The Internet in a Box

InternetWorldMagazineWhile tidying up my garage last week I came across as stack of old papers. Going quickly through the stack, I noticed an old magazine called Internet World. This edition was Nov/Dec 1994. If I remember correctly I picked the copy up at the Internet World Conference in December 1994 in Washington DC. It is interesting to see how the world of the Internet has changed in 15 years.

This conference was a landmark event in the history of the Internet as it was happening at the dawn of the Internet. I remember that Yahoo! was making it big time there, attracting news reporters and, more importantly VC investors. I had a good conversation with Jerry Lang on the future of the Internet while enjoying a few beers they were offering in their booth. I also remember that newly founded Netscape was making lot of press. I belief that a lot of people that later would become important players on the Internet, were at this conference.

Even Microsoft had a booth but probably just to show up. They were introducing their “Save as HTML” feature in Word. That was their Internet effort in 1994. At the same time they were probably busy building their own “Information Superhighway” proprietary network to compete with CompuServe and others.

The magazine is an interesting testimony of the times. Browsing though it, I’m surprised how many articles are about Usenet. It seems that Usenet was a big thing at the time. One article lists the most popular newsgroups:

1) news.annaouce.newusers
2) news.answers
3) rec.humor
4) alt.sex
5) misc.forsale

I never saw Usenet as the big thing for the Internet. It was simply albeit a useful discussion forum, one protocol of many. I found Gopher more interesting. Gopher was a huge revolution, and I use it as an example in my New Technology class as a technology that became popular then got disrupted very early by the more flexible World Wide Web. Gopher had structure and was like a huge global menu system of information. The Web with its hyperlinks did the same thing in a more unstructured and flexible way.

In the magazine there are not many references to the web, although it is mentioned few times as a WWW service. The articles in general are very much about the technology on the one hand and about the social implications on the other hand.

The ads are also noteworthy testomony of the time. A typical one is from Spry, selling “Internet in a Box”. This is a kit of software to connect to the Internet and to use it, including email clients and Usenet readers. Although we have seen many improvements to the Internet since 1994, it’s striking to see how similar it is, addressing the same problems as 15 years ago. Sure we’ve seen lots of improvements but I still belive that we are in the early years of the network (see The Web at Twenty). The good thing is that there are still many opportunities on the Internet.

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