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Dial Me Up Scotty! A Brief Reflection on the Short Life of the Internet

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During those rare moments when I can catch my breath and reflect, one of my favorite things to think about is how far we've come in terms of technology, especially with the internet. The first time I experienced the internet was in the early 90’s at around 10 years old. My Dad loved computers and he was always up on the latest technology. He was so excited to show my brother and I. We had to unplug our phone line to connect the modem and it took FOREVER to load the web page, which was so laughably simple in comparison to what web pages look like today. At the time, I remember being extremely impacted by that experience although at that young age, I couldn't really comprehend what the internet was or it’s incredible potential.

It was around 10 years later, that I started to learn more about what the internet actually was. I went to art school but my dad always encouraged me to get into the tech side of art, thinking I’d have a better chance to get an actual job after I graduated. In college, I took all of the few web development and programming classes they offered. I actually took the programming class 3 times because I just didn’t feel like I fully grasped it the first 2. Those days, we all had dial up internet and AOL accounts. The slow connection speeds, coupled with the lack of disk space on servers resulted in a much more boring internet than we have today. Common internet activities were limited to checking emails, entering creepy chat rooms, looking up inaccurate information and pirating music on Napster. It could take up to a half hour to download a MP3 but it was so worth it! I created some pretty horrible websites back then on my college hosting account but I doubt anyone other than me ever saw them. Back then the connectivity of the internet was not yet fully realized.

Over the next 5 years, the internet continued to grow up. ISPs (internet service providers) started offering higher speed internet like cable and DSL, soon many of us were obsessively watching funny cat videos on YouTube and connecting with our friends on Myspace and other first generation social media websites. Early on though, most rural areas were still confined to lower internet speeds like dial up. When I started my web development business in 2006, my internet connection out in Limington was a real challenge. I had to resort to satellite internet which was better than dial up but light years away from cable. It definitely restricted my ability to grow my company. 

Not long after that, in the late 2000's, something happened that would forever change how we connected with the internet. Cell Phones became smart! No longer were phones limited to actual phone calls. Manufacturers began to provide other features like email, cameras and apps. Simultaneously cell connections grew faster and more reliable. Soon people were actually browsing the internet on them.  A short time later, tablets came on to the market which gave us yet another option for connecting to the world wide web. Today over 60% of us connecting to the internet at any given time are doing so on a "mobile" device.

 This created some challenges for us web developers. Not only did we have to make sure websites look good on computers, they now needed to look good on tiny cell phone screens and tablets as well. Fortunately, the technology of building websites also progressed to the point that even people without a lot of tech savvy can create a mobile friendly website pretty easily.

Right now we are constantly connected to the internet. You could argue that that constant connection is a double edged sword (and I’d even agree with you there) but you have to admit that it’s been a wild ride! In the past 25 years the internet went from a cool science project that most people didn’t know or care about to something that has completely transformed our lives. Today, we can connect on an extremely deep level to people we don’t know on the other side of the planet at any time of the day or night. That’s how powerful the internet is now and 25 years ago, we couldn’t even fathom that!

 I’m really looking forward to bragging to my grandkids about how I was there at the forefront of this fledgling, life changing thing that forever changed life for human beings and I can’t wait to see what the internet looks like then.

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Milly Welsh
Zebralove Web Solutions

Milly Welsh is the Priority Learning webmaster and Owner/Operator of Zebralove Web Solutions, a web development company located in southern Maine.
Zebralove Web Solutions



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