Hear Ye! Since 1998.
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Jun 03

In Memoriam

Did you know that if you go up to someone with a packet of flour, and tell them you’re selling them Cocaine, you can be charged for supplying Cocaine (and be liable for all the punishments that go with that), even though it’s really only flour?

But anyway, enough study for tonight. I was reading Fuzzy’s post and it just made me think how much things have changed over the past decade with regards to the net, and how my usage patterns of the net used to be. It’s a fond memory, and it’s with a bit of regret that things won’t ever feel the same way again. The Net was something new and extraordinary back then – literally a world of exploration.

The mid-90s: We were with OzEmail, a 28.8k dialup connection (hey, I’m STILL on a 28.8k dialup connection… some things never change *grumble*) at $5 an hour. Dad used to restrict my time spent connected to the Net quite heavily. I remember joining the Aussie Warcraft 2 (OzWL) league in Year 10. OzWL was one league in a series of leagues run by Prowler and Garfield, and all its players formed a community on Kali. I had registered for a Kali ID back then by sending off a cheque to Jay Cotton. Anyway, I used to get home from school at about 5pm, and because Dad only got back from work at 6.30pm, I’d have a narrow window of time to log on and play a bit of War2 behind his back. That was fun, one of the first gaming communities in Australia that started up over Descent and later migrated over to War2. I started up a clan. We had ranking systems, profiles, clan wars, competitions and stats – everything, all arranged via a website coded by Prowler’s excellent Perl scripting skills. Battle.net at this stage was years away and multiplayer games still ran only over IPX (hence the need for Kali). The concept of LAN parties was also new. I recall when they arranged LANDAY1, for the league community. They ran it over a 10mbps network when network cards were far from commonplace.

I also remember stumbling upon MP3s for the first time. Back when Winamp was in its really early days. I recall the very first MP3 I downloaded was *ahem* a Spice Girls track. I actually still have that track on my hard drive – it’s datestamped 1997. I got such a thrill that I was downloading music, for free, onto my computer. Similar to the thrill I got when we upgraded from the Apple IIC to a 486 and played a game with colour and speech, instead of monochrome and beeps (Might & Magic 3). The lawsuit-happy RIAA was ages away from identifying MP3 as a threat, and some web sites traded MP3s openly and easily.

I don’t remember how I found things on the net back when the default background colour for web pages was grey. There was no Google. And when Altavista eventually surfaced, it was extraordinary (a search engine that sorta worked!). “Real-time” news sites were rare. If I got a reply to an e-mail within a day, that was an extremely fast response time. The sites that I kept going back to were the sites that updated, and back then, updating was quite rare. Most web sites were just static pages. No such thing as content management systems. No ICQ. And wireless connectivity? Forget it! Hardly any mobile phones back then.

Everything was new and exciting. Writing my first web page was awesome. Figuring out how to stick it online, doubly so. Back then, the physical structure of the Net was a blur to me. I didn’t comprehend how it worked, and it didn’t really matter. It was something mystical. It was something to unravel and learn about. There weren’t idiot guides, TV shows or people you could call up to ask questions. If you wanted help, you had to first figure out where on Earth (literally) to look for it.

We’ve all learnt a lot about the Net over the intervening years. Things are at the stage where nothing is truly revolutionary. If you can envisage something, it can most probably be done, and even done personally. There is the occasional thing that will wow us, but never will it be the same as the sense of wonderment and awe I felt, when way back in 1992 I logged onto this little application called CB Radio and started chatting with some high school dude in Cremorne.

This is all a very circumlocutious way of answering the question of why Fuzzy is having such a hard time finding sites that satisfy like the “olden days”, and why there’s sometimes an old school mentality amongst the older personal web sites. Back then, finding a personal web page that was regularly updated was a treat. Communities formed, and being exclusively online, they were communities in a very novel sense. Nowadays it’s all commonplace. Nothing special. Three clicks in Blogger.com and you’re away, with your very own tiny piece of real estate in the megapolis that is the Net, population 2 billion. Your friend’s meeting someone in the real world that they met online last week? Yeah, so what’s new? It’s like the movies. The first couple teen spoof flicks were excellent. Then they just got boring, because they were unoriginal. It doesn’t mean the later films were crap, it just means they were unexciting.

Ok it’s too late. This post has meandered quite badly, and my writing sucks. I’ll be off now.