June 6, 2018

Early Days Online: 1996 - 1998

My history on the internet and the World Wide Web starts in late 1996 when enlisting for the winter courses at the Chemnitz Institute of Technology. Had some years of “computing history” involving C-64 BASIC, MS-DOS and early variants of MS Windows. Lot of learning ahead:

Started using Solaris on Sun SPARCStation 4 and 5, all along both with CDE and several open-source desktop environments such as FVWM95. Drastically changed most of my working habits, took time getting used to.

Worked with some Linux PCs back then too, eventually installed some variant on my home PC too, but it wasn’t until SuSE Linux 5.0 that I really went GNU/Linux “full-time” and did most of my work on that platform. Learnt to do work using a load of open-source and software libre tools back then, such as LaTeX for text editing, tgif and xfig and the like. At some latter point in time I should be using all these skills to earn money working on creating illustrations for a book on thermodynamics later to be published by Springer Press. An interesting experience even though I don’t use any of these tools regularly anymore, except for one - the GiMP which I’ve been using ever since its very early beta versions.

Started utilizing WWW, initially using Mosaic, and e-mail using pine. Adopted Netscape Communicator at some point, which was and is a chunky and unstable and ugly piece of software for virtually every use case and still profoundly changed the way I did communicate. E-mail, by then, was exclusively related either to studies or to low-frequency communication with close friends and relatives. The same, definitely, did not apply to using MUDs then and now, which got me in touch with a lot of strange people even though most of them seem to have disappeared these days. Still wonder whether most of these might have been bots, anyway. All along with Linux adoption, I subscribed to several mailing lists mostly for the sake of reading and learning, which prove an interesting (slow, in-depth) way of conversation with many people too, even though this, too, didn’t end up in many long-term and sustained contacts and lines of communication.

At some point, stumbled across a give-away version of the HoTMetaL HTML editor. Though this tool prove to be next to unusable pretty quickly, it still is what got my interest in HTML and all related technologies started. I very well remember the day in early 1997 when I astoundedly noticed that, back at the university computer systems, each user had a dedicated personal web space available to actually publish documents that by then would be world-readable. Luckily, most of these first attempts are old enough to be lost even to the large memory of the Wayback Machine which I then and now will be linking to, in the next writeups on here. Funnily,more or less around that time “internet arrived at home” too, boxed in a 56k dialup modem with a per-minute billing dialing up to the CIT systems. That was the first time I figured out, too, why, in course of publishing a web site, thinking about bandwidth and size optimization is an important thing.

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