The information memory lane

I discovered yesterday that the first edition of ‘The Internet for Dummies‘ was published in 1993.


But the internet barely existed in 1993!

Yeah, yeah, I know about Arpanet, Darpanet, Janet, and usenet in the 1970s and 80s, but it was 1991 when Berners-Lee put the first html site on line for academics and scientists to share stuff and the first sensible browser didn’t appear until 1993 when Mosaic was released.  Mosaic was developed by Marc Andreessen and was the precursor to Netscape.  If you want a sweetly retro experience, you can still download it here.   Well I say you can download it.  If you follow the link and rummage around you’ll be forcibly reminded that in those days only geeks were good to go.


I was in fact aware of the Internet in 1993, but only tangentially.  I’d spent the very early 1990s working for a company which sent emails to fax machines.  In those dim and far off days the network which became the Internet was just one Public Data Network among, oh, a few, and the service we provided may or may not have been using the Internet as a carrier.   My employers also sold modems (9.6k, 800 quid a pop) with CompuServe CDs in the boxes but we removed the CompuServe CDs because, let’s face it, even in 1992 CompuServe’s communities and forums knocked fluffy bunnies off the email to fax service we offered.

Can you remember which was the first website you saw?  I can’t.  I suspect that it was on a machine in a customer’s office in 1995 or so, but I really cannot remember.  We were certainly using the internet by 1996 but more for email ( than for browsing.  Browsing was a bugger until search had been developed, and Alta Vista and HotBot didn’t arrive until late in 1996, with Yahoo barely 12 months earlier.  .

In a 1999 CV I proudly describe the first website I built thusly:

I designed & built this site in MS FrontPage. The site includes animated gifs, animated text, and HTML forms. This is a 21 page commercial site. The site is profitable and generates regular high quality enquiries most of which lead to sales.

FrontPage, eh?  Blimey O’Reilly.  The second site I built using Notepad, just to make sure that I could.

As I said at the start, this little meander down the information memory lane was entirely sparked by the fact that ‘The Internet for Dummies’ was first published in 1993.

This being 2008, it took me 15 minutes to track down and buy a copy.  I am looking forward to reading it, now the future’s here.


7 responses to “The information memory lane

  1. Animated gifs and animated text? *shudder* 😉

    Been there too. And have spent much editing time removing extraneous lines that Frontpage stuffed into web pages for no reason discernible outside Redmond, WA…

    Though I haven’t quite built a site in Notepad – guess I’ve always chickened out so that I could with some conviction claim I wasn’t a complete nerd 😉 Still, I’m awed.

    Thanks for the history lesson – I might refer back to it (or have the kids do it ;)).

  2. I have a lasting memory of one thing from Internet for Dummies.

    There was a list of abreviations on the left and their interpretation on the right.

    One was:

    RTFM Read the manual.

    No explanation of the missing initial, and no exclamation mark orf anything similar. Just that.

    RTFM has lived on in our family and is used frequently to anyone who tries to use a new piece of equipment and gets into trouble.

  3. Ah the internet…

    It was all green field back then you know.

    I can sort of remember my first encounter with Mosaic. It was at university in the old sun lab. Black and white machines that were far more powerful than the pcs next door. A friend had got hold of a bit of software that his brother had told him about and was showing a few of us. It was different, little did we know just what was to come.

    Back then in the world of janet and interconnected academic networks it was a world of gopher and wais trying to find information. No search engines on the net back then a few lists of interesting sites came after a while, rather than search engines as such.

    SG V, if you’re a real geek/nerd you’ll not use notepad but be editing the file on the webserver using vi. In fact, just the other day I…


  4. I suspect I was first introduced to the internet when I arrived at university in 1997, though I was vaguely aware that Dad had an e-mail address before that. It was certainly my introduction to newsgroups.

    I much prefer creating in notepad, but am forced, yes forced, to use FrontPage at work when doing website things. Grr.

    How things have moved on in the search world as well. It was Yahoo directories, or Ask Jeeves back then, with altavista as an alternative option mostly accessed for babelfisg purposes.

  5. I suspect that the first website I encountered was Yahoo in 1994. There was a bookshop in Ireland (Kennys) selling antiquarian books over the Internet (and still is today).

    Things used to be slow as a snail back then, but we were happy..

  6. It was worse than that, Santra, our corporate colours were red and black…

    I’ll look it up in the copy that’s winging it’s way to me, Elaine. RTFM is a a good expression. I also like JFDI, Just Do It, as Nike don’t quite have as their slogan.

    Arrrrr, they were real pixels in them days Phil. I must admit I never really got to grips with anything until Apple and Microsoft had developed the GUI. Gopher was hardcore.

    I don’t know what it is with organisations and Front Page, Singing Librarian. In fairness, I don’t use Notepad now, but I do use whatever code editor I find on tucows and can download for free. In fact I don’t. If I was building a new site now, I’d use wordpress and find a nice clean looking theme and be done with it.

    Interestingly and bizzarely Colm, while I was surfing for books last night, I found that Kennys in Gallway has a copy of a paper written by my uncle. At 20 quid for 9 pages, none of us seem to have the appetite to buy it though. It’s a small internet.

    Thanks all for reading and writing.


  7. While I had played with computers (Sega and Commodore – at 16Kb CPU’s and tape memory) back in 1986, my first foray onto the net was as late as 1998! With a 14K modem! I found Usenet very quickly and the newsgroup I infiltrated formed the basis for my very first website – which is still up there on Angelfire – larger but not really improved – a mate gave me a short lesson in html and ever since I have coded with notepad (complete with blinking text and animated gifs!). I moved very quickly from the early explorer to an equally early Netscape (and now I use Firefox – is there a pattern here?) and I found a cracked copy of early “Agent” for my Usenet play – I still use it, a decade and six computers later! Thanks for the memories, Aphra.

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