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Thread: 20 years on the web

  1. #1
    Regular Captain Worley's Avatar
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    20 years on the web

    I just realized that around about this time twenty years ago, I signed up with my first ISP, the illustrious AOL, which was the only game in town. They had less than 10K users nationwide back then.

    Back then, I had a 9600 baud rate connection (yea!), and they made you pay per minute online. Connection was so slow that newsgroups, chat rooms (they were called something else back then, but I swear I can't remember what it was---they were also a lot less insane than they were by 2000) and e-mail were about all I could look at for a while. A little later I could use Netscape and Mosaic (I honestly can't remember which replaced which now) to do limited surfing, but, man, it ate up the time.

    Also, the computer was an IBM 486 with math co-processor and a 13" screen. Dual floppies, 5 1/4" and the mack daddy HD 3.5" drive. Woot! And all this for a cool 15 c-notes.

    Come a long way...

  2. #2
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    It's hard to describe that era to teens today. My 80286 computer with a whopping 1 megabyte of RAM was $3,000+. Adjusted for inflation, that'd be maybe $5,000 or $6,000 today, at least. And the cost of memory... I remember the price was $40 per megabyte. Now, you can buy a 32 gig thumb drive for a few bucks. At $40 per meg, that 32 gig USB drive would be worth $1,280,000.

    My PC today is 8 years old. It works fine and I have no desire to upgrade.

  3. #3
    In Memoriam/Battleship Enthusiast Defense Professional USSWisconsin's Avatar
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    I started out with an 4 Mhz 8086 with 640K of ram - it ran Word Perfect, and no games. I was excited when I got a 386 SX @ 16 Mhz, I upgraded it with 4 MB of ram at 50$ a meg, it could play games too... Later the 486 came out - but it was for servers. I had a 2400 baud modem - and it was pretty fast - some people still had 900 baud, but the Web didn't exist as we know it - it was usenet, and darpanet.
    "If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees.
    If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children."

  4. #4
    Officer of Engineers
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    My first calculator was a slide rule. My first word processor was a manual typewriter that we had to carry into the field (it says a lot about a soldier's handwriting when we had to lug a 5 pound beast into the field just so that we could read what we want to write). My gps was a compass and map and you're hoping the map is up to date but damned beavers always leave a pond where you least expected it. Email was a 5 cent stamp.

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    Colonel, you were also around to see electricity harnessed and the advent of indoor plumbing....
    Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.

    Abusing Yellow is meant to be a labor of love, not something you sell to the highest bidder.

  6. #6
    Officer of Engineers
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    I'm an engineer. I invented indoor plumbing.

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    Global Moderator Defense Professional JAD_333's Avatar
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    It would take a book to chronicle all the stuff I've been through, but it's much like the passage others have described. I started on a Wang word processor in 1981 and was immediately smitten. Even tried a Singer mini-computer. Everyone was making hardware back then. The first portables, Compaq and some other name I've forgotten weighed in at 20-30 times weight of today's laptops. And remember when we had to write programs in basic. Just to remind me how far we've come, I have a 64k IBM memory card about 12"x12" in size. The evolution over the last 20-50 years has been mind-boggling compared to the evolution of printing from Gutenburg in the 15th to the 20th century. And we ain't done yet.
    To be Truly ignorant, Man requires an Education - Plato

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers View Post
    My first calculator was a slide rule. My first word processor was a manual typewriter
    Hey, I did that too!

    Back at the Academy, I had a Commodore 64 and a dot matrix printer, along with my Olivetti typewriter. Papers were expected to be turned in typewritten. Sick of my typewriter, I spent a week entering machine code by had, one line at a time, from a magazine article, into my Commodore. The program was a rudimentary word processor.

    It was a revelation. I used it on my first major paper, turned it in, only to have it rejected by the professor. His explanation... "It's not fair to the other students that you are able to use a word processor." I had to TYPE the paper out on my Olivetti, AFTER I had already done so on my dot matrix printer.

    Back then, the ultimate computer printers were the electric daisy-wheel typewriters adapted to the computer, as they would create "Type quality documents" rather than nasty dot-matrix characters. Now, of course, we have cheap color laser printers.

    The pace of technological change has been staggering.

  9. #9
    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    My internet experience really did not start until '98. Prior to that it was very expensive and the only affordable way you had any access was to be at uni. Email had been going since the 80s. Newsgroups started soon after, at college you don't pay per minute so it was eat all you could. Telnetting to a Unix box was preferred as you could start your downloads, logoff and reconnect the next day. Pulling a few MB's in those days would take hours. Way more useful than windows and to a large extent still true to the present day. For certain specific tasks CLI still wins out over GUI's.

    There wasn't much to do on the web in those days, the bulk of your work got done on the PC and that was it. One of my earliest experiences was downloading custom DOOM levels off other uni servers worldwide. Another game that was very popular in those days was MUD, all text, more cerebral than reflexive as a first person shooter.

    This connecting to somewhere in the world (for fun) to read something someone had written was a novel experience. Prior to that it had always been no further than the office or uni network. In that sense the net was all about adding more choice.

    It started to become more useful once the access price dropped. When i was in the US, there was free local calling, this was something of a bonanaza because none of the countries i lived in prior had that. It was per minute local or trunk rates if not. To then pay on top of that to access compuserve or any of the local equivalents was a bit much.

    But with free local calling it was stay on as long as you wanted provided it did not block the phone for others. That invariably meant late nights. And the first thing you started with was networked games and instant messaging. This brought in an added dimension to gameplay, before it was always you against the machine but here it was against some other human some where else in the world and there were many of them. They start making variations in the gameplay that you never thought off. Its at this point it became clear that the web was a great place for minority interests. If you wanted to do something or chat there was a place out there with others that had gone a great deal further with the idea. And your fingers did the walking.

    Get on the internet..
    - its an exciting place
    - travel to far off lands
    - meet new people
    - ABUSE THEM
    Last edited by Double Edge; 30 May 12, at 20:07.

  10. #10
    In Memoriam/Battleship Enthusiast Defense Professional USSWisconsin's Avatar
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    In 1980, GM came out with a computer controled engine system on their cars (most of them) before that only a few high end cars had this - so as a mechanic/technician - computers became part of the necessary tool set - they were very primative and expensive - with huge banks of floppy drives to handle the software. The Mac was emergining as a home computer - it could be upgraded to 128K of ram - a few years before that computers were big and expensive - only at big businesses and universities - normally mainframes or mini's - with tape memories. At the Cray museum, we had a room full of an early supercomputer - with 5 MB of ram! It was in many cabinettes - all refrigerator sized - every byte was a separate ferrite donut - all hand wired on 144 byte module cards. The 24 bit CPU ran at a blistering 500kHz! - it was liquid freon cooled to handle all that speed, and very heavily classifed in its time. It had several operators and their workstation cluster looked sort of like the bridge of the TOS Enterprise. Before all this I had a slide rule and a typewritter too, but mainly used pencils and paper for most things...
    "If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees.
    If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children."

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