Page last updated at 18:34 GMT, Thursday, 29 October 2009

Your early memories of the net

At 2100, on 29 October 1969, engineers 400 miles apart at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) and Stanford Research Institute (SRI) sent between the first nodes of what was then known as Arpanet.

This was the network that years later would be known as the internet.

Forty year later, BBC News website readers have been sending their memories of their first encounters with the web.


We sent a message, an email essentially, to a senior Russian colleague at Novosibirsk Institute. Andrey... how is the weather? Ten minutes later the printer fired up with the reply. Email in 1971
Michael Hockney, Canada

I worked for Burroughs (now Unisys) and my father was with them for 47 years. I remember when they connected the B6700 we had in East Sydney to the B6700 at North Sydney and someone said "what a stupid idea." Burroughs was one of the pioneers in that business and you can see them on the Arpanet map. Trouble is like Honeywell and ICL these Trojans have been downsized and it's all history... but wasn't 1969 an exciting time?
David, Sydney, Australia

In 1969 our connections to the "big" online computer were at a speed of 100bps. Even a "two-finger" typist could hit the keys too fast for the Teletype mechanical system to handle. The "big" computer's 1M memory was "enormous"… and the 600M hard disk weighed 1.5 tonnes and had water cooled bearings.
ChrisJK, UK

My father was head of Computer Science at Reading University in the UK. In 1971 he had a modem and an IBM "ticker tape" golf ball keyboard printer installed at our house. We sent a message, an email essentially, to a senior Russian colleague at Novosibirsk Institute. "Andrey... how is the weather?" Ten minutes later the printer fired up with the reply. Email in 1971. I was 25 years ahead of everyone else and we were busting the Iron Curtain literally. The internet really has no borders, now... or then.
Michael Hockney, Canada

As a 17-year-old student in High school in 1979, I would hook up a telephone in a black jack that would be connected to the University of Minnesota. I used a simple gopher text based menu. Explored around but mainly played Oregon Trail and would have a paper telex back that we ran out of food or the ox ran away. It was good fun. Told the school career councillor I wanted a job in the computer field that didn't exist yet. And I have. She thought I was a lost cause.
Jeff Storlie, Duluth, USA


Tiananmen Square, 1989
On the wall of my department was a printout of the increasingly desperate conversation - using USENET I think - between students in Texas and students in Tiananmen Square in Beijing
Alex, Oxford, UK

I'd seen and played with networked computers at the FE college where my father worked in the late 1970s, but the first time I really understood what the internet could be was when I went to study at the University of Texas as a student in August 1990. On the wall of my department was a printout of the increasingly desperate conversation - using USENET I think - between students in Texas and students in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, as the tanks rolled in and started shooting on 4th June 1989. The ability of computers to provide eyewitness accounts, and to bypass censors by linking ordinary people together, was and remains for me one of the most vivid examples of how technology could be used for good.
Alex, Oxford, UK

I remember the "web" (opposed to the "net" of the 1980s). It was called viewdata. The most common product was known as Prestel - which was like teletext but with a lots more pages. I worked for Lucas Industries at the time in the aftermarket division. We wrote a system so Lucas agents could order parts directly via viewdata as opposed to having to ring up. They needed to have a special monitor which was very flash for its time. If you went into a travel agent up to about ten years ago they used a similar system which were used to book holidays. I'd love to know what happened to the system I worked on - I'm sure it was replaced by a web-based system years ago.
Simon Richards, Birmingham, UK

In 1985, I remember suggesting that it would be a good idea to send short messages via the computer network. The head of IT refused the idea as, in his words "Why, when there is a phone?" Email did not arrive there until 2000! It was a council!
Martin, Wigan, UK

In 1981, whilst studying computer science at Southampton, another student showed me the "joint academic network" (JANET), that linked UK universities. We used it to access a role playing game (adventure) that was on another Uni's ICL but not on ours, accessed through a Teletype terminal.
Keith l, Witham, UK

My first memories go back to circa 1988 when I started to run a BBS called Polyglot, located in my office in Shibuya, Tokyo. It was named Polyglot because it catered for people involved in translation and interpretation; and computer "otaku" as well. After a parenthesis of 20 years I'm back in the internet to celebrate its 40 years with a brand-new domain housed in an Y3980 PC running Apache 2.0.46 on Linux. Viva internet!
J Arturo Perez, Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan


Star Trek scene, circa 1966
All it seemed to be was bulletin boards about Star Trek and techie chat. I announced I saw no future in it and thought it would only appeal to scientists and geeks. Shows what I knew
Steve, Wolverhampton, UK

Back in 1993 I ran a site on the internet, in my lunch hour, at work. My site was dedicated to Formula 1 and was shut down when Michael Schumacher crashed with Damon Hill to take the 1994 drivers' championship. We had 25,000 visitors per day. I had a videoclip of the crash on the site which completely blocked our 64Kb ISDN line for a week. At the time ISDN was around £80,000 per year! My boss was impressed, but suggested I find somewhere else to run my project. If I'd have known then what I know now... At that time Microsoft didn't have a website and didn't even ship TCP/IP with Windows! Ho hum... back to the day job...
Steve Glenister, Brighton, UK

Early memories of the internet takes me to a small internet cafe in my hometown, about 17 years back, in Bangalore, where I had to wait an eternity for a page on Abraham Lincoln (yahooed from the antique search engine) to load. Excitement and anticipation overshadowed the endless wait. Now though, it's an integral part of my day to day life, and I can only say that the world's getting smaller and faster, thanks to the wonderful web.
Sharanya, Singapore

I first sent an email in 1993 using an Amiga computer and dial-up modem. No one I knew had email at the time and most people I knew had no idea what the internet was, so I sent an email to the White House congratulating Bill Clinton on taking office. I was astonished to receive an automated reply thanking me for me interest in the US Presidency!
Keith Lillis, London, UK

I first encountered the internet in 1996 whilst working in a government IT department. Someone had bought some 14Kbps modems for a project that got cancelled. We nicked one and put in a PC and after much experimentation got onto this new fangled internet thing. All it seemed to be was bulletin boards about Star Trek and techie chat. I announced I saw no future in it and thought it would only appeal to scientists and geeks. Shows what I knew.
Steve, Wolverhampton, UK

Modem noise, bad websites with the most ridiculous colour schemes
Sean O'Donovan, Chesterfield

I remember getting my first ANSI terminal account at a library in the early 90s, when I saw the web a little later my mind was blown. I saw the servers' names in the mosaic window and realised I was talking to Switzerland for free. I never looked back and spent the next 20 years becoming a caretaker of the net. Building servers, setting interfaces to the backbone, configuring edge routers and so much more. Were it not for the little Ethernet diagram on a napkin and packet switching I have no idea what I would have ended up doing. I thank those pioneers and am glad they are still about to help shepherd us along to the next stage.
Matthew, Brooklyn, NY, USA

Going through a flurry of "free trial disks" from the numerous ISPs at the time. Watching 40k pictures appear slowly. Trying to get my shiny new 56k Haynes modem to appear in Windows 95!!! Modem noise, bad websites with the most ridiculous colour schemes. Birth of Flash, Winamp and mp3's.
Sean O'Donovan, Chesterfield, UK

I first experienced the internet in a ten-pin bowling centre about 16-years-ago. I saw a tiny shop offering the internet and decided to try it. The memories I have of that experience are frustration at the extremely slow loading of pictures and pages. But the kick of seeing a page appear after a click, with information on whatever I wanted grabbed me for life.
Muhammad, South Africa

I was a recently divorced, single mother. I was taking my first step back to school after taking a break for several years. I recall walking into the college, San Jacinto Community College, in Houston, with fear of failure and a strong need to improve my life's situation. My first day on campus I walked through the halls and commons areas. There were signs all around... "come and surf the world wide web." These signs had a picture of the world and around the world was a wave and on top of the wave a man on a surfboard. I had no clue what it meant. I did have to learn to use a computer and was thankful that the school's computer lab had lab techs to show me how to fumble my way around these large monitors that had black and white screens without pictures.
Loren Meyer, Houston, Texas, USA

I first went online in 2001 in an internet café as I needed to contact a friend abroad. The internet has really changed the way we live, work and play it has made life faster and communication easier. Even here in third world Zambia it has enabled us to shift data at a cheaper and faster rate, we are also up to date with current happenings in the world. I sincerely hope it shall contribute more to the development of our continent and help bring peace to the world by showing that we are all the same people regardless and have certain common needs. I thank the fathers of the internet for bringing such a powerful instrument to us.
Nasilele Mwanaumo, Kabwe, Zambia


An empty classroom in Sidon, Lebanon
More and more emphasis will be on using the internet for education, perhaps so that home schooling becomes the norm
Neil, London, UK

In the not too distant future I expect to have connected to my house access, in real-time HD, to every piece of music ever recorded, every film and TV show ever made and every book ever written. (I'll be able to choose to have a book read to me by a selection of renowned, but "generated", actors). I will need no memory at home, but unlimited remote RAM. Each time I think about of these things I remember the adage, "most people over estimate the speed of change, but underestimate its effect."
Brandon, CH

More and more emphasis will be on using the internet for education, perhaps so that home schooling becomes the norm (it will save governments huge amounts of money on big buildings and teacher's salaries). But as always, the real drive of the "net will be down to sex"; whilst the boffins are thinking up new ways of interacting for capturing data for academic or research purposes, web developers will be using it to create holographic porn channels or suits for Encompassing Virtual Experiences... and then the web really will be all about Eve!
Neil, London, UK

I foresee a time where appliances in our homes will be remotely connected and we'll control them via a mobile device, or we will be able to tell our cars which driver will be using it before we get in them, and it will set itself up for that person. The internet will also herald the end of scheduled TV broadcasting as people will be able to watch the programmes they want, when they want, delivered via a high speed connection to their home TV set or a laptop if they are away from home. Voice recognition will further enhance the way we communicate and, in particular, assist those who are visually or physically handicapped to play a greater role in society, working remotely, via the internet.
Christopher Blanchett, Gateshead, UK

The future does look exciting, but also frightening. Not only do we have the pleasure of doing our business and personal transaction over the internet, but we have to cope with (and deal with) internet fraud and cyberterrorism. The internet is affecting all our lives, and for many of us, we can't do without it. It's ironic that with the postal strike in place, we are finding ways to send information in other forms, and so there is no need to send information via Royal Mail. All the information we can receive is via email (with attachments), or log on to a internet website. Information technology is affecting the way we live (and work, and is here to stay. It can only improve. There's no stopping the internet.
Earl Johnson, London, UK

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