confessions of an old internet person

As I wrote here on Monday, according to Gretchen McCulloch in her book Because Internet I am an “old internet person.” That means that I have been online from the earliest days that the internet became available to the general public. It’s true that I have been, so I guess I am.

computer on the internetIn fact, I have been online since before the internet was publicly available. I was dialing into electronic bulletin boards on my Apple IIe as early as 1986. I also had a CompuServe account, which gave me access to whatever resources CompuServe made available to its users. Later, on my IBM-compatible PC (as we called them then), I dialed into Prodigy which was a consumer service that IBM developed. That had some nice features, such as access to American Airlines reservations. This feature came in handy during the two years Terry and I had a commuting relationship between Southern California and the Bay Area. After that I had an America Online account, which you may know as AOL. Perhaps you remember the sign-up CDs they kept sending you in the mail. Again, you were limited to the content that AOL provided.

AOL started offering an internet gateway in 1993, though it was rather clumsy and unwieldy. I signed up for a dial-up internet account with a company called Netcom. They provided a UNIX shell account, which meant I had some space on a UNIX server and access to tools for email and for creating text files. It was all text-based. As the web started to emerge, Netcom offered an account with graphical web access. The problems were 1) you had to have a separate account for the web-based service, and 2) you had to use their proprietary tools for things like web access and email.

Terry and I were living in Mountain View at the time and an independent company opened up shop downtown on Castro Street called Best Internet. They were friendly people and when you opened a dial-up account they gave you a 3.5 inch floppy disk filled with freeware and shareware internet applications. It was with Best that I got my first custom internet domain (which I sold for a nice sum a few years ago) and where I created my first web site, something I coded by hand.

When we moved to Gilroy in 1997 I set up a dial-up account with a company called South Valley Internet. They offered reliable internet access, but the customer service was terrible. Eventually I was able to get always-on DSL service through a company called Covad. When Covad discontinued their residential service in Gilroy I was able to get DSL with the phone company, Verizon. They hadn’t offered DSL in our part of town previously. That worked, but the speed deteriorated over time to the point where dial-up might have been faster. At the same time, Terry and I were unhappy with DirecTV’s constant nickel-and-dime price increases for our satellite television service. In early 2011, therefore, I called up Charter Cable and arranged for cable television and internet service with them. So, really, it wasn’t until 2011 that we truly had high-speed internet.

High-speed internet is something that we almost take for granted today, and with all of our wireless devices and streaming services it is integrated into our daily lives. But it’s good for this old internet guy to remember that it was not always so.


One Comment on “confessions of an old internet person”

  1. askmarj says:

    Yep, I have a picture of my baby daughter banging away on an old boat anchor of a computer (with both sized floppy drives), while sitting in my lap, circa 1990s. I don’t think we ever had AOL but we accessed the internet somehow with those screeching modems. It’s been too long.


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