Wednesday 18 April 2007

Internet and WILFING

I first got to know the internet 13 years ago... back in 1994 when I first started at University. Before that I don't think that I even knew such a thing existed! I took to it like a duck to water.

The first computer we ever had was an Atari. Not so much a computer as a glorified games console. There was a slot in the keyboard to place cartridges (which they had just stopped selling when we bought the computer) and no hard disc drive... the computer used a tape drive! The Atari didn't last long, due to extremely limited functionality, although I did get my first taste of programming. Next machine was before Windows even existed! It was billed as "IBM compatible" and ran an OS which looked like Windows but was called GEM. The entire contents of that computer would have fitted into half a modern day directory!

There were a series of further similar machines... sometimes bought new and sometimes inherited from my Grandfather, who was by far the most computer literate member of our family!!!

Computers barely registered at school. There was a 'computer room' which had a total of about a dozen machines (not even enough to take a class) which we used mostly to play text adventures in our lunch breaks. Does anyone even play text adventures anymore?!

So - fast foward to University. My first (and as it turned out only) year at RHUL... beautiful campus University with pretty much 24-hour access to the computer centre. Oh the times I had! My friends would often call me an anorak... the hours I'd spend wandering the net, or talking to people via Telnet. Do people even use Telnet anymore?!

Its hard to believe that the sophisticated Internet of today is the same place. The browser crashes that would plague any session... the painfully slow download times, and images that 'dithered'.

What made me think of it was visiting the webpages of my Alma Maters (I went to Greenwich after RHUL). Amazing compared to how I remembered them (although not surpristing in the 10 or so years that has passed)!

My favourite thing about the internet, though, is the random browsing... or surfing if you will. I like to follow links after links until you forgot where you were going or why you had come in the first place! I thought I was the only one, but not, apparently, as I read in the paper the other day it is called WILFING.... "What was I Looking For?"!