I was born in the Spring of 83. TCP/IP was also born around this time. The Internet and I grew up together.
One of my earliest memories is the funny cradle that my dad would put the telephone in to connect his IBM 286 to the Xerox network. After the 386 was introduced, he put a KVM switch under the modem cradle, and the 286 became a toy for me and my brothers. He also got a DB25 switch so we could share the printer. This progression continued all the way through the development of the Pentium chip.
9600 baud–what’s that? The speed of the first connection I ever initiated to a local BBS ran by a guy at the video store. I didn’t really understand what I was doing and eventually got banned, but it set the stage for a lifelong interest in technology and network communications.
My first email account was from a free service called Juno. I think it was SkiWeasell@juno.com (when I was a kid, I used to ski with a weasel hat on). I remember we had Prodigy Internet service, but it wasn’t very cool because there weren’t many websites yet, so none were very interesting to a kid, and I hadn’t yet figured-out IRC and ICQ. The FUN Internet was AOL because it had chat rooms, instant messenger, and a pretty good email system. It was the precursor to social media. I think they even had built-in games. My parents wouldn’t get an America Online account, but some neighbor families had one. Those kids got in trouble for running-up outrageous usage charges.
In my quest to be the coolest kid on AOL (even without my own account), I discovered the l33t h4X0r software tools that were made by AOL hackers/crackers. Programs like AOHell and Fate enabled a user to do all sorts of crazy things on the network, including hijacking passwords and creating new usernames under someone else’s account. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong at the time. I was a kid. It seemed harmless.
After AOL, the Internet and I went through a serious growth spurt. Online gaming with friends was suddenly possible. 56k modems became standard. Windows 98SE was the most awesome thing ever. I went to Jr. High where I got involved with Napster and rumors started about something called ISDN broadband. As a freshman in high school, I learned about the eXcite search engine. Finally got a cable modem when I was a sophomore. By the time I was a senior, Google was king of searching, I got a couple certifications and was making money part-time with my technology knowledge (Techknowledgey).
When we went off to college, people were calling the Internet Web 2.0, I had a serious girlfriend, the dotcom boom had passed, 9/11 changed everything, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Occasionally we’ve gone our separate ways to do our own thing for a while, but we stayed connected. Now that we are maturing and developing a strong identity, I understand what it means to have a brother like the Internet. The web helps me out and encourages me, supports me when I most need it, and I look forward to seeing what the future has in store for us.