What's Your First Memory Of Using the Internet?

I was just thinking about the first time I became aware of the internet, and the first time I actually used it.
It was in 1984. I was in a Computer Studies O Level class. The teacher (whose name I annoyingly can’t remember. He had a beard and was very nice) had just spent an hour telling us that in the “footoor” we would no longer be sending letters to communicate. We would be sending “electronic mail”, or E-mail.
I was very interested in this. Not least because my mother was the village postwoman, and I feared for her job.
I asked many questions about what this E-Mail would do to the economy. What were the implications?
My teacher didn’t have all the answers, just a firm knowledge that this thing was coming. I didn’t have the depth of intelligence as a 15 year old, or was not at the right point in my life (if you’ve read Outliers you’ll know what I mean), to invent Hotmail right there and then. Otherwise I’d be on a Caribbean island with a framed, signed, picture of that teacher sitting on top of my Steinback next to the Aston Martian having Earl Grim Tea with Gilliam Wates discussing how we were going to save MS Africa (TM).
The teacher, I remember, was taken with my curiosity and invited me into the school Tech Room.
In that tiny room, stacked with beige BBC Micros and red and black wires flagellating cathode ray monitors all around, I sent my first email.
It was via bakelite red phone connected with what I seem to remember (unless my memory is cheating) a black bakelite modem.
There was a lot of whirring and beeping, and I’ll never forget the exhilaration of seeing that dark green pixelated screen displaying that tiny flashing cursor in the top left corner before letters started appearing on the screen with a message from someone in a University that my teacher knew in America.
I wish I could remember what that email said. I imagine I probably said something psuedo-intellectual like “Have you read Cosmos by Carl Sagan. It’s brilliant isn’t it?”
Or maybe I just said “Hello”
If that teacher of mine ever comes across this blog, I’d just like to say two things:
1. I’m really sorry I forgot your name. Sometimes I blog on a whim and the idea of trawling through the garage for 25 year old school reports at eleven at night before putting fingers to keyboard just put me off, okay?
2. Thank you.
What was your first memory of the internet? I’d be fascinated to know. Leave a comment.

The founder of Attwood Digital, Mark is a digital marketing veteran having been working online since before the dotcom boom. He created the world's first online skip hire service in 2003, has created multiple online courses, lectured on digital marketing and even written a book on the subject. He is also an ICO advisor and crypto-enthusiast.
  1. I’m sure I was exposed to some form of the early Internet at university, but my first memories are from 1997 when my best friends had this great new thing called the Internet in their home. So ahead of their time for Plymouth. They were the first people I knew to have the Internet and it was painfully slow, but I was hooked. I used to let myself into their house (they gave me a key – honest!) and become so engrossed it would suddenly be 3am and I wouldn’t have noticed the time passing. The following year I headed off traveling and the Internet became a lifeline between me and my family and friends. I couldn’t live without it 🙂

  2. Great blog. Lisa I assume you were waiting until three as you were trying to see just one image before you had to leave! My first experience was around 1996-7 in Gijón in Northern Spain when I was teaching lecturers there English an they let me onto their computers in the University to have a look at this internet thingy (Remember Spain is usually behind by a good few years so it was still pretty new). I am sure i spent hours and hours without finding anything remotely interesting.
    When we were looking to move back to Spain in 1999 i remember using the net to try and find property and in Valencia there were three estate agents with sites. One of those sites had a whole three properties on it and it didn’t change in the four months we were looking at what we wanted to get. How times have changed.

  3. Having been born in 1984, I must confess my memory of the internet is decidedly junior to your own Mark (as are my wrinkles 😉
    When I was 4 I re-wrote the last sentence of my dads recently finish economics thesis to (a grossly miss-spelled version of) “and besides, I saw a tiger…”
    By 11 I had written my first computer game, a choose your own adventure text game on an old apple.
    My neighbor was a Novell expert, and at one stage dumped a load of old computers into a skip, including an “Osborne 1” and a number of 286’s and prior. As luck would have it I was even able to dig out an old Dual Core 386 server a few years later when said neighbor repeated his past waste management generosity, as well as a classic pull handle poker machine. The 386 Dual Core was my main computer, side by side with an old Apple Mac SE with a whopping 20mb external hard drive, the size of a VHS unit.
    My first internet experience must have come some time between 1992 and 1996 – the specific year would be impossible to pin-point, but by 1997 I was causing havoc in regular computing classes, almost getting expelled from school entirely.
    At 16 I started my first internet business – an eBay store, the profits of which sent me overseas (To Cambodia) December the same year.
    The oldest email account I still regularly check is dated back to 1999…
    I remember the days when Altavista ruled search… how miss-guided we were…
    We talk about this in a nostalgic fashion, but we are actually talking about relatively recent history.

  4. I first used Netscape Oct ’94 on a Mac IICX…with a 14 inch monitor that weighed about 15kg. My first email was to a professor in a US University. I was scared to reply when I got an answer to my question a week later….

  5. The old sights and sounds….
    My first program written on punched cards in 1972…
    Sinclairs first calculator – in reverse polish!! And soon after the TI59 – a real programmable computer (still got it if anyone wants to bid on real history) Wrote my first computer game on that!!
    A vacation job in 1980 controlling the glasgow traffic light system
    with a computer that had a 1K core store the size of a wardrobe “marconi myriad” – you typed in a bootstrap program with switches and loaded the programme on paper tape
    Those were the days when you HAD to know how to write code in small spaces, and how to make it fast.
    Then heaven…..playing with 8080 at Imperial london….
    Spending years in hush hush defence… trying to figure how to get image data down satellite links faster – data compression and all that – the images were HUGE all of 100K that is… The VAX – and VMS – computing comes of age.
    And the first “adventure” game we spent lunch times trying to figure
    twisty little passages all the same…
    Then a vision systems company started in 1985…
    Processing video for industrial inspection with tube cameras, and the only way we could do it was putting the entire thing into electronics, the hardware was not fast enough…
    I had one of the first 10M computers in manchester
    6 months before anyone else – a mission, I seem to remmeber
    and people would come to see it!!..and the expanded memory before extended memory
    AT LAST – we could get a whole image..in memory!!!
    Array processors appeared – who remembers the TI320?
    I wrote my MSc thesis on how to compile code to run in parralel
    Frigging assembler just so I could display an image on an EGA screen in the very perverse screen organisation then. And even then we needed assembler to get things to work fast enough.
    And for all the real time multitasking…
    Then the web…
    Connecting via a 4.8K modem
    ddiddle-iddle-iddle- iddle
    (lower pitch) ddiddle-iddle-iddle- iddle
    ddiddle-iddle-iddle- iddle
    deboing – deboing -deboing..
    Who remembers Mosaic? – the way to connect long before…civilisation.
    Websites, that would freeze at the first sign of a picture bigger than 5K….
    Compuserve email addresses didnt even have a name mine was 101636,207
    A book about some lawyer in america who had made a mint from email promotion, but we couldnt even get a connection that worked for long enough to try…..
    First website? Probably c 1994…

  6. In 1986 I was running a construction business.
    I bought an enormous word processing system which ran on nine inch floppys (try getting top rank for that search term on Google today!).
    I was made aware of a Network of businesses who were sending electronic messages to each other through modems and the system could be used with the kit I had.
    It was extremely expensive at the time, I remember it was about £150 per month to be on the system (a lot of money in 1986). It took ages to set up. I then immediately sent out my first email marketing campaign.
    To this day I have never had a reply.

  7. This really opened the memories from a long time ago, I remember being a child in the 80’s and all my friends got ZX spectrum’s with rubber keys and my father coming home one friday afternoon with a BBC model B computer system with 32kb of memory a standard cassette player to load the software and a 14″ metal box that had the monitor in it. He then spent the next 5 hours trying to get it to work and very frustrated said he would take it back to the shop next day, five minutes later when I finally got to actually touch it I had it working and was exploring what it could do!! The BBC computer set me up for school life where I soon was way ahead of the field and granted myself control of the whole school system (yes sorry it was me)
    Oh and the first Amstrad PC with five and a quarter disk 20mb of memory!
    Then to college and cobol programming!! Enough to give any one a head ache. Then emailing and connecting to a inhouse system for a large PLC on green screens in the early 90’s I saw then the benefits, why drive 100 miles to meet some one or post them a letter when you can quickly correspond and get virtually instant feedback?
    Mid 90’s I was online and got involved in the company I worked for developing their website, then instant messaging on ICQ that was fantastic with a long distance girlfriend and hotmail pre microsoft buying it.
    Then video chatting with my wife to be who lived in the Isle of man at the time
    Along the way getting annoyed at AOL and how it tried to smother people when they bought a new machine. Are you sure you want to remove AOL? and then repeating the question. Though I do miss the AOL coaster/cd that used to sit on my desk!!
    and realplayer
    Being an early user of firefox and telling all my friends to ditch IE, none of which have gone back!
    finding ebay and clearing my garage out
    And now I have an iphone in my pocket, with 40 useful apps, twitter, facebook, email, web etc they are amazing.
    Stop to think what we had 5 years ago pre twitter, facebook
    10 years ago google was just emerging
    15 years ago ??
    20 years ago ????
    oh and the noise a 56k modem used to make!! Are we online, has it worked?? Let’s wait 10 minutes to load one page if your lucky

  8. I just started ‘big’ school (1986) they were replacing the very large cuboard size computers with what then seems much smaller terminals and everone was very impressed, you have to love green screens, actually I think it looked more like ceefax / teletex (that is 35 years old this year).
    I can not remember the name it was given somthing like …gateway, it was desribed to us as a way to speak to other schools and there was a number of site you could visit which were for learing and I seem to remember news as well, I am not sure if you would consider the ‘internet’, it was rather slow and I seem to remember we were only allowed to press the keys very gently and only when supervised.
    Not so much an experience as the start of a new ear… what ever happened to Hong Kong Phooey, green socks and keyring rubix cubes… ah

  9. Being of advancing years ( although I haven’t reached the NEW 30 yet ) I can’t really remember the first time I used the internet, I do however remember the first time I heard about Google. I was trying to find some photographic supplies and had always tried ‘Ask Jeeves’ when I much younger guy who worked in my darkroom spouted out “You should try Google”. Weird name I thought but gave it a try and have used it ever since.
    What I didn’t realise at the time was how important the name Google would become in my work and how much time I would spend trying to please, learn about or even simply cajole it into giving me a better ranking.
    It’s a bit like that fairy tale – a never ending story.

  10. Crumbs, good question, as a young child (5?) I had an MSX and a tape recorder which took hours to load, and turning the tape over, and even then it was not guaranteed to work! Brickstop was my first game, then I got into platform games ,
    In 1988 (ish!) I joined big school, and we had amstrads and floppy disks, and I had a new computer – will have to ask Mum which one, and everyone was so very jealous, it was around that time we had internet and dial up (oh the joys) but it was amazing, I am lucky, I grew up with the technology and at 32 now, I would be lost without it, everything I do is online,
    I think I used AskJeeves and Google, but to be honest I do not remember clearly – though I will never forget the tape machine, the noise and brick stop – quality
    Suz x

  11. My first very vague memory of the budding Internet was using JANET at Uni in about 1987. Very vague…too vague to tell any stories about it.
    But… I do remember getting kind of hooked on email, and how fab it was to send messages to friends all over the country!
    My first experience of the web was when I worked at French bank BNP Paribas in London, when no one in the bank had the Web on their PC, the web was accessible via 1 PC which was situated in a senior managers office, and I remember very well sat on there surfing away only to be thrown out of the room because some bigwig wanted to use the room for a meeting that was about to take place.
    I also remember very well my worst ever development quote in 1996 for a single html web page with a link to an excel spreadsheet on it. I estimated 2 weeks dev time for this (not knowing any html), but it took about half an hour!

  12. When I first got internet service, circa 1997, I thought it was ran by a single company. I remember the first day I saw this aweful website and thought to myself “WTF is this??”. I found out it was a “personal home page” that was made by someone like me.
    That was the day I found out about HTML, webservers, etc… The day my life changed. A few weeks later I found out I could put a banner on my site and make 10 cents everytime someone clicked on it 🙂 After that I was hooked.

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