Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Twenty-Five Years of the Internet

Early in our marriage when my wife first suggested getting a computer, it was mostly a word-processor she was after. We certainly had no awareness of the internet then, and as a practical matter it had not yet taken the world by storm. I had taken a computer class in college, and I thought I knew a little something about those temperamental machines. "I don't have the time to write any programs for it," was my weary response.

Today we're celebrating the 25th birthday of the internet, which was created with the software and protocols of Tim Berners-Lee. It became available through CERN in 1991 and it was remarkably free of charge and free of oversight. Certainly it has been one of the great life-altering inventions of my lifetime, the other being the cell phone. I don't get to spend as much time in libraries as I'd like, but the internet, to a large degree, is an extensive venue for getting essential information from all over the world, and it is relatively user-friendly.

More content is added to the internet every day, making it a fluid resource that improves consistently over time. For someone like me whose interests are often rather obscure, it has been invaluable. For almost three years now I've been making my own daily contribution to the internet via this blog, adding at least some content that would not be available otherwise. Why, you're very welcome.

Valuable things disappear from the internet every day as well. My favorite massively multiplayer online roll playing game was Toontown Online. I even kept two accounts so I could play at the same time as my daughter. Disney pulled the plug on the "toontastic" game last year, for me leaving a vast hole in internet entertainment. Over the years, programmers had invested a huge amount of creative energy and technical know-how in the game, but in the end it was the accountants who made the fateful decision and likely hackers who forced it on them.

In the years before I created this blog, I put a lot of personal effort into labeling my photos on Kodak Gallery, now defunct, and writing reviews on Living Social, now all deleted. Many people put huge efforts into Geocities before it was condemned. I still feel it's such a waste when unique items disappear off the eBay site permanently after three months, and countless auction houses choose not to maintain their online archives indefinitely. If Blogger ever disappears, I don't have a backup copy of this blog. The price of memory and storage have gone way down, but the lesson, so far as I can see, is that, unlike diamonds, websites are not forever.


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