Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Did it start with dialup for you?

October 7th, 2017 · No Comments

Oh those quaint old days of the 20th century! Do you remember them too?

Do you remember the soft creaky groaning of dialup, when you waited for that connection? Do you remember when Netscape Navigator added images to internet pages of text? Did you make your own animated GIF avatar for Compuserve forums? Do you remember why we called it the World Wide Wait?

In 1998 (or thereabouts), our family moved to the Netherlands for 3 months, because Frank had a Lorentz Professorship. About two days before takeoff, I figured out how to sign up for Hotmail, just in case it turned out to be useful. In those simple days, short email addresses were super easy to get.

When we moved to Cambridge, about 2000, I was very anxious to have good internet cables running up through a wall between Frank’s study and mine, so we could both work at our desks with computers online. I also proposed, as a bit of a lark, that we might try something new I had read about in MacWorld, something called wifi. Without much expectation, we bought a new wireless router, which affected our lives in ways we never imagined.

Now you could unplug your computer from your desk and use it in the kitchen to try a new recipe, or even out in the garden on beautiful day. And every time you looked, there was something new online that ysou wanted to try. There were blogs, and anybody could start one! And then Cameron Marlowe made a blog tool tracking which blogs were following certain news stories, and there was a big news story about GOP shenanigans that I wanted to see blogs linking to, so there was a reason for me to start a blog, so of course I did.

Then out of nowhere, there was a guy named Dave Winer at Harvard holding big meetings where amateur bloggers could even meet tech superstars. There was a “social software” from Google called Orkut, where you could ask techy acquaintances to “friend” you, a heady rush of pleasure when they said yes.

Then bloggers got RSS, and then I got a job working for Scott Johnson at Feedster, and then along came Bloggercon and Joi Ito’s chatroom and SXSW, even more connections that put real life and your computer together. Because there were always more web things to try. Things like del.icio.us made by a #joi chatroom friend Joshua Schachter, which we all had to try. Things like Second Life, where a 2003 Newsweek story about becoming a real life millionaire selling virtual stuff there motivated so many people to give it a try. I must confess that although I did make some real-life money in Second Life, it was never enough to cover the real-life money I spent, mostly on “rent” for beautiful places to put the wild buildings I also bought, but also on bubblegum pink hair and beautiful “textures” and other fun things.

So now, just a bit more than a decade later, I can visit foreign countries without learning the important local language sentence, “Where is the nearest internet cafe?” In fact, now I am writing this blogpost while riding an airplane from Shanghai to Boston. There is probably room for another blogpost to cover the time in between, but I want to finish this one before I run out of my airline wifi!

Tags: Go go go · Metablogging · Stories · Travel · Wide wonderful world

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