Thursday, May 17, 2007

Twenty Years Online!

I just realized that I’ve been writing and meeting people online for twenty years, beginning in 1987 with an account on the old Compuserve, and continuing with accounts on Prodigy (anyone remember Prodigy??) and AOL. There were also the local dial-up bulletin boards, the BBS’s that had all kinds of content. Remember those? And the software that we used to connect to these boards? The old DOS-based Procomm Plus on a 1200 baud modem ring any bells? I hadn’t thought about these for eons until yesterday when the realization of having spent two decades online popped into my cluttered head. (In the photo above, I'm - where else - sitting in front of the computer!)

I think from the start, being online was all about meeting people. Indeed, thanks to Compuserve I had my first online romantic connection in 1990, meeting a very nice woman from Savannah, Georgia. Only later, when Mosaic was the browser of choice, did I begin to exploit the vast amounts of information increasingly available. (I’ll never forget logging into the Library of Congress website for the first time and downloading samples of early 20th century film footage. Don’t laugh! At the time I was a history professor at the University of Tennessee. When one reaches that level of geekdom, it’s easy to get excited over a film clip of William McKinley’s funeral!)

When my first marriage ended in 1997 I took the fateful step of turning to the Internet to meet someone new. Putting a profile up on the relatively new, within days I found the woman who would become my wife. Our families thought we were crazy . . . but in May 1998 we married, becoming one of the early Internet couples to wed.

And here I am ten years later, writing a blog and continuing to meet people. It’s been fun, stimulating, and I look forward to what the next ten years will bring. For those of us who started using computers in the pre-Internet days of TRS-80s and the first IBM PCs, the pace of change can sometimes be staggering. For my parents’ generation, many of whom are buying their first computers in their 60s and 70s, it’s just overwhelming. So, given the tempo of change in the last 20 years, it’s hard to imagine what the future could hold for those of us online.


Tish said...

The internet is indeed a wonderful thing! You should participate in the meme I posted yesterday. You post your final words to the blogosphere as if everything would end tomorrow. :)

Btw, I think you made a typo in your first sentence of this post. 1987 would be 20 years.

Have a great day!

Tish said...

Oh, also, do you mind to change my blog addy in your sidebar? Thanks! :)

mj said...

I remember Prodigy's commercials.

BrianC said...

Tish, thanks for catching the typo!

MJ, yes, for a while there in the early days it looked as if Prodigy would be as big as AOL.

One Wink at a Time said...

Sheesh, it hardly seems possible that you're a 20-year veteran of anything, dude! But if anyone can pull off "geek" with style and panache, it's you... ;-)
I've only been online for about 2 years. I've met and grown close to a really great bunch of people and that was a totally unexpected pleasure.
My imagination couldn't possibly grasp what this medium could hold twenty years from now...
It's way cool that you met your wife online. Proof positive that technology has a warm, human side.