information superhighway

A friend sent this to me last week and I got a kick out of it. For one thing, I kind of look at 1995 as the year I became a real person – I started listening to music and keeping a journal and fawning over boys – but this reminded me of how long ago it really was. I mean, I was ten years old for God’s sake.

It also brought back fond memories of my early relationship with the internet. The World Wide Web, if you will (does anyone actually call it that anymore?). I first discovered the internet sometime in 1995; my dad has always worked in IT and is a huge computer nerd, so we had some form of the internet even before that, but I didn’t use it. My friend Sara and I would spend hours on Encarta and Cinemania but that computer curiosity hadn’t yet extended to the internet.

Until one night when, for some reason, my father decided to share with me the magic of the internet. I still remember the first website I visited: that of the Louvre in Paris (some Googling has just informed me that the Louvre was one of the first museums to establish a website, which they did in 1995). I don’t remember being all that impressed; my dad had explained the internet as a way you could “go places on your computer without actually going there” so I expected the internet to be full of virtual tours, and it definitely wasn’t. (He also explained his networking job as “making computers talk to each other,” which I didn’t take quite so literally.)

Shortly after visiting the Louvre’s home on the web, perhaps even the same evening, I ended up with my very first internet friend. Yes, I started early. I don’t recall her name, which is unfortunate because I’d love to try and find her, but she lived in Jakarta, Indonesia. I can still vaguely recall her picture. Somehow, my dad had found a website that matched kids with online pen-pals and I signed up. For some reason I still don’t understand and my dad doesn’t remember, my dad had me type my letters to her in Word and then he would send them from his email client. Why I couldn’t just type an email myself, I don’t know. We emailed back and forth about the Goosebumps series and what life was like in our respective countries.

That faded out eventually and so did my interest in the internet. Prior to our move to Washington, my parents and I looked up the websites of our new town and my new school, but that’s the only other internet experience I remember until 1998 when I fell deeply into everything the online world had to offer.

It doesn’t feel like all that long ago, but I was nine or ten years old when I discovered the internet and I’m twenty-six now. In 1995, it was the newfangled World Wide Web. It was the Information Superhighway complete with those good old “special interest truck stops known as websites.” It was such a big deal that celebrities were questioned about it during interviews. It’s pretty funny to watch things like this and remember how crazy and exciting it all seemed. I bet none of those people had any idea how much it would blow up and take over the world.

Do you remember the first website(s) you visited? What brought you to the internet?

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