Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On the really extreme oldness of the Internet

(this is literally just the stuff I had within reach of my desk--three phones and two cameras)
(also, why does my eyeball look so buggy?)

So, we sort of have this idea that the internet is new, that it's just this one incarnation--the one that it is now. But then sometimes you fall through a hole and it's like that kid in the X-Files movie that falls through the cave and finds those weird old bones. And then we remember that the way it is now isn't the way it always was, and if you're what the internet the way it is now considers old, like me*, you remember actual experiences of that older way. And you realize that it wasn't that long ago.

Two things:

I was looking for a recipe or something a few months ago, and I clicked on one of the top links on Google, and I landed on an Angelfire page. Like, Angelfire. Older even than Geocities, which was my first webpage ever**, and which was where most of the non-pro sites were when I was first learning how to use a computer about a minute after I learned to type on a typewriter that still had those lever-style letters. In school.

It's a weird thing, being almost fully-formed when the internet happened. Kids These Days, like my niece, who never knew a world without cellphones and wifi, and Oldsters who were already adult and functional human beings for years beforehand, don't have the same experience. I learned to type on a typewriter that was old (but not an uncommon sight at all) because my school was poor and thought I'd never have a reason to use it--and then two or four years later, I had a computer in my living room with internet connectivity*** and a website and an email address****.

As an exercise in my notebook one day, I decided to make a technological timeline of my own life, because I was thinking about my placement in that Bridge Generation, and my personal relationship to my own personal tech, and how far into existing on the internet I've come--so that sometimes I don't really think about Life Before WiFi, and how hard it was to go back those weeks recently when I was Horribly Offline, and before that when I Terribly Lost My Phone.

Early on, my timeline had things like "got first tv" and "saw first computer (Apple II at school)" and "dad brings home Apple IIc". Then we got a VCR. Then I got my own radio, a second radio after I took the first one apart and put it back together and there were parts still out, and a big-screen tv. We got cable right before I got a boombox and my first CDs, then I worked at a bookstore the two years it took to transition VHS to DVD*****, and then it really took off, and it got really crowded on that timeline. Cellphone, computer, internet, the history of my personal blogs, bang bang bang bang. If I continue the timeline, I'll have to give a whole lot more space for each year so I have space to write it all down.******

The point here, is that when I got the radio, and when dad brought home that Apple IIc, it was a Big Deal. Now I get a new phone and it's a big deal, and then only for a few days or weeks until I figure out how to use the thing, and since I'm perpetually poor, it's already outdated and more of a necessity to participate in current reality than something special.

And it happened quickly. And it's still happening quickly. And it makes ya forget.

So I'm trying not to forget.

How about you?

*I'm 34. The very very tail end of Generation X or the very beginning of Generation Y, in that grey area that seems appropriate for how I straddle that pre-and-post website world.
**It was called Trapdoor Dragon, like the idea of a dragon that hunted the way trapdoor spiders work, an inside joke I can't remember anything about how it happened. It had a super-simple animation because my best friend was learning how to code, and it was mostly fandom pages before I even knew how to find other people who gave a crap about that sort of thing, and there was not a single thing as commenting or even bulletin boards or chatrooms yet. I just did a google to see if it still existed, and found a page for Nethack, the first PC video game I ever played, and one I still miss and keep meaning to download again.
***It was dialup for free, and even then I thought it was slow, but it was extinct by the time I had my second computer in and after college only two years later (and that was a holdout), because we got cable wifi as soon as the dorms were wired for it.
****My first handle, when they were still called handles was PixieQueen.
*****The first one I saw that I wanted, the first one I'd never seen on VHS, was Clan of the Cave Bear, which, incidentally, I'm pretty sure is why I can read at speed, since I was obsessed with it one summer when I was five or six and it's all subtitles. It's probably also why subs don't bother me much.
******I'm hoping to add "went to the moon" and "owned first personal spaceship" to the list at some point.
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