The beginning of the Internet

No, I’m not writing a paper on the history of the Internet, only MY history with the Internet. When did you first go “online?”

I started teaching in 1989 and there were computers in the classrooms. We taught word processing, data base, and spreadsheet. Research was still done with books, in a library. My students would call businesses if they needed information. Or, they would go personally to interview the owner/manager. We had a FAX machine in our office that students occasionally used to communicate with their sources.

Then the librarian started sharing database disks with me. These were fascinating, but they were often out of date. I realized that there was a world of information out there on this thing called the Internet, and if I could connect my classroom, then I could connect my students to a bigger world. I started to investigate.

I got online at home first, with a dial-up connection, with Compuserve. I started signing up for forums, as they were called back then. Women’s Forum, California Forum, Travel Forum. I was meeting interesting people. I started connecting with a few teachers. We emailed one another and shared out stories. Remember “you’ve got mail?” I had lots of mail. I knew this was what my students needed. To meet people from other places.

It was now 1992, and I figured out how to connect ONE computer in my classroom to a phone line and access a free AOL account. Afraid that the phone line, which belonged to the school and was charged by the minute, would get me in trouble, I quizzed a school board member about this. He said no one monitored the phone bills, and if I was using it with students, then he saw no problem with it. But, he had no idea what the Internet was.

My students loved doing research and making connections online. The search engines weren’t too great back then. Remember “Ask Jeeves?” That was a favorite of mine. We only had one computer, in one classroom, to do this, but we were online, learning how to do this. Then the library got a connection. My students could go there. They were pretty much the only ones using the library computer as they were the only ones on campus who had been trained to search.

Finally, the school caught up, put in a server, and we were going places. This was long before blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. The students were doing research not only for my class but others. They were looking at colleges online and scouting out scholarships. Teachers came to me to find out how come my students knew all this stuff and could access the Internet. It would be a long haul to get the other faculty up to speed. Most of them still allowed their students to HANDWRITE their papers. Wasn’t allowed in my classes. Every paper had to be word processed. By this time all of my students sat in front of computers, connected to the Internet, every day, in my classroom.

Of course, now there is wi-fi at every school in the district. Students can access the Internet from anywhere with all sorts of devices. They are not limited to the classroom or library, just as I am not either. I am typing this on my laptop in the family room. We’ve come a long way from 1992 when I first signed on.

So, what prompted this reminiscing? I just got a Facebook message telling me that the Women’s Forum on Compuserve is being shut down as there is little traffic on it. I’m not surprised. We’ve moved on to other social media sites. And yet, I am fond of that first place I connected with women all over the globe, many with whom I am still friends. I cut my online teeth on Compuserve, and in doing so, guided my students to do likewise.

6 responses to “The beginning of the Internet

  1. A great look back. I remember I signed up to the Toronto Freenet back in about 1992….it was just teletype text, no html yet. I was able to exchange a lot of emails that way.

    I even remember typing my resumes on a brother typewriter using carbon copy paper back in the early eighties!! How far we have come in a relatively short time.

    • We have come a long ways, just in the three years since I left teaching. I would need to go back to school just to learn how to teach all the new technologies that are being used in business. Although I know how to use them, I would need training in how to teach them.

  2. Interesting. I first used mainframe computers in the 1970s in graduate school (flow charts, punch cards, etc.). Gradually, I migrated to independent consoles with keyboards attached to mainframes and finally to various iterations of personal computers at work and in the home. The fact that I was married to an engineer who built his own computers, and worked at USPTO (patent office) on computer applications affected me I am sure.

    I don’t know exactly when I was on the Internet, but it happened after I went with government in 1989. Dianne

    • I worked for Levitz Furniture in the early 70s and they had a key punch room where all the inventory was kept on those key punch cards. But we still used one of those sliding imprint machines to take credit card payments. I love how credit cards are now read by smart phones.

  3. When I was a coop student at a big telecom company in 1993, a lot of people had 2 e-mail accounts – one to talk to their coworkers on UNIX machines, and one to talk to people on Macs. You couldn’t communicate between systems.

  4. It boggles my mind that my granddaughter’s first grade teacher posts her weekly lesson plans online, as well as photos for all the parents to see what the kids are up to.

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