January 21, 2001
11:27 AM   Subscribe

The NYTimes looks back upon its 5 years of existence on the Web. There's even a small Flash movie detailing how the front page has changed over the years. When the heck did the Web start getting old?
posted by jkottke (28 comments total)

I remember going to my ISP's office one day in order to play on their Nextstation, since that was the only way I could get my paws on Mosaic. A bunch of us spent a few hours flipping around the all-B&W Web, and generally thought it was a neat concept, too bad there's not much there unless you're a scientist.

Anything after that makes me feel old. :)
posted by aaron at 11:54 AM on January 21, 2001

>When the heck did the
>Web start getting old?

Life speeds by when you're living it in Internet time.

"Let's Do The Time Warp Again"
posted by webchick at 12:07 PM on January 21, 2001

What aaron said. The Web makes nostalgia all but instant.

And yet, I think the rate of noticeable change has slowed. The Web has stopped growing up, if you like, and started growing outwards.
posted by holgate at 12:49 PM on January 21, 2001

Pfff... I remember using 'screen' over a 1200 baud (that's 1.2 kbps) connection to my university's terminal server so I could have *two* gopher windows open :-)...

[patiently awaiting for the first "in my time we had to plug the telephone set into two rubber suckers on the back of a typewriter and 'surf' over a 120 baud connection" post]

Anybody remember wustl? simtel? garbo? "the list of lists"? fsp?

posted by costas at 12:53 PM on January 21, 2001

aaron, I think you're thinking of the "World Wide Web" browser that TBL wrote and released through CERN. I think Mosaic came a year or two later.
posted by costas at 12:58 PM on January 21, 2001

I remember my first modem (24 HUNDRED BAUD). I used it to connect to BBSes and play my favourite game of the time, Legend of the Red Dragon.
posted by jpate at 1:42 PM on January 21, 2001

I would subconsciously wake up at 2 in the morning to be the first to play for the day, having the advantage over the other players to follow
posted by jpate at 1:43 PM on January 21, 2001

When you ask that question, you're really asking "when the heck did *I* start getting old?" And you ask it over and over and over… or is that I've "stopped growing up, if you like, and started growing outwards"?
posted by rodii at 2:05 PM on January 21, 2001

When you ask that question, you're really asking "when the heck did *I* start getting old?" And you ask it over and over and over… or is that I've "stopped growing up, if you like, and started growing outwards"?
posted by rodii at 2:05 PM on January 21, 2001

I was just realizing the other day that Bill Clinton was first elected in 1992 - that takes me back to the days before I even owned a PC, before most anyone had heard of the Internet, before modems were standard hardware, before Wired Magazine launched, before a lot of the things I do every day were even dreamed of. Amazing how much can happen in 8 years, no?
posted by kokogiak at 2:33 PM on January 21, 2001

Legend of the Red Dragon... oh my God, I'd almost forgotten about that game! I played that so obsessively for a couple of months during a summer break. Then I got my school shell account, and LambdaMOO completely blew LoRD into the dust.
posted by wiremommy at 2:46 PM on January 21, 2001

If anyone wants to play LORD again, on a BBS, go to bobobbs.net, and download the specially configured telnet program that allows you to login to this BBS, Bobo's BBS.
posted by jpate at 3:20 PM on January 21, 2001

Trivia: What machine did Yahoo originally run on?
posted by aaron at 3:23 PM on January 21, 2001

I think BBS's were the real internet early on, in primitive and (mostly) localised form. I started out on them in the late 80's, and the basic elements of the web - individual "sites" tailored to the interests of their owners (including corporations - ah, the days of making long-distance calls to download patches or drivers...); a wide variety of (at the time) fascinating, instantly-accessible content; community interaction, both public and (sort of) private - it was all there. In a lot of ways, the web is just an exponentially larger, faster and more polished version of the BBS world of so long ago.
posted by Noah at 3:23 PM on January 21, 2001

BBSes are kids play. 100 years ago I was checking my etrade portfolio via the ticker tape machine in the boss's office. I think the machine ran at 30 bps or something like that.
posted by gluechunk at 3:35 PM on January 21, 2001

Anybody remember wustl? simtel? garbo?

Believe it or not, they all still exist. Wustl. Simtel. Garbo. And all appear to be up-to-date.
posted by aaron at 3:36 PM on January 21, 2001

aaron, a 133 Mhz Pent.?
posted by gluechunk at 3:41 PM on January 21, 2001

If you mean machine name, Yahoo used to run on Akebono, of course. I had found some stuff (self-blog ahead!) on Yahoo's history a while back.
posted by anildash at 3:57 PM on January 21, 2001

>I think the machine ran at 30 bps
>or something like that.

I remember my first experience with telecommunications...I had to use one of those modems where one dialed a telephone and rested the handset in a cradle...I believe they were called acoustic couplers.

(OK, I am feeling really depressed now...I think I will drop out of this thread and take my afternoon nap. :-)
posted by webchick at 4:00 PM on January 21, 2001

My first was an acoustic coupler too, connected to a teletype. You punched up your program on paper tape, connected to the timesharing place and ran your tape, printed out all your error messages, logged off and did it all again.

I also remember on usenet in the late 80's (my "real internet"), there was constant friction with Fidonet (part of noah's "real internet") users that had access to netnews via gateways, because, like they had no culture and weren't elite like us. (We didn't know how to spell 733t right yet.) Also because everything propogated through Fidonet like molasses in January on Mars, and so, weeks after a flamewar would subside, some Fidonet hacker in Manitoba or Belo Horizonte or Lusaka would finally get the offending posts and it would start up all over again.

We also did those, oh, damn, what were they called? APAs! Where a bunch of people would write up their little 4 or 8 page zines, mail them to someone who would copy and collate them together and send them out to membership. Sort of a very slow, very inefficient single-topic Metafilter. Who needs TCP/IP?

posted by rodii at 4:29 PM on January 21, 2001

Yeah, I was talking about the web address: akebono.stanford.edu/yahoo. akebono is still there, but gutted; just a couple of directories and photos.

Did anyone else here ever use Bitnet Relay Chat? Or use Bitnet at all? What a beautifully-twisted design; one site goes down and half the net is cut off because there's no interconnection! Made things quite an adventure.

On the other hand, Bitnet did spawn LISTSERV.
posted by aaron at 5:01 PM on January 21, 2001

Yahoo was yahoo.stanford.edu when I got there :-)... I thought it was kinda cool to type 'yahoo' on the Netscape 2.x URL line and get there because of the default domain --before the days of RealNames of course :-) --. Alas, by that time Yahoo had moved out of Raines and was a hot little startup.

As for wustl et al: yeah, I've been peripherally aware of their continuing existence. But somehow, digging through the massive wustl archive looking for ... well *anything* cool, was much more satisfying than plugging things into google. I know Google is infinitely cooler, but that satisfaction of actually *finding* something bizarre or cool or useful yourself, by sheer patience, is gone. Garbo was also uber-cool back then. I wonder if Prof Timo Salmi is still around maintaining that beast...
posted by costas at 8:46 PM on January 21, 2001

Just checked Garbo's site... T.Salmi's name's still up, but he's not the primary contact --for the website at least. There were a few years back pre-Web when almost every question on the comp.sys.ibm-pc.* and comp.os.windows.* newgroups would eventually be answered by TS with a pointer to the Garbo archive. Those were some popular groups --300-400+ posts a *day*...

I am so grateful for *that* Usenet: what I learned on those groups back then eventually changed my career course and my life. The difference I think between *that* Internet --the Usenet internet, the mailserv and listserv Internet and this one --the Web Internet-- is that then information was passed around communities/groups of people on newsgroups, mailing lists, even ftp sites --to get to an ftp site with a cool archive, you had to be told to go there, there were no search engines. As a result, you could easily found out cool new things without looking for them, by just hanging out at a group or a list.

That internet was a horizontal network so to speak. This internet is vertical: websites deal with specific topics; you have to go looking for info to get it, you don't (usually) happen upon it. I think that's what the weblogs and the web-boards like MeFi have given us back...

posted by costas at 8:57 PM on January 21, 2001

Geez... You all are old.
My first online experiences didn't come until 10th grade, 1993-94, when I learned to pretend I was a boy so I wouldn't get constantly hit on and harassed when I logged on to BBSes.
I remember all I could find was gaming (not my thing), government information (also not really my thing) and chat rooms (fun, as long as I pretended to be over 18 & male).
I also remember being vaguely aware of some really cool-sounding online communities, but they were all long distance or paid subscription ...

posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:24 PM on January 21, 2001

Yep. Us oldsters here. Akebono? Check. Cello? Check. Compuserve? Check. Acoustic couplers? Check ...

Though it's really interesting how little certain key sites like Yahoo or the NYT have changed.
posted by dhartung at 12:10 AM on January 22, 2001

croutonsupafreak: We're about the same age, and I know everything these people are talking about, and even have experience with some.

Which is scary, really, because that's where I spent my childhood. :-)

I remember being, oh, 10 years old (around 88 I guess) and my dad hooking up the phone to the acoustic coupler so I could go online and play some star wars game on some server somewhere. That was my first Internet experience. Then I learned about nethack, and didn't see the sun for weeks...

I called my first BBS based on an ad in the local community newspaper. They were a pay board, but with guest access I was able to get to their BBS listings and discovered an entire underworld of people who not only liked computers, they understood them and knew what I was talking about when I asked BASICA questions.

Once a geek, always a geek. :-)
posted by cCranium at 8:13 AM on January 22, 2001

My addiction was GEnie. I had an account on that service for thirteen and a half years -- in fact, I still had it until Y2K problems (and a management indifferent to fixing them) shut the service down in December of 1999. My first day job, my first freelance writing job, my first romance -- all happened on that service. It was important to my young life.

First rule of online services: make yourself useful enough to qualify for a staff account. (Which I did within the first year.)
posted by kindall at 9:02 AM on January 22, 2001

>Acoustic couplers? Check ...

Not that anybody asked, but I have been informed offline that the geek term for "acoustic coupler" is "phone bra."

(proving that the real world is still an untapped source of quirky, unexpected tidbits of information :-)
posted by webchick at 11:12 AM on January 22, 2001

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