My Early Days on the Internet & Why the Internet of Today is Still Black & White Television

I was watch a show on Sunday about the history of America and they started talking about the early days of PCs and the internet.  I have a fondness for both of those eras because I lived through both of those periods and loved them.  When I was in the 4th grade I remember my cousin got an Atari 800 personal computer.  I have to admit that I loved that computer mostly because of the video games he had, but in a small way I think I also saw their potential.  In the 6th grade my dad bought me a TI 99/4A for Christmas.  He and I wouldn't have known it them, but that was the start of a fruitful career.

On that under powered little Texas Instruments computer I taught myself Basic programming.  I made a couple of games and wrote a script that would help me study words for my Spanish class in Junior High.  I remember saving programs to a tape cassette drive.  Later a floppy disk drive was added to the computer, which was a big improvement. 

Later my family got an IBM PS2 computer.  A "revolutionary" computer of its day, it came with the smaller drive disks and had much more power than many of its predecessors.  Shortly after we got a dial up modem.  The 1200 baud modem was kind of slow for its day, but you would be hard pressed to find many people in your neighborhood that had any kind of internet setup.  Board controllers were called Sysops (kind of like a webmaster) and you had to dial in to a specific board.  Only a few connections were allowed at any one time.

Initially I declared myself as a computer science major, but later changed it to advertising.  At that same time, along came the world wide web.  To me it was a wondrous thing that I immediately saw the potential in.  I remember building a few web pages just for fun.  I remember when Netscape 1.1 came out which added tables and background images to the HTML.  It was a game changer (although I look back now and laugh at it) and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

In the early days there was a strong sentiment on the internet against marketing and banner ads.  The playground, built by "hardcore" developers, kind of had the feeling that the internet was their domain and they didn't want to give it up to commercialism.  You could get "flamed" for selling a product on a website or selling banner ad space on your site.  It was a very different internet, but one that was recognizable.

When in college I wrote a pretty extensive paper on internet usage.  It was still kind of the wild west internet, but estimates had about 12 million to 20 million online users at that time.  Nobody really knew for sure.  The world wide web was still very, very young.  To think back and realize that was just over 20 years ago is really kind of funny.  The University of Michigan later republished part of my paper.

The internet today is still just as intriguing to me as it was 20 years ago.  It continues to grow at lighting speed.  It is funny to think that our internet today is still basically black and white television in terms of age and maturity.  We are nowhere close to 4K high definition television with Dolby surround sound. Think about it.  21 years after Philo Farnsworth created the first television system in the United States, America was watching the Andy Grifffith Show on somewhat fuzzy, black and white screens that were very small by today's standards.  Not too far in the future we'll look back at the world wide web of today and say "remember when..."

If you think your business has arrived on the internet and you don't need to make future investments, think again.  A website built just seven years ago looks like a dinosaur today.  If that is the case, in another twenty years, when the internet becomes "high definition."  That really isn't that far off.  Will your business be ready?

For more information about this blog or Concrete5 please contact Jamie Johnson.