I’ve just put myself through a gruelling exercise: setting down on paper in a Word document a more-or-less (probably less) detailed history of my relationship with the Internet from the beginning. It took most of a week!
Remember Prodigy? Prodigy was the reason we were able to buy our first computer, way back in about 1987. (The 2kb Timex-Sinclair doesn’t count in this context.) Husband wanted to play a war game run from a 5 1/4″ floppy, and the library wouldn’t allow anyone to run personal software on its new Apples. We answered an ad in the paper and picked up an Apple IIe like this one, with a monochrome monitor, dual disk drives, a Hayes modem and a megabyte of memory for $1100. Oh, and a zillion software programs and a printer were thrown into the bargain as well. The enlisted serviceman was selling the system at a loss to pay for long-distance charges he ran up by dialing into Prodigy and Compuserve in California from Hickam AFB in Hawaii. We used that system for many years for games, but also for word processing, accounting, tax prep, and, yes, Prodigy. (Photo used with permission under creative commons license.)
The Internet has grown to emcompass so many activities formerly handled otherwise: correspondence – USPS mail to e-mail or facebook; taxes – paper forms mailed with return-receipt requested to e-filing; portfolio of street maps in the car to a printed set of directions from Yahoo! Maps; research – from the Reader’s Guide to Google, from the card catalog to WorldCat Mobile.
I no longer pay for film processing and mount photos into albums; I send them to Flickr instead, or transfer them to the digital photo frame on my dining table. I no longer build web sites from scratch by hand-coding; I blog instead. And my bank no longer returns checks nor sends paper statements. If I want to know how much I’ve got, I go online and log in.
The most gratifying use, for me, is the ability to keep in touch with far-flung family members. We use e-mail, Facebook, Flickr and Skype to share news, photos, stories, and family history resources. Twitter has beome my antenna for breaking library news.
So, what’s the next big thing? Guess it will be video. Then mobile.