I'm taking a brief break from Sunshyn's magnets. The entertainment editor had a lot of Christmas-themed magnets, so I'm going to use them for the next few days, in deference to the season!
WHAT I'M READING...
My Amazon wish list
WHAT I'M WATCHING...
That's it for today!
THE FREE RIDE'S OVER
17 December 2001
Many years ago--seven, I think. Maybe more. I was contemplating getting a modem for my 286 PC computer. I didn't have a clue what I would do with it, but I just wanted one. I went to the son of a friend of mine, my first computer guru, and asked him to just show me what I could do with a modem.
He logged on with his computer and began going through local bulletin boards. Quite frankly there wasn't anything that grabbed me, but at least I'd seen it in action and even though I didn't know what I was going to do with a modem, I still wanted one.
Dubious--and afraid he was going to get socked with thousands of dollars worth of phone charges--Walt bought a modem for me, I think for my birthday.
My first weeks were tentative. The first thing I ever connected to was the library at UC Davis. I didn't actually do anything there, but I was thrilled that I could sit on one side of town and be connected to a computer on the other side of town.
Over the next year or two, I got involved with CompuServe, made a few friends, got hooked up to the Internet through a grant from CalTrans, which was giving 1500 families free Internet access. I was one of the first here in town to get Eudora so I could move mail from the main server to my own computer, and shortly after that I tried Mosaic and tiptoed carefully out into the WorldWideWeb, like Bambi's mother stepping out onto the meadow.
It's been an interesting ride. But these days I'm thinking back to those very early days when I was exploring the much smaller web and enjoying being able to bring graphical images to my computer from somewhere else--anywhere else. My first guru answered questions for me during that time and when I wrote to him in great excitement about something I'd discovered, he responded "Enjoy it, because it a year it's going to explode and you'll look back and remember that you were part of the Golden Age of the Internet."
I'm feeling the force of his remarks these days.
I've seen the explosion he predicted. Every man, woman, child, dog, cat and perhaps even iguana has a web page. I remember the very first time I was riding in a car, looked at a billboard and thought "how clever-- someone has put their web page address on a billboard." Now you can't pick up a pencil without finding the URL of its manufacturer's web page imprinted somewhere on it.
I remember when newscasters stumbled over web addresses and some even said things like www-period-webaddress-period-com . Now they glibly refer to the "dot coms" as an industry everyone recognizes.
In the Golden Age, the thing that was remarkable was how much was out there, just ripe for the picking. Everyone was so generous. Graphics, sound clips, layouts all posted by people who were just so thrilled with what they were accomplishing that they wanted to share them with the world--literally.
I remember first stumbling over BlueMountain greeting cards and the fun of finding the right card to send to someone. I discovered Club Photo and enjoyed sharing my photos. I started my own journal on Geocities, and set up a couple of discussion groups on EZBoard.
I'm not sure when it all started to change. Perhaps with the advent of Java or whatever the heck it is that permits those damn pop-up ads. I didn't so much mind the banner advertising. I realized that there's no free lunch and someone somewhere had to pay for all that stuff that peons like me were enjoying so much.
But it seems that in the past year using the Internet has become a lot more irksome than enjoyable. First the guilt notices began to appear. "Help with upkeep" sorts of things. I did decide it was worth it to me to pay geocities to make the ads disappear and to get my own domain name.
Then Club Photo stopped keeping albums up indefinitely, only for a short time unless you were willing to pay for long-term storage.
EZBoard started bombarding users with advertising and huge banner ads saying "Pay to make this go away..."
And the pop-ups. Even when using a service like Amazon, or some other "yes, I'll buy your product" page, I would have to close several pop up ads inviting me to go to some other site to buy stuff. It's the Internet equivalent to those damn blow-in cards you get in magazines these days.
Don't even talk about junk mail. I thought I got junk mail in my home mailbox, but what has been coming through on my email accounts this year is just amazing. I delete way more junk mail than I receive actual mail to me personally. (Including all those people in Nigeria who think I'm going to share my personal bank account with them so they can make me a multimillionaire.)
Two nights ago, I tried to send a birthday card to SecraTerri. It was one of the most frustrating things I've tried to do lately. I have a rather lengthy list of e-card sites and it seemed that most of them had either gone high tech so that all the cards had bells and whistles (which I didn't think she would be able to see), or they offered one very plain vanilla card for free and an "unlimited selection" if you joined. (I even found that most of them caused my system to jam when trying to view the cards which were in the pay-as-you-go section; I must have rebooted eight times just trying to send one card!)
Even Blue Mountain had exactly TWO free birthday cards, with a tantalizing peek at the others you could select, but only if you were willing to pay.
Oh, I know that you get what you pay for, but jeeze, you could nickel and dime yourself to death here. Even if you go into a card store, you only have to buy one card. By joining all these card sites, you could pay a mint just for the privilege of sending a handful of cards a year. I certainly don't want to be locked into only one brand of anything, so I'm afraid Blue Mountain has lost this customer.
I guess I'm getting to be a crotchety old lady. I knew that it was only a matter of time before the free ride ended, but my young guru was right. Today as I close yet another pop-up window, I look back fondly on the Golden Age of the Internet, when everything was free, everyone was generous, and it was just plain fun discovering what was out there to be shared.
One Year Ago:
The Dreaded Christmas Letter
For those masochistic enough to want to read the on-line version of
my Christmas letter, you can find it here.
My tip of the week: