Gray Matter


Doing Time on the World Wide Web

world wide webI first logged onto the world wide web with my internet service provider, “Internet Direct” in metro Phoenix, Arizona, in 1994. My connection was a dial-up modem at 56 Kbps (though never attaining that speed), Windows 3.11 (Windows for Workgroups) and an add-on software package. Windows, by itself, wasn’t internet-capable at the time.

Everything I’m telling you is drawn from memory. I don’t have records of anything I did back then. I was still running a Commodore bulletin board system at the time (1992-1998) on a separate telephone line, first at my apartment and then at my house. The same house I sold in 2006, by the way, when I moved to the Philippines.

In the Beginning on the World Wide Web

Although Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web in 1989 and the first web browser went public in 1991, most people didn’t know about the web or how to get online until later on. That’s why it took me until 1994. The internet was older, starting as ARPANET in 1969.

It was rough. The hardest part, for me, was learning what web pages actually were. I discovered they were nothing more than text files formatted in specific ways. I’ve been designing web pages somewhere on the internet ever since. The first web browser I used was the first version of Netscape Navigator. It was the forerunner of today’s Firefox.

There were internet protocols I understood and some I didn’t. The ones I didn’t understand didn’t have any effect on my daily routines. There just wasn’t enough time in the day to learn everything because I was in the military at the time. The terms “archie”, “gopher” and “finger” I remember, but I still can’t tell you what they were used for.

I remember FTP and HTTP, obviously. I used FTP to upload web pages and I used HTTP (which we still use today) to view those pages on the world wide web.

Earning Money on the World Wide Web

I never intended to earn money on the world wide web, at least not in the beginning. It was a hobby I initially developed to replace my BBS hobby. I opened my Google AdSense account in 2005, for a long defunct website. For the life of me, I can’t remember its name. Not even the domain name. By the time I reached the Philippines in 2006, I had made a grand total of $9.07.

I received my first payment sometime in 2007. It took months for me to reach the required $100 threshold. I didn’t know how to generate web traffic. That all changed for the better but only until the end of 2011. My online income rose to more than $1000 a month and then went steadily downhill after Google started cracking down on web spam. And I didn’t have anything to do with web spam. I was collateral damage, as were many others.

My Future and the World Wide Web

I intend to spend the rest of my life working on something or other web-related, for as long as I’m physically capable of doing so. Even if I don’t earn much money (or any money) for what I’m doing, working on the world wide web keeps my mind active. I don’t spend as much time online as I did years ago and that’s okay. Other things, like grandchildren and nieces and nephews (and their children), tend to distract me.

What I don’t intend to do is sit idly by and wait for something to happen, which is called “marking time”. That is, unless I can’t do anything else. It may not be obvious, but there are times when “getting online” is more trouble and more expensive than what it’s worth. A long airline flight is only one such instance. Having no internet service for hours or days due to some outage is another.

Until the internet is legally treated as a utility, like water and electricity, and is regulated appropriately, all of us are at the mercy of the internet service providers and telecommunications companies (which are sometimes one and the same).

Photo Attribution: Hugovanmeijeren, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Edited and updated. Originally published at one of my other websites in February 2019.

Author: RT Cunningham
Date: January 29, 2021 (UTC)
Categories: Computers
Tags: web development

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