My latest assignment at the Pew Research Center had nothing to do with health and health care, but everything to do with my personal history as an internet geologist. Here’s the report: The Web at 25 in the U.S.
I also dug into my personal archives, from my work as a researcher during the start-up phase of RealNetworks, in 1993-4. My task back then was to track the growth of the internet population, to gather market research in order to help make predictions about who might use our software. It’s hard not to laugh at the memos I wrote, but at least I knew they were important and kept them.
What are your first memories of the internet? And how did the Web change your experience (if you were online pre-Web)?
Snapshots from my life online:
1989: I used my dad’s CompuServe account to research and buy my first car, a 1984 silver Honda Prelude (sigh, I loved that car).
1991: My friend Aladdin (!) showed me an IRC and we chatted with people in Germany and Iceland, mostly about the weather.
1993: Working for RealNetworks meant that I got a 14,4 modem at home, which looked like a silver cigar box. I remember clicking on early websites, walking away for a little while, coming back to check on how much had downloaded, walking away again…
1994: Our internet service provider was ClarkNet, a Deaf-owned company. Customer support was done through TTY, which was frustrating. I knew what I needed, the ClarkNet tech knew what I needed, but the poor TTY operator had absolutely no idea what we were talking about. We all did a lot of spelling.
1995: I left RealNetworks to work for U.S. News & World Report magazine, helping them produce a CD-ROM version of their college guide and to launch their first website.
Quick sidebar: It seems funny now, but CD-ROMs were huge back then. Pew Research devoted a big section of a 1995 survey to measuring people’s attachment to it as a technology. For example: “Does your home computer have a CD-ROM drive? (If not sure, say: A CD-ROM drive uses a small shiny disk…the disks sometimes contain encyclopedias, elaborate games, and the like.)” and “How much would you miss your CD-ROM drive, if you no longer had one… a lot, some, not much, or not at all?”
What questions are we asking now that people will laugh at in 20 years?