I am older than the internet. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not. The net turned 30 this week, well on the 1st of January and for those keeping score I am 36. I was only 6 when DARPA’s switch on the TCP/IP protocol.

I have to be honest I have no idea what DARPA is or what a TCP/IP protocol does, but Vint Cerfand did and we are a better world for it. So much so that when I search for what DARPA is, I don’t have to go to a library and look through a physical book or microfilm. I just Google it.

I first came online in 1997 while in my first year of university. I remember my induction when one of the lectures kept mentioning intranet, and us newbie’s just presumed he was getting it wrong. How naive we were. I also remember my own university email address which consisted of a bunch of numbers @ the year I started dot the name of the university dot ac dot uk I still remember the numbers even 13 years after I left uni. Sad I know.

My first look at the information super highway, as we it used to be called, consisted of bland, blocky sites with terrible animated gifs. All compressed to within an inch of its life to make sure it could all be delivered along a 28.8k modem. As a sign of how much has changed Yahoo was one of the biggest sites with email and content all on one page

Being a learning organisation we were lucky to get a direct connection which I believe used to top out at around 1mb for the user on a good day (usually Sunday). At home it was a dial up 56k modem which used to cost per minute. My housemate and I found a free provided of the net called “Stream” which would show banner adds but dial up was to a freephone number. The downside it was always busy and we would spend many an hour dialling and redialling as we got the engaged tone. Until, at long last you were through.

It was also around this time I downloaded my first MP3. Ok… it wasn’t a legal download and it took a fair few minutes on the university computers, but it was there in my virtual hands. A new way to consume music was starting and the record companies had no idea how to deal with it. (Movie companies at the time felt safe. 20 min download for a 3min song. A movie was going to take months)

I don’t need to mention how the internet has changed since then. Britain leads the world in online shopping and some of the world’s most visited news are British. Even now I look around me and I can count at least 9 different bits of equipment that connect to the internet, from laptops to smart phones to games consoles to set top boxes. Each pulling content from the information super highway just for me and my family.

How the BBC used to look  when it launched in 1997

How the BBC used to look when it launched in 1997


DARPA stands for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and TCP/IP is a set of communications protocols used for the Internet

Categories: GeekRandom


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