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21 years and the internet comes of age

Posted on: October 18th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, social media, Technology

Computer mind explosion1989 – just 21 years ago. How different things were then. I was not living in NZ at the time so I was not here to witness the birth of the internet which is being so beautifully documented this month by the Wellington digital agency Heyday.

They have created an online visual calendar of the past 21 years of the internet’s birth, adolescence and maturity with a single day spanning a year. They are calling it “Down to the Wire“. Started on Monday 11th October and due to conclude on Monday the 1st November. The project is a comprehensive visual history of the internet. I commend them for their execution which has become addictive daily viewing.

1989_ The Story of New Zealand_s InternetAnother compelling piece of viewing has been the superb BBC documentary series “Virtual Revolution” which has been aired on Sky’s Living Channel for the past 4 Sunday nights. This is a series of unprecedented richness and insight into the impact the web has had on our lives over the past two decades. I was somewhat surprised to see it air on Sky as opposed to TVNZ – a sad reflection of the output of formula-driven, mass-market, mind-numbingly repetitive crime dramas that seem to proliferate the TV screen these days. This is in the classic form – a great documentary.

The series is energetically presented by Aleks Krotoski who has had the opportunity to interview some of the great luminaries of the technical world – Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Al Gore (the man who claims to have invented the internet – as opposed to the person who did invent the web – Tim Berners Lee, Steve Wozniak, Eric Schmit as well as a host of other key people – the only conspicuously missing individuals would be Larry Page & Sergey Brin and of course Steve Jobs.

If you have missed watching the series I recommend you at the very least watch some of the online videos on the website and hope some time soon another channel broadcasts it or see if you can download it on iTunes. It is incredibly good, not so much as a chronological history of 20 years of the web but more as a forward looking discussion of the impact that this digital revolution has had and will continue to have on our daily lives.

I reflect on the past 20 years and consider myself fortunate to have been a witness to this period of history and further to have had the opportunity to have participated in some of these technological advancements. I have to confess to being defined by sociologists as a late baby boomer (although someone very kindly called me the oldest Gen Y’er), and as such am judged to be a digital immigrant, despite this tagging I am passionate about what the future holds through yet further technological advancements; the scope of which we may not yet have even conceived.

Indulge me if you will, to allow me to share some of my personal highlights of the early years of the web!

  • I first came across the principle of the web in 1989 when I was in France on business and discovered Minitel – a private web which allowed Parisians the ability to order stuff through a modem connected terminal in home.
  • I first used email in 1994 with communication between London and LA during my time working for a movie company. I felt trepidation in sending an email direct to a studio exec, somehow I judged in those days that a fax message was in someways less intrusive than a message flashing up on a PC screen.
  • I first discovered the web through a hideous website for Village Cinemas in 1995 through a Netscape browser – I recall the experience of blue and red font on a black screen as being really straining on the eyes!
  • I logged onto the web for the first time from my first home computer in 1996 – I recall unpacking that Xtra box allowing me to connect up to my then new PC Direct PC to the web and establish my own personal email address.
  • In 1999 I managed the design and build (or to be correct had built for me by the amazing guys at Webmasters) my first website – www.mode.co.nz (sorry no longer there!) – it was a site to compliment the specialised service of new home building of masonary constructed houses that I was involved with at the time, as part of Fletcher Building.
  • In 2000 I undertook a study tour of the US with a team from Fletcher Building to investigate e-Business (this was the term of the day then). We visited some great companies (Cisco / GE / GM) and some great dotcom hopefuls (Ariba / Buildnet / Webvan). The latter company – Webvan was my favourite – delivering home grocery shopping via the web. It was probably the most expensive dotcom crash ever taking over US$1,000,0000,000 of investors money with it as it crashed, a very small piece of which was my own money!

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