Social Question

tups's avatar

To the people who were alive and aware when the internet first came out, how was it?

Asked by tups (6719points) May 29th, 2012

I’m wondering how people reacted when the internet first came out. If you were alive and aware, how did you react? How did you use it at first and how did you get used to it? How was it any different to the way you use it today?
What do you think the internet has changed in society? Did you like it better in the good old days where the only contact was face-to-face?
How revolutionary was it?

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49 Answers

digitalimpression's avatar

I was initially amazed by the thought of typing something on my computer in the computer lab and having someone in Japan or some other far away place see what I was typing. I first used it in this way as a chat medium. Back then you could go into a chat room without trolls.. they simply didn’t exist at first because everyone was sort of respectful and shocked by the technology.

I got used to it enough to stray away from chatting and become interested in designing my own section of the internet in the form a web page. My first attempts were pretty sad pages full of links and chipmunk voices…

The internet has changed society quite a bit.. but I couldn’t even begin to describe all the subtle (and not so subtle) ways it has done so.

I actually did like it better in the old days without the internet.. but that’s quite alright.. I’m not particularly spiteful about having it either.

marinelife's avatar

It grew and changed slowly. At first it was communicating through forums and there were not as many sources.

syz's avatar

My (ex)husband was a computer geek, and swore that it was going to change the world. I was dubious. Shows what I know.

tranquilsea's avatar

I remember trying to figure out just how “they” were going to send the data packets and how they were going to arrive. Someone mentioned that they would arrive on my tv and I didn’t believe him.

When we first got a dedicated line for Internet I remember thinking, “Really, is this all there is?”. Then groups formed, Yahoo and Hotmail came along, e-mail became very established. Slowly businesses formed presences on the Internet. THEN YouTube happened and changed everything.

Now, finally I can bring the Internet through on my tv.

zenvelo's avatar

very few people were aware of it before 1992, and they were mostly people working for computer companies or at universities. People used Compuserve or dialed into the WELL, but beyond that it was very limited.

It was the advent of the world wide web that made things really grow, and the rapid growth of AOL in the mid ‘90s.

tedd's avatar

I became aware of it in the mid-early 90’s, while in late elementary school/early middle school. We didn’t have it but my next door neighbor did. I remember going over there til all hours in the night to surf AOL with my buddy who lived there. It was incredibly slow, it was much more chat room dominated (cuz of AOL), and there were a lot less known/respected/trusted sites. Also there weren’t nearly as many older folk who didn’t really know how to use the technology.

ragingloli's avatar

I only remember those annoying AOL cds that constantly landed in the mailbox and that were never used or even opened.
That was my first contact with internet related “Spam Mail”.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Well, it’s not like we woke up one morning and suddenly there was internet. I heard about it a little at a time, and didn’t understand what it was for or how to use it. I work at a high school, so the business teachers offered a workshop to show the internet to the faculty. It was the first time I ever saw it. She told us to type in something that we would want to look up, so I typed “Davy Jones.” I wanted to see if he was still alive.

The internet didn’t have nearly as many resources then as it does today. It is being expanded all the time as more sites, stores and infomation resources are added.

tedd's avatar

@ragingloli I remember when those CD’s were 3.5” floppy disks :D

ragingloli's avatar

@tedd
I remember when floppy disks were made of stone.

Keep_on_running's avatar

@ragingloli Yep, now tablets come with a 10-inch screen and Apple logo.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

I remember using ARPA while in University in the 1970’s.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@ragingloli Ha-ha! I had forgotten about the big AOL craze. I had an AOL account for a while, and I do remember getting those annoying CD’s all the time.

cookieman's avatar

I had seen ARPA (or something like it) in action around 1986. My friend belonged to a robotics club at MIT and they had access to it in the lab.

In 1988, I worked for a big architecture firm in Boston. This lady from Japan, who was training me on AutoCAD, spoke about it.

I probably heard about it again in the early 90s with everyone else.
bee boo schhhh bing ping… “you’ve got mail”.

tups's avatar

I just realized today how new the internet really is and what a big part it is in today’s society. How much time people spend on the internet. Was the world more exciting in a way, before the internet, because it wasn’t so easy to get information for example?

flutherother's avatar

I first encountered the Internet in 1997 and since then it has never ceased to amaze me. I knew it would transform the world and I wondered why no writer or prophet had predicted it. It just seemed to suddenly be there where nothing had been before.

SuperMouse's avatar

I was first exposed to the internet in the early 90’s. I was friends with the computer guy at work and he showed me his internet forum very early on. At that point it looked incredibly boring to me and I figured it would be reserved for computer nerds. Once it became widely available I had Earthlink and I remember this sound. I also remember being frustrated as all get out when I forgot to turn off call waiting and an incoming call booted me offline! As @marinelife said, back then it was mostly about visiting forums back then. I dI remember when my digital native nieces and nephews introduced me to Myspace, IMDB, and youtube, that is when I started thinking of the internet as a being pretty useful and fun. I also remember getting DSL for the very first time and thinking how awesome it was.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I honestly don’t know. I’ve been around computers since 1979. I can’t even tell you the first time I accessed the internet. It was a completely easy and natural transition for me.

I remember when it used to cost to send emails, so I NEVER did that.

filmfann's avatar

There was a joke from the time, that said the Internet was like Sex when you’re in High School. You think everyone knows more than you, but really no one knows much, and we all would eventually learn all about it.

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

I’ve used computers since the early 1980’s, and accessed the internet or its precursors at the end of that decade, mostly through BITNET. Listservs were the forerunners of forums like this one, and people could connect to each other via e-mail as well. Chat was in its infancy then, and that was a rather revolutionary concept, to unite people so widespread in such an instant manner. I didn’t use browsers though, until a bit later, when I took an introductory course on Netscape for professional development.

Although I had a computer in junior high school, I used typewriters for all my papers through high school, and it wasn’t until I entered college that I really started to use word processors. As @tedd mentions, floppy disks were the storage medium back then, and my first floppies were the 8-inchers. These were soon replaced by the 5¼ inch disks, and then the 3½ inch ones (which I still have several of… I really need to make time and sit down and transfer whatever the hell’s on them off onto the hard drive and determine if I have anything worth keeping!).

As for your questions, yes, it’s changed society a LOT. Think about the use of Twitter recently during the events in the Middle East last year, for example. Phone books are dying, because you can just Google a person. Even the word “google” itself has changed. Prior to the 1990’s, you’d either get a blank stare or someone would think you’d be talking about Barney Google.

Libraries used to have physical card catalogs; now it’s all computerized. In the days when I had money to travel, a stop at Triple-A was de rigueur; now I can use Google Maps (or Mapquest, although I haven’t used it in about ten years). People used to buy records, 8-tracks, and tapes; now people use MP3 and file-sharing to access music; it’s changed the recording industry so much the RIAA, among other powers-that-be, has reacted vociferously to the potential and actual loss of revenue. In many towns and cities, the red-light district had at least a few dirty bookstores. The advent of videotape (and then DVDs) and computers has brought porn into the home, so that now the bookstores are dwindling (there’s other factors involved, sure, but the internet/technology has really affected this). People are now reading books, checking their e-mail, and doing other daily activities on tablets, smartphones, and other computerized devices.

Even medicine has been affected by the advent of the internet. Sure, you may still go to the doctor, but how many of you check sites like WebMD first, and try to second-guess your physician?

So yes, I think the internet has changed society, for good in some ways, and possibly for worse in others.

As for preferring the days when contact was face-to-face, yes, I think there are a lot of advantages to in-person contact than through the computer, but I also think interacting online has sped the exchange of ideas in positive ways. It’s a double-edged sword, and would take another post to fully discuss, heh.

bewailknot's avatar

We had a “bulletin board” that was local. It had chat rooms and a basic game or two. You bought your access time at local stores and entered a code to put the time on your account. As people moved away (we were in a military town) they would still log on so eventually we had members in many places.

I love the access to information, any time of day. I always used to wish the library was open in the middle of the night.

ETpro's avatar

I had a consulting business helping electronics manufacturers miniaturize circuits using Surface Mount Technology and heloing them automate the manufacturing and quality process for SMT. As soon as the Internet came online, I got on because it was a great way to connect with other engineers and to look for obscure parts for some odd-ball miniaturization project.

I studied up on HTML and built a Web site for my business. And as more and more of the US manufacturing base evaporated from our shores, I found more and more friends with businesses asking me to build a site for them too. So around 1993, I transitioned and became a full time Web developer.

Usenet was the only thing remotely similar to today’s social interaction. Various special interest groups and Newsgroups popped up on Usenet. I joined a few and have been hooked on Internet social interaction of some form ever since.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You know…it’s OUR generation that made the internet, @ETpro! The kids think they’re so hot because they can use it. :)

fundevogel's avatar

The number of cat pictures on the web was astonishingly low.

Dutchess_III's avatar

LOL! Well, here are a couple of mine

And here, poor kid

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I started with using the internet in the late 1970’s. That is before PC’s, and MS/DOS!
There was no World Wide Web (WWW) yet and modems were 110 bps and you have to dial the phone to another computer and there wedge the telephone receiver into the rubber cup-like sockets on the top of the modem.

I first used the Internet when it was called ARPANET. I could download files using ftp and read newsgroups. I also could send and receive e-mails. There were no graphic or multi-colour displays. My first computer had 64K of Ram memory, two 90K 5-inch floppy drives and a 48 character wide display on a 5-inch screen. I used C/PM and DR/DOS as operating system. I programmed in Mbasic, Pascal, and assembler.

The internet was very slow and limited when it first began, but I was fascinated.

ETpro's avatar

@fundevogel Cats rule the Internet these days. Spoony THE Cat finds all sorts of unique props for poses like this and this. And then there are all these funny cats..

lillycoyote's avatar

LOL. You are making me feel incredibly old; positively ancient and decrepit! Yes, I was “alive and aware” when the “internet” came into being. It didn’t happen all at once.

But still, I find it absolutely wonderful. It is like having my own personal library, open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. That alone makes it worth it to me; in addition to the many other benefits is provides. But like any other tool or invention, it has it’s downsides, certainly.

jerv's avatar

It was just another thing, basically a large BBS. Then it got to be a place that would let just anybody in, even if they didn’t know anything about computers, and it’s gone downhill since.

Granted, I like the things like color, images, video, and bandwidth, but it’s also more content-free than it began. It used to be all cool stuff like intelligent debate, tech geekery, and porn; now it’s all bad grammar, spam, and scams.

dabbler's avatar

Back when we had to make our own zeroes and ones by hand, we thought email was great. It’s easy to take it for granted now, but back in the 70’s it was a wondrous phenomenon and easily branded you as a geek since it was rare. Spam was far less prevalent, too, sigh.

Usenet was also terrific. An endless assortment of categorical bulletin boards in which you could find all sorts of information (and ask for information!) with unprecedented ease. ...And there is the alt.** section in which you could find just about anything that could be expressed in a digital form.

These days you got your blogs and facetubes and multiple internet presence opportunities.
I’ll just go back to my rocking chair and whittle up some extra zeroes.

jerv's avatar

@dabbler Rule 34 most definitely applied to alt.* and some of the stuff there makes /b look tame by comparison.

wundayatta's avatar

When if first came out, it was quite a challenge to get the software working. What was it—Mosaic? I remember having to install all these special drivers and stuff, and there was the fear that not only might it not work, but that you could wreck your computer in the process.

I first used a text interface for the WWW. Imagine that! But I got the GUI going, and then the next version of windows came out and everything was much easier.

It was easy for me because I had been doing everything the net provided already—email, chat, newsgroups, dirty pictures, and so on. It was a natural progression, and honestly, not that big a deal.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Pretty cat @ETpro!

@lillycoyote I agree. Miss @tups needs to work on her delivery a bit.

tups's avatar

@lillycoyote and @Dutchess_III Maybe I should work on my delivery. Hm, never ment to make anybody feel old! How could I have put it any differently, so that you wouldn’t feel old? Not that there’s anything wrong with old. I like old people. Anyway, educate me. ;-)

Dutchess_III's avatar

Hmmm. Some of my best friends are old people!

“What was it like before the internet?” would have been nice and neutral. If people were neither alive nor aware before that, they wouldn’t be able to answer. It was just redundant.

jerv's avatar

Yeah, being reminded that my childhood had corded phones with dials, 8-tracks, and Michael Jackson was not only popular but still black does make me feel a little dated, and I’m not exactly old yet.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I had a MAJOR crush on MJ when we were just 13. I had that poster where he’s all in white. Lord, I wish I’d hung on to it!

jerv's avatar

The funny part about the internet is that, until ~3 years ago, I ived in rural NH where broadband was of limited availability. Where I lived, even 56k dial-up was not available; on a good day, I could connect at 26.4k. Needless to say, watching videos was out; even a 1MB daily update to my anti-virus software took 8–10 minutes. Even this simple page would take over a minute! Yet, that was still 10 times faster than my first home internet connection, and 30 times faster than what I used to access BBSs on my Vic-20.

So, to all of you kids who complain that your 12Mbps connection is too slow because it occasionally stutters when you are streaming HD video, remember that you are still 500 times faster than the fastest connection avaialable in parts of America.

jazmina88's avatar

I started out doing data entry on DOS programming and ended up with my own PC around Christmas 91 or so. AOL was king and their chat rooms.

No wikipedia. No fluther. Not even facebook.But there was EBAY, strong by 2000.

I just got a gateway modem-router! What an incredible box! I’ve been on ethernet chain for a year, due to connection issues.

mattbrowne's avatar

Do you mean the World Wide Web or the Internet?

Earthgirl's avatar

I was alive when the internet first came out, but not very aware. Lol, I hated computers. But once i got into it I loved it. I remember the stupid AOL CDs that seemed to come constantly in the mail. I remember that iconic recording of “You’ve got mail!!” Whippee! It was nice to get mail after so many years of people who stopped writing letters. So archaic! Snail mail. I still love snail mail better, but sadly, no one bothers to write “real” letters anymore. Not even me.

Like lilycoyote I love that it’s like having a library at my disposal 24/7. I get some pretty obscure random thoughts and I love to google them to see what turns up and what I can discover. There is so much more information now than there used to be. I am a designer and I use the internet to research trends and see the fashion collections. Before the internet I could only get the pictures and see the runway shows by buying expensive foreign fashion magazines or going in person to the shows. It’s so great to have the access to all of the shows that you can get online now.

tups's avatar

@mattbrowne I’m not aware of the difference?

@Dutchess_III You might be right. Maybe I could’ve used that delivery, but I guess I was trying to avoid the I-can’t-remember-answer

ETpro's avatar

@tups The World Wide Web runs on the Internet. It was developed by engineers at CERN with the first World Wide Web Consortium proposal in 1989 and began to be widely adopted in the first couple of years of the 1990s. The Internet was originally developed by DARPA beginning in the 1960s. It really began to expand in the 1980s when the National Science Foundation began using it to share research and advance collaboration.

mattbrowne's avatar

It makes a huge difference, @tups. My first experience with the Internet was before the web existed. I think it was around 1986 and I used email for the very first time in my life. So I guess you meant, the World Wide Web. Unfortunately, the term Internet is often used as a synonym for the World Wide Web. But because you are talking about history the difference does matter as @Etpro explained. My first experience with the web was in 1993 when I used Mosaic for the first time.

foraginggirl's avatar

We first got the internet with DOS / Microsoft 3.1. I sent an e-mail and asked how many days it would take to get there. When I was answered with, “It’s there. Right now.” I was completely shocked. I also chatted and everyone was respectful back then. No one at school had the internet so when my friends came over, they’d just hog the computer and it was so annoying because I was sick of the computer and wanted to go outside and play. Now virtually everyone has the internet or has used the internet. In some ways I think it’s amazing because of websites like this where people can have conversations with people from around the world. In other ways I feel it interferes with living a simple life, which is what I believe I would be happiest doing. It’s a conundrum all right.

linguaphile's avatar

I was a fledging computer geek pre-Internet. I talked with people in Germany and elsewhere on the bitnet. Does anyone else remember “Bitnet?”

ETpro's avatar

@linguaphile Bitnet, Usenet, I went through it all.

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