I’m reading – do forgive me – Volume 4 of Philip Sandifer’s Tardis Eruditorum (Tom Baker and the Hinchcliffe Years) and this pops out:
...the charmingly dated phrase “information superhighway.” This phrase rightly serves as a sort of memetic tombstone for a particular historical moment in digital technology: the last point where it was possible to talk about it without actually knowing a single thing about it.
It’s about a novel by Justin Richards called System Shock, published in the years when Doctor Who wasn’t really a thing for most people, but that’s not particularly relevant and I haven’t read it anyway. But it did get me thinking about the way in which the web sort of oozed up on people throughout the 1990s. I’d had a bit of a conceptual head start over many of my contemporaries because the company I worked for at the beginning of the decade marketed a vast database that clients were able to access remotely from proprietary terminals (which were forever breaking down and always reminded me of Etch-a-Sketches). Towards the end of my time there we installed an intranet and I’m pretty sure that the first e-mail I ever sent was directed to one of my colleagues with whom I’d just endured a rather messy break-up.
But the first time I ever properly used the world wide web must have come in about 1995 – coincidentally the same year that System Shock was published. It was in an internet cafe (remember them?) somewhere in central London and you paid not just for your time online but also for the assistance of some bright young thing who’d tell you what to do while also bringing your coffee, a sort of browser barista. And the first thing I typed into a search engine, prompted by all the smut and innuendo that attended the protracted death rattle of the Major government, was:
MICHAEL PORTILLO GAY?
Anyway, over to you, my dwindling band of heedless bots and casual passers-by. When you went on the www for the very first time, what did you do, where did you go, what did you ask?