I was assigned my first e-mail address as a Freshman at the University of Arizona. It was 1991.
Professors were suppose to connect with their students regarding classes and assignments via electronic mail, but no one had a computer in those days. Students and faculty alike were meant to use the computer lab in a building several blocks from my dorm.
I can count on one hand how many times in my four years I attended college that I visited the computer lab.
All of my college papers were written on a Brother ML-500 Electronic Word Processing Typewriter. I thought I was so state of the art with my dozens of floppy disks.
My first encounter with the Internet was also in college, circa 1995. My boyfriend at the time had a desk top computer (talk about state of the art), a giant piece of machinery that took up the entire surface of his kitchen table. He even had a printer. He used an online communications system called Prodigy.
He boasted how he could “look up” anything and information would be provided right there on the screen in front of us. Sure enough, as soon as I blurted out “Madonna”, he printed out a one page biography of the controversy-making pop queen. I was astounded.
Fast forward to 2011 and you will find “248,000,000 results on ‘Madonna’ in 0.16 seconds.” on Google.
To say that times have changed is a gross understatement.
By 1996, I was on a computer every day at work, but had yet to experience the world wide web. I did have an AOL account and would go home on my lunch break to IM friends. It was amazing, just like having a phone conversation, but better and way more fun.
Five years later, my parents bought me my first lap top on which I spent hours on e-mail and on-line shopping. My favorite shopping cart at the time was at Amazon.com. Since 2001, I have made over 100 purchases on Amazon.com (of course they keep track).
Sharing this new technology with my father was for lack of a better word, sweet and amusing. He never quite accepted the concept that what you found on the Internet would remain there for you to recall another time and so he would print out everything. Having hard copies made him comfortable not to mention killed a lot of trees.
What I have found in my 15 years of Internet experience is that as long as you own a computer (or an iPhone) and have Internet access, virtually (pun intended) anything is possible.
The Internet is the best and arguably the evilest invention ever. Everything is available right at our finger tips.
Today we get our world news, entertainment and weather on line. We Tweet, Pin and Stumble. We order groceries, diapers and the latest fashions, we research, find support, self-diagnose, fall in love, plan a wedding, prepare for a baby, book an exotic vacation and connect with our entire high school graduating class, even if we never said a word to them in person. We play Scrabble with our neighbors and laugh out loud to videos of giggling babies, we download, upload, bookmark, backup and can hide away from the world if we choose.
It’s sad when you stop and think about it. With the Internet, the need for real human interaction is almost unnecessary.
Knowing what I know now, I wonder if I could go back to 1991. Could you?
This post is for Write On Edge’s weekly writing assignment RemembRED. This week’s prompt: recall those early memories of being online.