Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Tech-Nostalgia Part II – First Time Surfin’

On a hot summer day, sometime in June 1996, my dad came home with an envelope – I grabbed it from him and ripped it open. It contained a 1.44" floppy and some instructions. The envelope contained our first Internet Access Account and Package.


My PC at the time was a Pentium 133 Mhz PC with 2 GB HDD. It was fully loaded back then – An 8 speed CD-ROM drive, Soundcard, etc. This was also my first "Assembled" pc as I had branded machines before this: MiTAC, Compaq, AST. The PC also ran Windows 95.


Also, about a year before that, Qatar had an old-skool Bulletin Board Service (BBS) working via a dial-in server on a terminal. I've checked this out with some of my friends; it's pretty cool and is basically the text-only precursor to the Internet.


So I start up the computer and frantically follow the instructions to the dot. Luckily, the ISP has DHCP enabled, so all I had to do was configure the DNS servers (back then, DNS configuration was also manual). So I saw things like IP Address and stuff, really made no sense to me back then. So after setting everything, I said a prayer and clicked on 'Dial'. The 28.8K modem sprang to life, opened the telephone line and started dialing the access number. Then, all of a sudden, the computer starts making funny noises (I later found out that this was the most famous modem handshaking noise, something which is now pretty much defunct). Also, this was one of the first Internet access dialer programs, so the moment the handshake was completed, a terminal screen showed up with the login and password to be keyed in then (much like today's putty). So after logging in to the Internet terminal, I wait patiently as the terminal window starts showing weird characters, and then poof! , the modem disconnects. After resolving the Issue (which was merely to close the login terminal after dial-in), Windows 95 reported that I was connected to the Internet, with the small modem icon in the system tray!


So I fire up MS Internet Explorer v2.0 (which came pre-installed in my copy of Windows 95), and then wait patiently for something to come up. I was just staring at a blank page. I picked up a magazine that I had got about a month back which featured some Internet websites, so I randomly choose a site from their list. I typed in the address patiently, and hit enter. Suddenly, a animated logo Windows appears to by flying, and after a full 5 minutes, I saw a green-colored page.


I was seeing my very first HTML webpage. It was a Star-Sports cricket page made for the Cricket World Cup of 1996. Since Google didn't exist back then, one of the engineers from my dad's company recommended a site called Altavista for all my searching requirements – (the site was decent, it kept me company until Google was launched in 1999-2000). By the end of the day, I downloaded Doom in a file format that I'd never ever seen before (.zip), and also discovered a nifty little application called WinZip. I was totally hooked on to the Internet!


At QR 6 an hour (approx. 75 Rs.), it wasn't cheap, and the arrival of the Internet bill was a monthly scolding session from my parents. Within a few months, I switched to Netscape Navigator 2 (the precursor to Mozilla), Then when Windows 98 was released, IE completely obliterated the competition and Netscape became defunct. It's nice how Netscape is kicking IE's ass with its rebirth as Firefox now.


Even after I came to India for Higher studies in 2003, Dial-up internet was still the only way to go online. Also, my previous college had sucky 64k ISDN lines to its labs only, so the only way I went online back then was using GPRS through my mobile. I'm greatly indebted to Airtel in Kerala, since they allowed me to go online at a reasonable rate of 250 Rs./month unlimited access. Sure, the speed was just a little better than the first time I went online on the 28.8K modem, but it did a good job of keeping me connected to the world as I slogged away for 4 years in a village to complete my B.Tech.

8 comments:

Kulbir Saini said...

I love the way you write ... keep 'em coming ... waiting for more :)

jinsbond007 said...

oh man!

fantastic, keep on writing. I think you should write on the life without computer and internet!

cheers

Himank said...

Man seriously luving your posts... Keep dem coming!!!

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