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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 August 2006, 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK
Readers' panel: Web anniversary
Sunday 6 August marks the 15th anniversary of the publication of computer files credited as the start of the World Wide Web. The publication, by Tim Berners-Lee, began the spread of computer interaction that has lead to the web as we know it.

There are now 882 million people around the world online reading more than 100 million websites, and with each website offering potentially millions of pages of content.

To mark the birthday we've drawn together a panel of web-users from across the world, to give us their thoughts on the birth, the worst, and the future of the web.

Today's question to the panel: When was the first time you ever used the internet?

Joe Dynamo
Annapolis, USA

Karen Inda
Prague, Czech Rep

David Mohammad Yaghoobi
Tehran, Iran

Gabriel Kalonde Chingwe
Lusaka, Zambia

Elson Silva
Campinas, Brazil

Seoul, South Korea


Joe Dynamo
Joe used to live in a school bus, now he's an IT consultant
A friend of mine was very into PCs. He came over one day with a card board box full of parts and we built my first computer from his spares and a new hard drive I bought.

We got an Operating System on it and I managed to get it upgraded enough to run Windows 3.11, I had a game and a word processor.

I also got a really nice label and sign making program and managed to do a ton of printing for my business on it. Then my friend started with the Windows 95 beta program. I could not run anything so fancy.

I got a modem and upgraded my system over and over again. I got on local online bulletin boards with internet links. There was not much out there.

I had a group of friends that I spent every waking minute with whom I had never seen
I wound up on Internt Relay Chat - an early and still running online messaging system - downloading the first web browser I had ever seen within weeks of getting my computer running the first time. There was almost exactly nothing on the internet then.

I had a group of friends that I spent every waking minute with whom I had never even seen. Isolated in dark rooms chatting away via text.

There is a kind of connectedness out there that is very odd. It was very real to me and the group of people I was with.

On a good day I can still hear the computers talking to me.

There really is magic out there, if you let it happen.


Gabriel Kalonde Chingwe
Gabriel is a fan of BBC Africa Have Your Say
I travelled abroad to Dublin, Ireland, and London, UK, in 1999 to do a banking development course as I am a banker by profession.

I knew I needed to contact my family at home urgently throughout that time so before I left I walked into an internet cafe in Lusaka and asked the attendant to help me open an account.

Whilst abroad I had to get some info I forgot from home and this was sent to me without any ado!

It was a whole new experience, especially compared with the business world I came from.

I gradually started browsing info on investment, shares, mortgages
Even though the net was predominantly dial up it cut down the time drastically for me to get the information I wanted and I progressed well with my training programme.

I gradually started browsing information on investment, shares, mortgages, Wall Street and the financial news. Those were my first websites.

I eventually browsed about my profession and what it offers worldwide, I still do.

Now my favorite sites are business, science, health, news and technology.

I am sure no one misses the news and videos of the NASA shuttle missions!


Karen Inda
Karen and her husband run their business from laptops
Trygve, my husband, was on CompuServe in 1987. Back then he dialled in at 1200bps!

CompuServe was all text-based and worked like many early bulletin board systems, except that it was national (and much later) international in scope.

I first used a bulletin board system in about 1995, mostly to converse with other A-ha fans!

I didn't know anything about computers, but was thrilled to find out the latest news on my favourite band.

Trygve and I met in 1996 and I started helping him with the administrative aspects of the business. Our website went online in April 1998 and we had e-commerce active by October.

It was amazing how many "new" customers wrote to us, saying they had been using our software for years, but were too lazy to send us a cheque.

With online payments, it's much easier for people to pay and be paid.


Elson Silva, PhD
Elson researches hydro- and thermo-dynamics online
Internet can let us solve easily very difficult problems. Lost causes can end up with amazing successes.

The first time I used the internet was in 1993 to bargain rainfall information allowing me to complete a set of databases enough to study the distribution of rainfall in the Amazon.

I had sent five letters to my sponsoring institution in Brazil, asking people there to provide me with data I was requesting for my PhD.

Having some data at hand, using the web I was able to find people with similar data and exchange it with them.

The web helped me develop an appropriate analytical method, to squeeze the best information from such poor data, resulting in an outstanding PhD dissertation with three hypothesis and honors approval.

My cause was near lost because my college was in Animal Production and my Masters in Animal Nutrition. I was pursuing a PhD degree in Soil Science far out of my league.

I learned in the very beginning that nature always allows many different solutions
So, I turned to Hydrology, working deeply on applied spatial analysis and toward insights that led me afterwards to a sort of 'scientific discovery'. Without the web I could and would not have done any of this.

I am good at putting things together and I learned in the very beginning that nature always allows many different solutions to a unique problem, and the internet can only expand such potential.

Afterwards, I was able to open a company in the US and my seven patents are under way, three of which are already issued and delivering important claims to bring changes that will stay forever.

I saw then that a new power of communication had begun with the web.


David Mohammad Yaghoobi
David runs a blog and a business from Tehran
"What are you doing?" asked a passing friend as I sat in a swivel chair in the university library.

"I've been sent an image by a friend", I smugly responded as we both glared at a screen of random characters.

"It's one of those magic eye things, but I can't seem to decipher this one", I continued.

To my embarrassment, after a few emails, I learned that the mail program was unable to read the attachment and the jargon before was simply an error.

That was in 1997. It had never occurred to me that one could send a digital format photograph through e-mail. In fact, I wasn't really sure what e-mail was.

Initially my engagement with the internet was through my new e-mail account, which consumed too much of my first university term.

I had suddenly evolved from sending hand-written letters to friends at other universities to sending random one-liners to anyone I had an address for.

What was lost in loving attention was gained in ease.

The thrill of learning that PixieChick78 from Nevada has two cats and enjoys basketball soon wore off
"I'm chatting to a girl from Texas", I proudly stated to another passing friend.

Being able to trade nothing-conversations with a faceless-anybody over a chat-room was a revelation, invariably the conversations were short-lived as either 13-year old boys filled the screen with foul words or the "F 21 NY" mysteriously disappeared.

These pre-messenger days simply consumed time and achieved little. The thrill of learning that PixieChick78 from Nevada has two cats and enjoys basketball soon wore off.

In those early days there seemed to be little of relevance to me through Netscape Navigator, just brightly coloured screens with text for text's sake.

Having a website was nerdy yet oddly a great status symbol regardless of whether it did anything.

Gradually, relevant sites arrived and my ability to find them increased and I eventually learned how to send a picture attachment.


Gail is a lifestyle and travel writer, based in Seoul
I was on a computer in a restaurant in Glasgow about 10 years ago.

I think we immediately looked up some of those particular sites to see if the rumours about the internet were true and were quite shocked to find that they were!

Then we were a bit stumped and didn't really know what to look for so we checked some sports teams out, finished our drinks and went home feeling chuffed to have entered cyber space for the first time.

I think we knew even then that it was here to stay, but couldn't really imagine what it would be like.

When we moved to Brazil, the internet was really taking off and I found a job translating business news from Portuguese into English for a newspaper there.

It is amazing how integral the internet is
So that was the first time that the internet really changed my life I guess.

I even presented news bulletins on the company's internet TV site which was good fun (and meant I got my hair done for free for a year or so!)

It is amazing to think how integral the internet is to every aspect of our lives these days: When the tsunami happened and we lived in Bangkok we did not have our TV connected in the house, so we only saw images and footage of that event on our computer.

Tomorrow the panel tell us what they most dislike about the web.

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