Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Saturday, 12 August 2006

Fifteen years of the Internet - nostalgia alert!

Earlier this week there were numerous mentions of the fact that it is 15 years since internet software was released to the world by CERN. So far as I recall my first experience of going online using my own PC at home was in about October or November 1991, just two months or so after that, when I logged onto Compuserve in the United States when I lived in Hong Kong. This was vastly expensive because not only was there the cost of a trans-Pacific telephone call, but it cost about USD10 an hour to be online at Compuserve in the early days, so it wasn't a facility I used very much - however, it was exciting simply to be able to do it. My PC at the time was a Sharp laptop with a black-and-white LCD screen and a rathery rickety 56Kb portable modem plugged into the serial socket at the side; it was the first PC I had of my own with a built-in hard drive, 20Mb I think, which in those days was pretty cutting-edge (I got it in 1989 or 1990). My two earlier machines, the first purchased in August 1982 (at a cost of about GBP2,200 equivalent when I was in Hong Kong), didn't even have a built-in floppy drive, but it did have a built-in cassette tape drive, both for storing software and data - I got a dual 5 1/4 inch floppy drive unit for my Christmas present to myself in late-November 1982, costing about GBP800 (in HKD).

However, I had been online 2 or 3 years before that, using an IBM PC in the office in Abu Dhabi to log onto the company's (a bank) own online banking intranet, at that time available only to corporate customers, offices and staff. Basically one could do all of the usual things (set up stading orders, make transfers) although I used it principally to manage my securities account in Hong Kong. For office purposes also to manage the accounts of various of our more important private clients.

It wasn't however until I was back living in the UK in 1994 that I had my own internet account, initially for about six months with an online news service, run by The Times newspaper I think, but it was very clunky and rather expensive for the fairly limited service provided. I think it was during 1995 that I signed up with Compuserve in the UK as an ISP, providing me with an email address and access to the internet and Compuserve newsgroups which, in those days, were pretty active. The monthly fee (about GBP7 I think) provided 5-hours of online time, beyond which it cost about GBP1.20-1.50 an hour I think, in addition to which there was the cost of a local 'phone call. Oh, and I think you were limited to about 20 emails a month(!!!) before additional charges kicked in. We've come a long way in a short period of time.

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