Back in 1992, computing for techies was a lot different than it is today. First there was no wide world web (WWW) publicly available. My devices consisted of a self-constructed Intel 486 CPU with 1024 Mb RAM, 30 GB MFM hardrive, 3.5″diskette drive, 5.25″ floppy drive, 9600 Motorola baud modem, and a 15″ SVGA cathode ray tube display.
Connecting to a BBS (bulletin board system) was heaven. A series of dial-in numbers were provided to each BBS and finding the local number was key, to avoid long distance charges. Once logged in, I could perform functions such as uploading and downloading software and data, reading news and bulletins, and exchanging messages with other users through email, public message boards, and sometimes via direct chatting. Compuserve (Computer Information Service) was the first commercial online BBS, followed by America Online (AOL) not available until later in 1992 they both charged money for usage and the tech game was to access free resources. A techie would actually have to engage in technical solutions in order to participate in the community successfully. Since desktop computing was evolving, most users had access to systems through their workplaces. My workplace at the time was The Chicago Tribune Computing Group, predecessor for what now is the Tribune Media Group.
My first access to the Internet would months later through the University of Minnesota. Special access and permission was given to me and was I amazed. To understand what the Internet can be complex, but in simpler terms it is the interconnection of computers using a set of rules or protocol called TCP/IP (transmission control protocol / internet protocol). The new set of rules became spooky science to me as it involved layers of technology all designed to work together. Leaving the BBS world and entering the WWW was interesting. The computer remained the same, but the programs used were vastly different. Invented at the U of M was a protocol called Gopher, which was used over TCP/IP (this is all new to me) and the purpose was to distribute and share documents over the internet. Another search tool designed was Veronica, which was a search engine for the files that Gopher had stored on computers. Also, Jughead was another search engine designed to search one computer at a time for files stored by Gopher. Next up was Archie, a tool for searching files on the internet, sometimes known as the first search engine (no Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.).
Ultimately I would settle on the first public browser, Mosaic and it’s use through the university would allow me to access all the files made publicly available, it’s early search engines and textural language called HTML (hyper text markup language). Making the transition from BBS to WWW was an education itself, and the pioneers who created all of this technology were mere students at various universities around the country. The one idea that promoted ingenious innovation was most computing techniques, code, programs, methods, etc. were all shared and open for further enlightenment. Without this, we probably would be using typewriters and notepads. Happy to be an early adopter of internet technology.