Are you old enough to remember life before the internet?
I was alive then but I really have to think about what I did during my free time before the internet. It has become such an integral part of our lives it almost seems impossible to live without it.
One of my primary uses for the internet is information gathering. I love to learn about all kinds of stuff and I have so many interests that I finish a web search on one topic and once I am satisfied with the info I learned I am on myspace seeing what is going on with my favorite bands. All the information I would ever want is just one Google search away...
Then I head to all the message boards and internet communities that I belong to in order to see what is going on in the lives of my online friends. I have met people I would have never met before if it wasn't for the internet. Made some great friends... some I have met in person and some I only know them from their screen names. It is funny when I think I am the only one obsessed about something then I find an entire community of people whom are more obsessed than me. Trippy stuff. But there was a time before the internet... well... a time before the internet as we know it today.
I was always an information junkie. I have many obsessions and whatever obsession I had at any given time I had to find out more about it. From Star Wars to Chicago (the band). Whatever nugget of info I could get was precious to me. Before internet that meant I spent time in book stores looking for books on the topic. Some I would buy others I would turn to that one page that had the info I wanted. I wanted to know the history of my favorite bands... there was a book on that. I would look at the newspaper daily to see if any information about my favorite bands showed up in the entertainment section. When an article showed up I would cut out the article so I could refer to it later. If there was a topic I would like I would buy a book on it. It was harder to get info back in the day but it was available. You just had to know where to find it and I found a way. Even though I would never want to go back to those days there was something fun about the challenge of information gathering. It is much more easy today. All I need to do is do a search and I can spend a week just on one topic alone.
Where it all began
My first experience with the internet was my Sophomore year in college. The year was 1993. I was a Graphic Design major that was an option under the Industrial Technology (IT) department at the time at Fresno State. At the top floor in the IT building they had one of a limited few internet computer labs. Very few people spent time up there. It was mostly computer buffs and people who would play this online text only computer game called MUTT. Never played it myself but it reminds me of Dungeons and Dragons from what I recall. I heard about the internet but it really didn't interest me much. Some of the IT students would go up there and talk online with people all over the world. I thought that was an interesting concept but the way I communicated best was face to face. I didn’t even like talking on the phone much because I needed to see someone’s body language when talking to them. At least in a phone conversation you have voice fluctuations but the internet was just words on the screen.
One day this guy from a couple of my classes, whom I thought was kinda strange but interesting, really wanted to show me this thing called the "internet". I figured way not try it out. So I follow him up the flight of stairs to the "internet room". Keep in mind that web browsers weren’t popular yet at this point because there wasn’t websites as we know them today. We entered the empty room and he turned computers on. This computer didn't have windows installed so he had to hit a few commands on the DOS prompt and there it was. An international chat room. I said "Hi" and some person from some European country said "hi" back. Nothing too exciting. I just watched the text scroll up as people were talking about, in my opinion, nothing. I looked over at him and he was jamming away at the keyboard and I was trying to discern what they were talking about. There were so many people talking at once I couldn’t figure it out and honestly I didn’t care.
I told him I had to go and he logged me out and asked if I wanted to come back and do the internet again tomorrow. I told him no. He was visably sadden by the response. He really wanted an internet buddy since a lot of people really didn't care to hang out with him in that computer lab. Why he wanted me to be on the internet so bad is beyond me. He had his friends to talk to online why does he need another person in the room talking on the same chat room.
A week went by and every time he would see me he would beg me to go back to the computer lab with him again and each time I said NO. We were in a woodshop class together and one of my projects I was working on turned up in the wood scrap pile. Luckily someone recognized it. I think it was him because we shared a locker in that class but I couldn’t prove it but I did stop putting my stuff in there. Well after a couple of weeks went by he came into class with a folded piece of paper that he said was for me. I opened it up and it was obviously something he made up on the computer that said I owed the school about a 150 dollars for the time I spent on the internet that day. He said that the only way I could get out of paying the bill is if I got on the internet at least 3 times a week so I can prove that I was using it for research. He said if you just get on once the school knows I was just messing around. I don't remember what I said to him but I did make it very clear that I knew he was full of it. After about 2 more weeks of him reminding me to pay the bill he finally gave up and left me alone and I did my best to stay far from him
Of course I didn't stay away from the internet forever. Once the concept of websites and internet graphics became popular I had to learn what this internet was all about since I knew that if I wanted to continue in Graphic Design I had to learn about websites. I started out like most people on AOL dial up. I learned to email other family members who had the internet, I began bookmarking favorite sites related to my interests, and the rest is for another random blog on another random day.
What I miss about the old days
Sometimes when I get a little obsessive on the internet and spend way too many hours online, I wish it was easier for me to turn off the computer, go to the library, and look up information the old way. It is much harder to do but at least I would be getting myself away from this screen that I spend way to much in front of. But with that said the thought of spending a week or even a day away from the computer is tough. Any time I have tried there is something that creeps into my head that I just HAVE TO know about and I turn the computer back on again.
There Is Hope
Lately I have been able to find a solution to my internet problem. Podcasts. Podcasts are downloadable internet radio shows. Yes, podcasts are on the internet, but they are downloadable to an ipod. What I have been able to do is download podcasts that relate to my favorite topics. I download them onto my ipod and listen to them while I do my walks, while I am sitting back with my eyes closed on my recliner, or while I am working around the house. Podcasts are a way to gather information and learn about things without staring at a screen. If you haven’t checked out podcasts download iTunes which is a free program and look through the podcast directory. All the podcasts in the directory are free of charge. You will be surprised how well these shows are produced. Some are made by a company to promote their product or show and some are fan produced by people who love the topic so much that they want to share with others. Hmmm... maybe I should make a podcast version of this website? NA... that will just be more time I will have to spend in front of the computer.