People who were around before the Internet, what did you initially think about it? How did you get used to it?

I started using the Internet in 1989.

For one thing, the name Internet wasn't universal back then. There were various Internet sub-networks like NYSERnet, ARPAnet, SURAnet, Merit, Nearnet etc. All were connected by the Internet protocol, but some people, including myself, referred to them as if they were different networks.

Some things were better back then. People communicated via free and open communication platforms like Usenet. It was free and open - perhaps too free and open for some people. As the cable/telco monopolies took more power, they faced no more competition and then shut it down. Hollywood didn't like it because some people were sharing songs and movies. Politicians attacked it because it had pornography and the like. Of course songs and movies were just a part of Usenet, there were lots of great and informed discussions from the 1980s on. Spam hurt it also. You can still read some at (if you know how to search properly) and some other places.

People also used to chat with each other on Internet Relay Chat. This has survived a bit better, as many people still use it. But most of the people I talk to on IRC have been on there for a long time. Younger people don't use it so much, despite how open it is.

So I guess one of the things is, the web browser is pretty much the universal interface to the Internet nowadays. Nowadays you often have a NATed LAN, which only allows http/https ports out, and that's the Internet. Even email is done mostly through a web browser nowadays. In the old days you would finger someone to see if they were online, and people like John Carmack would have well-known .plan files for people fingering them, so they could see what he was up to.

There are many ways in which the Internet was better. Nowadays telcos and cable companies and cellular companies have monopolies in the US, so that if some politician tells them to kill Usenet, or that they want to tap in and monitor all communications for the NSA or whatever, the company just folds. In the old days you had ISP's competing for business. There were non-commercial ways for people to communicate and send messages - finger/.plan, Usenet, IRC. Most of the people who had access in the early days were academics, and things were not commercial, so the level of dialogue was often very high. It is sad to see how it has become worse in many ways.

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