I’m not going to bore you with the specifics and history of the Internet here, but I will say that the web is now a ubiquitous part of modern technology. In a subtle irony it is at the centre of our digital universe, as well as BEING our digital universe. There is not an industry that continues today that has not been touched by this new part of the world (I was loathe to write tool given that it can be so much more) in the modern world at least. So how has it touched you?
I guess more than anything this is a personal history of how the Web has affected my life, given that my generation (twenty somethings now) are really the first to have grown up with it. I got my first computer on a sunny but cold day (I think I was about twelve), and not too long after that I was astounded when we got dialup Internet access. The wealth of information was incredible. So lets take a look at what I did.
I used the web at first as a communication tool. I sent emails, I went on IRC and I had some experience of Usenet groups. I was very young back then but I immediately realised the possibilities as well as the fun that could be had. Along with the mindless chatter that kids have on the net I was telling stories with others – we were, without realising, sitting around a virtual campfire.
Looking back, they were some pretty fun times. I’m sure there were ‘bad’ people out there, early adopters looking to take advantage of the technology and kids. Maybe it’s just the press, I don’t know, but it sure seems a much more fraught place now than it was. Anyway, even back then with the most basic of graphical interfaces, things worked and people had fun online together (long before WOW and Second Life).
I never did cheat, ever. I was always too moral for that, and I still am. On the other hand, using the net if you’re studying as a research tool should be completely encouraged. Whatever subject you are interested in (literally anything) someone, somewhere will know something about it. Whether it’s fly-fishing or Dominic Diamond, someone will have something to say about it. Of course, the one downside of using the net is that sometimes the author’s credentials can be brought into question. That’s really the only consideration on the net when researching, well there’s bias too but you get that in any media.
Playing games on the net was never really developed back in the early days, but it seemed to develop as I got older. I remember a good few games of Quake played over a slow connection and yet fun it still was. Of course, things have gone so much further these days, with ‘friends lists’ and whole virtual worlds to discover. This has also created new industries, as mining or playing games for people to give them a better Gamerscore. It’s all pretty heady stuff. It also makes no sense when you look at the history of where it came from, as I had the opportunity to do. Or maybe it does make sense, and its just part of the net growing up?
One of the great things about the web is that it can bring people together. Whether it is a collaborative project or an online game, friends can be made. Not only that, but even lovers. There’s more than a few stories doing the rounds of people getting married after playing in WOW, but expanding this to the net as a whole you have the Internet dating scene. This is the new bar for the busy folk who are wrapped up in work and… well… using the net I suppose!
So Where Are We Going?
I’m not sure if anyone can answer where the Web is going, what with Web 2.0, memes and various other buzz-phrases coming in and out of fashion quicker than anyone can blink. Newsnight on the BBC has touched on something interesting though, and that is the net is becoming almost like a religion. Bringing people together, putting them in touch with themselves and I guess the Internet acting as the Church or doorway to it all. For me though, one thing is sure. The net is going to continue apace as more get connected. I for one cannot wait to see what the new developments are going to be.