A blog for International Internet Day by Olivia Cassar, Digital Learning Assistant, TechSkills

International Internet Day

‘The 29th of October is International Internet Day. To celebrate this year the TechSkills team has decided to look back at how the internet has changed within each of our lifetimes and any significant memories we have attached with it. Each team member has a fascinating story and all with different perspectives and focuses.’

Margaret –

‘The biggest change I’ve seen was its arrival! When I worked for IBM, we had our own internal global comms network, but there was nothing in the public domain. But then the internet arrived in 1989 as an externally available network, and the concept of the website was born in 1991. By the end of 1992 there were about 12 websites in the whole world! I still remember the moment when I realised a website was like a global online shop window and started to create the first one for TechSkill’s original incarnation, e-business NTO.’

Anne –

‘And thanks to the Way Back Machine which archives all websites we can actually view our very first website here, a mere 20 years ago! How scary and fascinating both at the same time!!!’ 

Will –

‘Remember the first commercial browser Netscape? Like you, Margaret, I used a network to send messages and access documents at University. I remember sending an email on my Dad’s computer in the 80s when he was Head of Department at Preston Poly. I recall getting dial up internet at home in the mid-90s via AOL which was a penny a minute. If anyone picked up the other phone it would crash, and you’d have restart loading again. I think I got my first non-academic email address in the early nighties and then getting to use MSN Messenger. I built my first website in the late nineties before learning to create websites in Python. I had my first smartphone in 2004 which had Windows email before getting my Nokia Communicator in 2006 which was a game-changer. Since then, the Internet has dominated my career especially the growth of social media. It changed the way we told the news and saw the fall of the printed press.’

Karine –

‘My first experience using the Internet was when I worked for a well-known consumer magazine and I needed to research ‘Brain Food’ (basically anti-oxidants). We only had access to online medical journals at the time, so I found a breakfast course at an Internet cafe in Goodge Street as I knew then the Internet would hold generic information. I was excited that not only had my investigative skills come to the fore but also, I was offered breakfast – a coffee and croissant. We had to use a Boolean search to find information. Luckily, I knew what that was. I did find the information I was looking for and I went back happily to the HQ armed with reams of paper. At the time I thought this idea of internet cafes could really take off. My next job focused on building Internet cafes in communities.’ 

Tom – 

‘I think where that change has been most profound was the arrival of web-enabled mobile devices, enabling an exponential increase in access to the internet.  For example, following instructions on a mobile device you can find your way anywhere, never getting lost, whilst staying in contact with your network whilst accessing podcasts, videos, shopping, banking, and work whilst on the go, amazing … however this has meant losing the ability to ask for and receive directions from local people, and with it the simple pleasure of both helping and connecting with others in the real world’.

Olivia –

‘The biggest change I have seen in the internet is how much it is depended on, even for daily tasks. When I was younger it was rare to spend much time online as we only had the family computer, but now due to phones, laptops, and smart TV’s there is never a moment where you are not connected to the internet in some way. We use the internet to talk to friends, to watch Netflix or even shop, each of these things we often do daily and could not imagine going back to how things were before.’

Sue – 

‘Of course, we knew no better at the time, but thinking back to the early days of the internet and how we had to use the dial-up method of connecting to it with a modem, now just seems so primitive. It also meant that no-one else in the house could use the landline at the same time … and we didn’t have mobiles then!’

Bob – 

‘In 1989 I was working for IBM and had an IBM PS/2 Model 80 Personal Computer (it cost over £8,000) connected via a 1440 DSL Modem installed in my home. The PS/2 had 1Mb of memory and a 44Mb hard drive and was the most powerful available at the time. I used this to access IBM’s systems and first email system and was able to access the internet, which was green screen at the time with no browsers or images, as soon as it was available.’

Sarah –  

‘Just a couple of memories from me, but in my Uni days I started off with a word processor (basically an electronic typewriter!) that wasn’t connected to the internet and saved to floppy disk, and I had to go to the University library to access the internet on dial up (and my goodness it was slow!). I also had a pager (not even a mobile at first!) and even then I think my first 2 mobile phones had no internet. The accessibility of the internet (now on every phone, device, tv) is astounding from those days!’

Happy International Internet Day 2021