I remember the first time I used the internet. I was about 7 years old, my brother was 5 years old, and our mother had recently set up internet access as a Christmas present for the both of us.
In the weeks previous, I had been seeing Disney Channel commercials that featured the channel’s mascot at the time, Clay, and that promoted the Disney website to young viewers. So when I finally got to go on the internet, what was the first thing I did? Type in http://www.disney.com.
It’s kind of insane for me to think about this now. And not just because I looked up Clay while writing this post and realized that he’s the creepiest looking lump of clay I’ve ever seen.
It’s also insane to think about because this means that I’ve spent a solid third of my life without any internet access whatsoever. And when I started thinking about that, I started to realize that my concept of time when it comes to the internet as a whole is completely messed up. A lot of web-based applications and innovations that I always assumed had been around forever are actually relatively recent creations, and applications that seem relatively new are a lot older than I originally thought.
Take online messaging, for example. Today I use Facebook Messaging all the time, and I used to use MSN constantly when I was in elementary school. But when I started to do some more research, I realized that something called Usenet was a sort of early version of these applications in that it allowed internet users to carry out virtual discussions with one another using something other than email. And it was created in 1979! Granted, computer users back then were probably talking about things other than the latest episode of The Amazing Race, but I digress.
It’s also interesting to think about how virtual creations like spamming and computer viruses are almost as old as the internet itself; the first computer virus, Creeper, was created in 1971, and the first spam email was sent in 1978. Even modern emoticons were created considerably earlier than I expected, in 1982.
No innovation or service in particular surprises or impresses me – it’s the entire timeline associated with the history of the internet. I only started using online messaging and emoticons when I was around 12 years old, and so I automatically think of them as coming into existence only when I discovered them. Likewise, Wikipedia is something that is so engrained into modern culture that I assumed it was tens of years old even though it was only founded in 2001.
The internet has definitely come a long way since I first visited that Disney Channel website in 2002. Where will it go next? I have no idea.