The World Wide Web is 25 years old which got me thinking about my first impressions of the web, the Internet and computers.
First impressions of Computers
I have had an interest in computers for a long time. My early exposure to computers included my uncle‘s Apple IIe (photo), my friend‘s Tandy MC-10 and Apple Macintosh, and the green screen Amstrad word processing computer that my parents owned. I was always drawn to the machines like a moth to a light. Computers were intriguing to my young, fertile mind, because they presented a blank canvas waiting to be brushed from my palate.
At eleven years of age I was programming the classic snake game in BASIC. I was the only grade six student to type up and print out their assignments. My teachers were suitably impressed. Mrs Salt, my grade six teacher, used to always make a point of how messy my hand writing was and that if I did not get it right I would not be successful in my chosen career. Her prediction proved to be incorrect, thanks to the proliferation of computers and my decision to learn how to touch type in high school.
Through high school my silicon chip fascination continued with more software programming; this time to simulate 20,000 random spins of a roulette wheel to provide additional evidence to my mathematical proof that (a) roulette is an unfair game (on average you will lose $1 out of every $37 you bet) and (b) there is no best bet. I had so many arguments friends at university and work that believed that one type of roulette bet was better than another, that I dug out my year 12 assignment and republished it on my web site.
In year 12 I filled out my likes and dislikes into a career questionnaire. It said I should be a primary school teacher, photographer or civil engineer; I looked up the pay rates and chose the highest – engineering. RMIT‘s Business Administration and Civil Engineering was the course I enrolled in. Not surprisingly I enjoyed and excelled at every subject in which I could use a computer. Whether it was AutoCAD to design sophisticated civil engineering designs, word processing software with laser printed reports (when my university friends only managed dot matrix reports at best) or Pascal programming.
First impressions of the Internet
RMIT University was where I first encountered the Internet. In 1992 the Internet and World Wide Web were young. At first the Internet was exciting because I was able to access the university library catalogue from home at any time of the day, while my friends were limited by the physical library‘s opening hours and limited number of available electronic terminals.
Then I realised that I had access to information that was more than academic. At an odd hour one day in 1992, I traversed the internet using my green screen text-based browser to find out that Kieren Perkins had smashed the 1500m freestyle world record and won a gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics.
I knew the result before everyone else; who had to wait for the delayed telecast. Finding this information was not easy though. I think I may have used “Archie“, the very first Internet search engine.
My 1996 description of the juvenile Internet:
The Internet is a global network of over three million computers worldwide. The Internet is growing faster than any other communications market, roughly doubling every year since 1989. As many as 30 million people use the Internet with thousands of new subscribers joining every day.
The complexity of the Internet is hidden from view giving the appearance of a seamless web of interconnected resources; you can be downloading music from Finland one moment and viewing images in Africa the next! One facet of the Internet is the World Wide Web (WWW). The WWW is a software system that makes the Internet user-friendly and links documents across the Internet, through text, graphics and sound. The Web gives marketers global coverage for a relatively low cost.
According to Business Review Weekly, The key to understanding the Net and its importance is that this is a communications revolution, not an information revolution. Distributing masses of information is one aspect of the Net. On-line commerce in the future will be more about building relationships than selling … Businesses will be communicating with people, and they will be communicating with businesses and with each other (James O’Toole BRW, May 8, 1995).
First impressions of the World Wide Web
I created my first web site in 1994.
I coded the web site by hand in Hyper Text Mark-up Language or HTML for short. The web site was titled “Josh‘s Sanctum” as a play-on-words; since sanctum means a private place and the Internet was proving to be the exact opposite. The web site address was http://minyos.xx.rmit.edu.au/~s924603/ – which looks pretty long and antiquated now. At the time however I displayed it with pride in my electronic signature on emails and newsgroup postings.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org.EDU.AU (Joshua Rowe) Newsgroups: comp.infosystems.www.users Subject: JOSH'S SANCTUM is online... <---- <---- <---- <---- Date: 2 Feb 1995 01:52:34 GMT JOSH'S SANCTUM is online.... Let me know what you think of my new web page http://minyos.xx.rmit.edu.au/~s924603/ If you want me to add your link to my homepage just drop me a line at email@example.com -- |~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Joshua Rowe~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~| | Advertise firstname.lastname@example.org Perception is | | here http://minyos.xx.rmit.edu.au/~s924603/ Reality | |______________B.Eng(Civil)/B.Bus RMIT Melbourne, Australia_________________|
My first Internet start up
I started a web site development business “Sanctum Internet Consultants” in 1994. My fledgling business offered web page packages for small and large businesses. The sanctum.com.au web site advertised single text-based web sites or multi-page web sites with graphics and your own domain name.
Australia was an early adopter as far as the Internet went. There were more domain names registered under .au than any other country code top-level domain in 1991 – a grand total of 29. Some early .au domain name registration statistics suggest that my registration of “sanctum.com.au” was one of the first 2500 com.au domain names to be registered. This contrasts with over 2.7 million .au domain names registered in 2014.
There are over 2.4 billion people using the Internet globally which is only 34% penetration.
The Internet is becoming a core ingredient in everything we do; social media, wearable devices, Internet of things, etcetera. However, the opportunities for Internet service innovation and invention is boundless. The same goes for increased penetration of Internet access around the globe.
Thirsty for more?
Read my 2008 Masters thesis which includes an ethnographic narrative on the evolution of Internet industry and policy in Australia: http://domainusability.com/