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    • Lauren

      I recently watched an interview with David Bowie from 1999, at the dawn of world wide web. He said in it:

      ...the Internet carries the flag for the subversive and rebellious, chaotic and nihilistic...Forget about the Microsoft element, the monopolies do not have a monopoly [on the internet]...I don't think we've even seen the tip of the iceberg...I think the potential of what the internet is going to do to society, both good and bad, is unimaginable...I think we're on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying... it's an alien life form.”

      He then went on to say how the internet would change film and TV:

      The context and the state of content is going to be so different to anything we can envisage at the moment, where the interplay between the user and the provider will be so in simpatico it's going to crush our ideas of what mediums are all about.”

      He said all this in an interview with a disbelieving Jeremy Paxman. David Bowie was a renowned deep thinker and creative genius, so it made him easy to disbelieve by disregarding his whimsical philosophies. I’m a big fan on Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust era of music – thanks to my Dad – but also found him to be a captivating guy to listen to; most of the things he’s predicted in interviews have turned out to be mostly true.

      The things Bowie was saying about the internet in his interview with Paxman, were merely predictions at the time, but, as we now know, those predictions were accurate. In the interview, Jeremy Paxman looked like someone who was enjoying a really good story, because that’s all it was to him at the time - a story. Paxman even screwed his face up at one point during the interview, probably just thinking that Bowie’s creative and deep mind was over-imagining the power of what the internet potentially had, and said:

      “It’s just a tool though… it’s just a different delivery system…”

      It’s a fascinating interview and you should watch it. I’m not giving Paxman a hard time, he was only reacting in a way that many of us would, but this type of scenario has always led me to keep an open mind - don’t bet too high against the unimaginable, and don’t be too ignorant to the seemingly improbable. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if Bowie had some kind of futuristic insight into how our modern world would become so reliant on something we can’t see but use every day - the internet.

      When I was at Primary School (elementary), I remember having various history projects to do; one was about the Egyptian Pharaohs and one was about World War II. I still have them in storage somewhere. I used to love doing projects like them because I had a fascination with history and they gave me an excuse to pester my parents to buy me the ‘Horrible Histories’ books. I won a few class competitions for projects like that and think one of the aforementioned bagged me a Creme Egg and a book token. I had a bit of an obsession with Wallace and Gromit when I was growing up, so my Egyptian project had little drawings of them at the bottom of the pages with speech bubbles, like they were the narrators of the story - it’s hilarious to look at now, but I do envy my vivid imagination back then. Everything was handwritten in these projects because we weren’t yet at a stage in technology where every home had Microsoft Word and a printer. So how did I research those things? This was long before the days of Wikipedia and Google Images. It was all about reading books. Can you imagine how easy it is nowadays to find some facts about the Pharaohs? The answer is literally in your pocket on that thing you call a smartphone.

      The other research tool I had back then was ‘Encarta 95’ - a bunch of CD ROMS for Windows 95 that acted as your online encyclopedia - like an ‘olden days’ Wikipedia. (I just Googled a photo of those CD ROMS to make sure I remembered the name correctly - how poetic to use Google for that.)

      I think we got our first computer when I was around 7 years old, give or take a year. It was one of those chunky white ones that weighed an absolute ton and took up half of our living room; of course, we needed the wooden desk and the hideous chair with the big obtrusive wheels too. It was the classic space invader. We didn’t have internet at the time, so it was a space to play games, use Encarta as a research tool, and an excuse for my Mum to ditch her typewriter and start learning Microsoft Office. My brother and I would argue about who’s turn it was to sit and play games like: Orly’s Draw-A-Story, The Muppets, Disney’s Magic Artist, and not forgetting the games pre-installed onto Windows, like Chip’s Challenge and Pipe Dream. My Dad would soon jump on the bandwagon when games like ‘Broken Sword’ came out and then my brother would will the hours away playing Championship Manager. It’s funny to think of it now, our constant battle for ‘my turn’ on the computer. Nowadays we all walk around with the internet in our pockets and kids have their very own iPads. How many Google searches do you make per day? It's insane to think how vastly the past two decades have changed the way we make our discoveries.

      I guess we weren’t aware of it at the time, but this white space invader was the beginning of a new lifestyle and marked a new way of having information at our fingertips. This was the start of the ‘alien life form’ that Bowie suggested in 1999.

      I can’t remember the exact year that my Mum and Dad caved in to the ‘modern world’ and changed our phone service to include dial up internet - it must have been around 1999 (ironically when Bowie had his interview with Paxman). Our internet provider was Freeserve, which doesn’t even exist anymore. This was back when we were still a lot more sensitive about parting with details about ourselves - now we just put every personal detail about ourselves on social media and key in our bank card numbers daily on Amazon and such like - so my parents were still pretty dubious about giving away any information about themselves. It meant that our first email address was something ridiculous like: renimac16921@tgrove.freeserve.co.uk. It only took around 1 year for that email address to get super embarrassing, but we kept it for a good while before Freeserve switched to Wanadoo – another that’s no longer operating. It was only dial up internet that we had at the time--do you remember that ridiculous noise it made to connect to the internet? We would sit and pray that it would connect. We really do take WiFi for granted, more so now that we expect to have it when we’re out and about.

      I can’t really remember what we actually used the internet for in the early days, it was a time when Yahoo was better known than Google and Ask Jeeves still had the logo of the butler. It was really at the turn of the millennium when things changed for my family and our relationship with the internet.

      The Millennium – year 2000. This was a bizarrely exciting year for us as kids: schools had us burying time capsules all over the grounds; Robbie William’s ‘Millennium’ song was played on the radio at least 5000 times per day; and we had the doomsday excitement of the Millennium bug or Y2K as it is more popularly known. I was only in primary 5 before the new year of 2000 arrived and everyone was freaking out wondering how we would be writing the date in our school jotters after the Christmas and New Year holidays. This was an actual real-life problem at the time - just how were we supposed to write the date? Eventually we all just realised that it would be OK to write the year 2000 as ‘00 and that nobody would get ill by doing so. Phew.

      The year 2000 is a year that I remember in my life for lots of reasons - I turned 10 in May 2000, woohoo for double digits – but it’s probably the year that marked the beginning of an eventual life reliant on ‘staying connected’. 2002 seen the start of my High School days, where after-school activities consisted of logging into MSN and spending the evenings speaking with friends virtually, instead of actually going outside to play. 2009 seen me enter the world of Facebook, 2017 seen me leave it, and here I am now, online, using the internet to write about it. When do you think the internet first made its impact on you?

    • Chris
      Chris MacAskill

      Ohmygosh memories. @Vilen and I went to Bill Atkinson's house yesterday for lunch and to listen to his stories about inventing the Mac. He was the tech lead for the first Mac.

      Somewhere around 1990 I got my first job in Silicon Valley, and of all things it was working at Steve Jobs' new company, NeXT. I was in charge of developer relations, meaning we had to get software to run on NeXT machines so they would become useful and people would buy them.

      The problem, Steve always said, is when you build a new platform you never know what creative new things people would build on top of them. Since they're new and different than anything you've seen before, it's hard to know if they will make a difference.

      Around that time some guy by the name of Tim Berners Lee developed an application for NeXT, a web browser. Huh? He was from a research organization so that was strike two. We needed a new desktop publishing app or spreadsheet or something. This looked like a word processing program but some sentences were underlined and when you clicked on them it opened a new word processing-like document that they said came from another computer. I wasn't sure why that was useful.

      But I walked up to Steve's office and we did a 5-minute demo for him. He stared intently and then turned to me and asked, "Is this cool?" That was his way of saying "What's the big deal?"

      "I don't know, Steve. Have to play with it and let it sink in."

    • yaypie

      My mom introduced me to computers before I could talk. In those days (the early and mid-80s) there wasn't really much educational software for PCs, so Mom wrote software for us. I remember programs that taught me and my siblings about colors, the alphabet, and even logic puzzles.

      In the pre-web 90s, Mom ran a little dialup BBS out of our house. Every night it would run some batch scripts that dialed up another BBS somewhere (or maybe multiple other BBSes?) and exchanged all the emails people had sent each other during the day. The next morning people would dial in to check their messages and send new ones. That was my introduction to email.

      In the summer of 1995, between 7th and 8th grade, I got to participate in a program at Texas A&M University called TAMUPrep (or something like that). It was a sort of accelerated science and math program for gifted students, with a focus on hands-on projects, field trips, etc. One of the classes was an introduction to HTML, which at the time was still extremely new (the first version of Netscape Navigator had only been released a few months prior).

      I learned lots of useful things in that program, but learning how to build web pages was the thing that probably had the single biggest impact on my life. I was already interested in programming at the time and had written simple QBasic programs, but this was different. There really wasn't anything like it. HTML was so simple, but so powerful in terms of enabling me to create content that other people around the world could consume.

      My first paid job of any kind was a two-day contract building some web pages for one of Mom's acquaintances. For a kid who lived on a ranch in rural Texas, that was pretty cool.

      Within a few years, I was that kid at high school with the "weblog" everyone read, back when having a blog was unique and different. And not long after that, web development became my career.

      And then I helped build Cake!

    • JaceW

      My first experiences with the internet were when I was very young and had played Warcraft 3 at a neighbors. Immediately loving the game, I worked as many chores as my parents in order to get it. When we went to the store, they did not have Warcraft 3 in stock. The employee there suggested instead that I try Starcraft, which he said was "like Warcraft, but in space!" I took it home, and played the entire campaign. Not being satisfied, I decided to dig in to online play. It's pretty much history from there, I have always had the internet in my life from that point. Games are what connected me to computers and the internet. After a while you just learn things about the computer and internet out of necessity. Now I work at an ISP as a sysadmin, the skills for which were planted way back the first time I played Starcraft.

    • SteveM

      As a kid, I remember the taboo, and rebelliousness associated to pinball machines. Like shooting pool, these were considered "adult" games, somewhat akin to gambling with a James Dean persona, reinforced by the teenage rebellion of The Who. They often had adult themes, like the Playboy pinball machine adorned with raunchy caricatures of women, a vision still emblazoned in my mind. Though fascinated, we were never allowed to play.

      When we entered the local pizza joint to discover our favorite specatacle was replaced with a giant wooden cabinet, my future began to unravel. It was like a massive Litebright that had come to life. The "pew-pew" sounds were intoxicating. A brightly lit, somewhat menacing marquee read "Space Invaders". It was 1978, and I was 7 years old.

      When the worker playing had to return to his pizza-craft and uttered the words, "Hey kid, want to finish my quarter?" it planted a seed he couldn't possibly realize. These new inventions were about to release an entire society of midget drug addicts looking for a fix in every convenience store, restaurant, record store[!], and even hair salon [I cannot express how many hours of eye-burning perm smell I endured to play Kickman and Centipede]. Then something horrifically amazing, the seedy methodone clinic of capitalism, emerged. The arcade. Horrific, because you could rarely afford a trip, and there weren't enough quarters in the world to satiate. Buildings filled with longhaired kids wearing athletic knee socks and cutoff denim shorts burning through quarters earned from chores, lawncutting, begging, or stealing.

    • SteveM

      As technology innovated to meet demands, we were soon able to get our fixes at home. Pong, Intellivision, the Atari 2600. Walls full of titles at the local toy store or appliance center. Electronic Games Magazine littered my bedroom floor. Then, came 'personal computers'.

      I remember the guilt of returning my Uncle's Christmas gift, a Commodore Vic-20, to Toys'R'Us [RIP]. They had recently been discontinued, so we returned it to the store, saved the money, and over agonizing months, added to it with the ultimate purchase of the Commodore-64. It opened yet another door unimagined. A world of disk-notching, nibble-hack'ems, and spending hundreds of hours with my brother reading aloud tens of thousands of lines of machine langauge code from Compute's Gazette magazine where one mistake could render hours of coding useless. From absolutely nothing, we created hot air baloon sprites, chunky airplanes flying across the screen, and opened the world of Basic programming which allowed us to visit store displays and on-the-fly create endless if/then loops that even the salespeople didn't know how to break out of. From nothing, you could create, automate, annoy, and create tangible things out of thin air. You could save them on a cassette tape, and recall them simply by rewinding to 0039 on the tape counter, and pressing play, then waiting 10 minutes.

      At around 15, with movies like War Games showing cradle modems, and bizarre techniques allowed computers to talk to eachother via telephone lines, services started to pop up like Compuserve which charged a premium by-the-minute. I joined what was essentially a Commodore users group known as Quantum Link (you may know it as AOL now) as they were a little kinder with the fees, and offered a free 300 baud Commodore 1660 modem. It was so fast you could barely keep up reading the text as it appeared on your 40 column screen. We paid exorbitant fees to wait endless minutes to watch actual images drawn in ASCII characters appear on the screen that you could save to high-tech floppies. In a mere 7 minutes, I had an actual picture of Robocop, drawn with commas and asterisks right there for me to print, which I actually did.

    • SteveM

      I remember the excitement when the GIF standard became popularized and ACTUAL photos started to become possible, if you were lucky enough to have a 1200-2400 baud modem to tolerate them (and hope you didn't get knocked offline by callwaiting). I still remember coveting US Robotics modems.

      When the IBM compatible became popularized, edging out Apple IIes and the Commodore Amiga, another world started to emerge. The GUI. I probably still have 3.5 floppies with GEOs and Win 3.1 which required about 20 disks. I distinctly remember spending all day when the first serial mouse came out, trying to get it configured to a COM port, and shortly thereafter spending $300 on 4MB of RAM to be able to handle a GUI. I searched for months for new programs that actually had mouse support written into them just to use it.

      When I discovered the "internet", it consisted of being able to dial into the local college and 'telnet' to other college (and some business) computers. Though you had to be 'hardcore geek' among hardcore geeks for this in the era of GUIs and "windows", only command-line stuff was available which let us telnet to exotic places like the Kelloggs corporation in Battle Creek Michigan to troll cereal workers, when we weren't playing MUD or visiting local single line BBSes to play online bass fishing or Trade Wars or download the 1337 0-2 day WaReZ.

      The biggest breakthrough for me was the multi-line BBS where 20-40 local people could dial in, chat in teleconference, play online games together (mostly text/ASCII based), and actually create relationships. I still have very close friends that I see frequently, having first met at 17-18 years old nearly 30 years ago. When the multi-line began to offer an actual Internet annex, it was a little sad when our local geek community began to dissolve to globalization. Though it opened worlds of new information in the free and open internet era, it was in ways more isolating. You couldn't organize a wallyball game of 40 of your closest friends, or invade a Knights Inn for 3 days of debauchery.

      I can truly say I "grew up with the Internet". As my teen years waned, and the time for social bonding, partying, the multi-line BBS, and a life of leisure subsided, the world opened up to the Internet, of endless resources, information and opportunities. My entire life would be formed from the relationships and knowledge I would gain through computing. My wife of 19 years, whom I met through mutual friends and relationships that began online, to all but my first job, including my current job of almost 11 years, my career in photography, even my kids,
      stemmed from the Internet, and a 7 year old who loved videogames.

    • Way back, there were a small group of us that ran the UUCP connections for our company as a part of the networking team. As time went on, we added connections over a network called Cypress (dedicated circuits) and later SONET (Fiber). We even had a small cable TV network on a backboard for the testing of set top boxes. It was pretty amazing to watch networking grow prior to the web.

    • Lauren

      What a great story to be able to share. I recently watched the Steve Jobs movie, and although I'm aware of some inaccuracies, it just made him all the more intriguing. How amazing that you actually worked alongside him.

    • Lauren

      What a great photo.

      so Mom wrote software for us

      I love how much of a passing comment this is haha. This is very cool, sounds like your Mum was way ahead of the game. :-)

    • Chris

      I have a lot of stories about him that haven't been told and sometimes I think about starting a separate Cake conversation with people who worked with him that I knew. There are several people on Cake who worked with him for decades.

    • Lauren

      It's interesting to me that gaming was a 'starting point' for many of our gateways into the internet/computing.

      I can truly say I "grew up with the Internet". As my teen years waned, and the time for social bonding, partying, the multi-line BBS, and a life of leisure subsided, the world opened up to the Internet, of endless resources, information and opportunities. My entire life would be formed from the relationships and knowledge I would gain through computing. 

      I think the last sentence in that paragraph is great food for thought and I think this is probably true for a lot of us nowadays.

    • vegasphotog

      Great post. I dare say based on the responses to this thread many folks have more vivid memories about their early computer days than their first sexual experiences. LOL

      Growing up in the Cupertino area in the 60's and 70's, my parents distrusted technology and that might have provided an opposite effect in me. My first corporate sales job in the late 80's, the company took pride having an IBM AS400 and we had custom DOS programs to use to selling inventory, etc. I am not an engineer by any means but I have always had an innate ability to dig in and really make computers do their magic. Not because I am super smart. Just cuz.

      I wanted to post in this thread more about how the Internet had a huge impact on my Dad. In 1999 my mom died and my dad was about 72 y/o and still proud that he has only recently purchased an answering machine. Meaning, technology was still a fad and only for kids. So, I flew down from Alaska for the Memorial and my siblings all flew in (none of us had seen each for 20 years...no not a close knit family). But, I HAD A LAPTOP. Running Windows 95. With a modem. My dad was joined at the hip with my mom so I knew something had to happen or he would probably kill himself. Not really joking.

      So, I remove the phone cord from the house telephone and plug it into my laptop and dial up with the modem. Remember those scary sounds???

      All my siblings are 5+ years older than I am and so some of the energy is I am not trying to show off my tech skills, but, they don't want to look ignorant. I am detailing the mood because this leads to the crux.

      My dad still does not really understand email and how anything on the internet would interest him. But, in a stroke of inspiration, I SHOW him how all those classical jazz greats that he has been driving to record stores (oh, do you remember record stores? lol) all over the San Fran Bay Area....YOU COULD NOW DO ON THE INTERNET!!!!!

      OMG.....it was so beautiful for the light to come in my dads eyes and that began a three year obsession daily of downloading music, etc. Until he met his next wife. LOL

      But, I am so grateful that was one of a gillions examples of how the internet is magnificent.

      Lastly, per Baldy's vision....if that happened today....I think of how if my dad could have viewed a panel discussion of classical jazz greats. It would completely enrich his life!

    • Chris

      👆❤️ I can verify that amazing brain. I wonder if it's like learning a language, sport or musical instrument early. Maybe his neurons got customized for computers, because he does not miss a detail about anything with regard to code or interface design.

    You've been invited!