art-related message board that had no separate forums or topics, it was all one long running thread, just plain black and white, no images.

Half the internet was porn, probably just like today, with another good portion being pictures of cats.

Oh, and my computer took up a helluva lot more space, as in my entire dining room table that seats 6 comfortably.

And as far as The Straight Dope, I was still reading the books back then.
  #39  
Old 12-09-2017, 06:54 PM
jtur88 jtur88 is offline
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In the 90s, everything was dialup. Which was fine if your ISP was in your city, but non-urban customers had to pay long distance toll charges to get on, even to their freenet. Around 1995, Florida enacted a law requiring phone companies to offer a flat rate for calls to ISP providers. So, to my freenet in Tallahassee, I could dial up and stay on line unlimited for a dialup charge of 25c. Freenets usually had a 60 minute limit per connection, but for a quarter, I could dial up Tallahassee once a day and stay on line for an hour.
  #40  
Old 12-09-2017, 07:50 PM
Grumbacher Red Grumbacher Red is offline
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Originally Posted by jtur88 View Post
In the 90s, everything was dialup. Which was fine if your ISP was in your city, but non-urban customers had to pay long distance toll charges to get on, even to their freenet. Around 1995, Florida enacted a law requiring phone companies to offer a flat rate for calls to ISP providers. So, to my freenet in Tallahassee, I could dial up and stay on line unlimited for a dialup charge of 25c. Freenets usually had a 60 minute limit per connection, but for a quarter, I could dial up Tallahassee once a day and stay on line for an hour.
Yes, you are right about this. We didn't have any notion then that we would be on the Internet for hours and hours a day and that we would have these little pocket size computers we carry around everywhere. Wifi wasn't something I had any awareness of. It was something you had to pay for by the hour, so you got on and diddled around for a bit and got off and went about your life. In my family we felt bad for being on too long..."God, I was on the Internet for 45 minutes!" Many workplaces didn't do much digitally and/or online, so it was sort of seen as a time waster. Much like now, I guess.
  #41  
Old 12-09-2017, 08:47 PM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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My first experience started in 1981 although it wasn't the internet exactly. I was writing a book jointly with someone in Cleveland and mail between Cleveland and Montreal took a minimum of two weeks. A colleague went on leave and lent me his teletype machine and, with the help of our computer centre I was able to set up an account that both I and my coauthor could sign on to. He had an Apple II while I had the teletype. He was limited to 40 columns, caps only, while I had this device that printed fanfold paper. My coauthor had to go through commercial networks, tymnet in the US, which connected to Datapac in Canada and then to my computer. I don't recall what his modem was like, but my 300 baud modem was a machine about the size of a shoebox and I dialed the number and when the modem at the other end answered, I put the telephone handset into the modem. And of course, the telephone was tied up during that time.

In 1984 my son went away to college and they had Bitnet. Later that fall, so did we and we could communicate by email, which we did several times a week. I got a faster modem (1200 baud) that plugged directly into the phone circuit and dialed directly, so I no longer had to plug a handset into it. Around 1990, a grad student here did an MSc project to created a web crawler called Archie that indexed everything it could find. In those days what we were looking for were scientific documents and Archie was good for that. I guess Netscape came around 1995, but my dialup modems were still to slow to make much use of any graphical interface. I was still using it only for emails. By the late 1980s when we were writing a second book, we simply used email attachments. The first book, incidentally, was written using a beta version of Latex and appeared in 1984, a year before Latex was officially released. The second one was also in Latex.

In 2001, I finally sprang for DSL service and have never looked back.

My wife was a translator and, for each client, she had to get an account on the clients computer (they were generally large commercial companies and had mainframes) and pick up the files to be translated on that account and leave the finished translation in the same place. By 1997, suddenly they all had email and she was able to communicate with them using attachments. It all changed rather suddenly.
  #42  
Old 12-09-2017, 09:03 PM
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kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is online now
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Not counting my college work-study job in the 1980s, when I was dialing into University computers to download tables from databases, I first got online (with a home computer) on AOL in '94. At that time, most people who were going online for recreation / personal use were using a dedicated service, like AOL, Prodigy, or Compuserve. All of those had lots of native content (the predecessor of the SDMB, in fact, was a set of message boards on AOL). AOL, at least, introduced web browsing when the Web became a thing. (Prodigy and Compuserve might have, as well, but I didn't use them, so I don't recall.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Grumbacher Red View Post
It was something you had to pay for by the hour, so you got on and diddled around for a bit and got off and went about your life. In my family we felt bad for being on too long..."God, I was on the Internet for 45 minutes!"
Lordy, yes. I think that my AOL account covered 5 hours of usage per month; after that, you were paying extra. You could set things up to dial in to download your email, and then log off -- you'd then write replies to your emails offline, and log on for a second time to mail replies.

The first time I stayed logged in to AOL for an extended time, it was because I'd discovered a sci-fi oriented chatroom, and I stayed on for a couple of hours. It felt almost surreal.

In late '96, AOL (which was one of the biggest, if not *the* biggest, ISP at the time) got rid of the hourly limits, and went to a flat rate. For several months after, it could be difficult, if not impossible, to log on, since their dial-in centers didn't have nearly enough ports to accommodate demand, once people could stay online all day, if they wanted.
  #43  
Old 12-09-2017, 09:10 PM
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kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is online now
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Originally Posted by kenobi 65 View Post
Lordy, yes. I think that my AOL account covered 5 hours of usage per month; after that, you were paying extra.
Looking this up now, it appears that AOL was structured at an hourly rate of $2.95 or so a month -- still a disincentive for spending long periods of time online.
  #44  
Old 12-09-2017, 09:44 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is online now
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And who else used Netscape?
Used?

Okay, seriously, I use Chrome as my main browser. But I was still using Netscape as recently as two years ago. It had some great features for browsing text that I can't find on more recent browsers.

But then Microsoft apparently decided to shut it down. Netscape suddenly stopped working one day.
  #45  
Old 12-09-2017, 09:49 PM
marshmallow marshmallow is offline
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Every website looked like the Space Jam site. Large images loaded one line at a time. Lots of people thought the height of design was plastering dozens of flashing lights and gifs all over the place, and don't forget the MIDI music and multiple frames.

People actually used message boards.

Last edited by marshmallow; 12-09-2017 at 09:50 PM.
  #46  
Old 12-09-2017, 10:08 PM
Quimby Quimby is offline
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When I started in 1992 or so there was no World Wide Web. We accessed using a shell account that used Linux commands. The bulk of our time was spent on Usenet message boards. Images either on the screen using ASCII characters or files you had to download to see.

It was a smaller place but friendlier and almost exclusively college students and faculty. I remember I made a handshake deal over Usenet to buy a comic I had been looking for for decades. I sent a money order and they mailed me the book. Even just a few years later that would seem like a dumb idea.
  #47  
Old 12-09-2017, 10:24 PM
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Rick Kitchen Rick Kitchen is offline
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Originally Posted by Guinastasia View Post
Remember all the different search engines? There was what, Altavista, Webcrawler, Magellan, Yahoo, etc.

And who else used Netscape?
I used AlltheWeb.
  #48  
Old 12-09-2017, 10:54 PM
Darren Garrison Darren Garrison is offline
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For a good glimse at the earlish days of computer networks and the internet was like, you really should find (and then read, of course) a copy of The Cuckoo's Egg by Cliff Stoll. Or at least watch the Nova version. Or the C-Span version.
  #49  
Old 12-09-2017, 11:09 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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There's an AMC series (recently ended, sadly enough) called Halt and Catch Fire that might help to illustrate some of this. In the final season, which just ended a couple of months ago, some of the characters were attempting to build a Yahoo!-like hand-built directory of websites. (This was of personal interest to me, as I worked at a company that was also trying to build a directory of websites.)
  #50  
Old 12-09-2017, 11:26 PM
marshmallow marshmallow is offline
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Remember web rings? For me that was the early internet equivalent of a Wiki walk.
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