Monday, July 1, 2013
The Museum of Internet History
Recently, at a family gathering at my aunt's house, I mentioned that someday I'm gonna have to tell my kids that I'm older than the Internet, and it'd blow their minds. My cousin, who recently started driving, responded that she doesn't even remember a time without it.
Her comment also made me realize that if I were to explain what life was like before the internet, it would almost be equally difficult for me to explain what it was like in the early, untamed days of the "Information Superhighway". (By the way, if you remember hearing that phrase being used unironically, then congratulations, you're officially old now.)
Remember dial-up? Remember 56K modems? Remember Angelfire, Geocities, and Xanga? Well, if you don't, then you're kinda S.O.L. Unless you see people logging into America OnLine in a late-nineties romantic comedy, you're never gonna see how clunky those interfaces used to be. Nobody archives that shit. Who wants to remind their customers how long it used to take your program to perform the simplest tasks? Even if you were to find images of the old interfaces, you'll never really be able to appreciate how damn long they took to load, or how spotty the connection could be.
There are services out there that intentionally slow down your computer so you can run archaic programs (MS-DOS, anyone?) on modern rigs. Why not do the same with the Internet? The user would download a program that partitions their system to create a virtual PC that runs on Windows 3.2 and a simulated 56K modem. Once you're online (you might have time to go make yourself a sandwich), you could "surf the 'Net" and visit archived sites browse news articles from back in the day (sort of like how you can limit results from a Google search based on publication date).
Kids go on field-trips all the time to learn what life was like in the past. If we're gonna start preserving the early days of electronic media, now is the time to do it, before that data is lost. But we should also think about making the experience as authentic as possible. After all, how can you be grateful for what you've got if you don't even know how bad things used to be?