Apparently Internet spam is ten years old. This made me realise that I’ve been using the Internet for ten years.
I received my first Internet email message on the 23rd of February 1994. (Sadly, I still have it.) I was working in Parliament with a gregarious cockney bloke (a great guy who has since become a minor public figure in the bureaucracy) who’d convinced one of the CRIs that we needed our own Internet connected PC. I’d been brainwashed by Wired Magazine for much of 1993 and was dead keen on the idea as well. It was all set up for us, and eventually (for these things took time in those days) we were connected.
That first email message, of course, just said “Test”. Not much of a Come here, Watson moment, I’m afraid.
The web was then in its infancy and the office budget didn’t stretch to a machine that could run windows and thus graphical browsers. So I got onto Usenet – pretty much the best game in town then – and arrived just in time to witness the infamous Canter & Siegel Green Card message, the event regarded as the first ever spam.
The other big event on the Internet, in early April 1994, was the death of Kurt Cobain. This was the first time I started to realise the enormous socially connective power of the Internet. The newsgroup alt.music.alternative became swamped with messages of mourning, loss, humour, hatred, incomprehension and disregard as people came together to relate their take on Cobain’s death. It was huge: thousands of argumentative music geeks in the same virtual place. And I’m not explaining the effect of it well. Over time the Internet has become commonplace and normalised – it’s hard for me to remember just how mindblowing it was back then.
Ten years later, the thing that was not much more than my hobby has become a career. And that’s probably the best kind to have. I’m a hell of a lucky guy.