The year is 1995. It is past 9PM. Our typical tam-brahm household in Chennai has started ramping down for the day. Mom is clearing the kitchen and setting up for next day. Dad is finishing up watching the long form news (yes, the DD news that aired between 8:30-9PM ; there was a short form news between 730-745PM). I am generally vetti (vella, jobless, whatever) – a generally acceptable state for an engineering student in my second year of college.
I may look vetti, but excitement inside me is rising. The time is approaching. Half hour more. You ask for what? I will tell you what. INTERNET TIME.
I finish up my nightly glass of milk and run to my dads computer – a clunky X86/486. Dad had always been up-to-date on computers. For formality sakes, I run up to each family member in the family and tell them I am ‘going to the internet’ – not because they will miss me, but when I am ‘in there’, there will be no phones that will come in. *Pause for dramatic effect*. Yes, no incoming phone calls. And there was only one phone in the house – no mobiles then. So I basically cut off the primary communication channel to the home. On hindsight, I am thankful for family to have even let me do that!. Wow thats huge. If my son tells me, he is going to muck with my internet for a school project, I am not sure if I would be OK with that. (I would probably get him another Docomo stick or get myself one).
But I digress. I switch on the computer. (Yes, those were times when you switched on your computers only when you needed them). We had a choice. You could use the VSNL dialler or if you are adventurous, you can open up Windows Hyperterminal and could control the modem using the ATDT commands. The Zyxel modem used to be pretty much the same size as our cable modems now. I guess that has not really changed much.
Dang. It was expensive. I had a student account. 500 bucks a year. And I got a low speed terminal access account. My email was firstname.lastname@example.org. GIAS was the Gateway Internet Access Service. The only window from India to the world.
You get this screen and you fistpump. You made it. There were a fixed number of dial-up connections that could be opened up. So you keep trying. Most used keys were up-arrow and enter. Repeating the ATDT for redial. And then you would hear the screeching noise of the modem and then the busy tone. Up-arrow and enter. More screeching. And then you hear a different screeching sound. And a dramatic pause later, NO CARRIER. Dang. Up-arrow and return. Now you see why, when you see the above screen, you fistpump.
After we got into the internet, we had a grand list of 10 things you could do.
Three of them were most popular. Email. Lynx. UNIX prompt. And you typically went to the UNIX prompt to fire up IRC and chat with folks. There used to be a Madras Chat Room. There used to be a room with SVCE (our college) folks. Fun Fun.
But yeah, we got only a terminal.
And then entered Ranga, who wrote a software called BlueSpec (I think – dont fully remember the name of the software!), which could bring up a TCP-IP connection interface (that is what we used to call an internet with pictures :)) with a shell connection. You downloaded Mozilla (or got it from the free CD in PC Quest – remember??). You fired up BlueSpec only if you wanted to see pictures. It used to be terribly slow though. The shell connection was faster. So lynx it was. A site was considered good if it opened up clean in text and in a browser. That was the ‘responsive’ design of yesterday.
And then you would continuously be looking at the clock. You also had a limited number of hours – remember – 500 hours per year. So an hour a day would be comfortable – so that some time is remaining for ’emergency’ internet times.
Those were the days. Good days. Nostalgia.
All screenshots courtesy: (http://guide2net.net/bookweb/dnload/guide.pdf)