So there you have it. This is the psychedelic cover of a book I've wanted since it first came out in the mid 90's. Finally got a bargain supposedly-used-but-looking-brand-new copy off of Amazon.
I remember reading excerpts from this book in PC Quest magazine.
At the time no one had heard of the net, mainstream media was just starting to recognize that such a thing existed-and in India, at an eye watering 15k rupees for 100 hours of dialup access it was as good as non existent. It all seemed so cutting edge and futuristic, William Gibson's Sprawl come alive, hackers staring at green phosphor text displays fueled by caffeine and stronger things, the quaint scream of a modem handshake heralding your getting online..
Today we see it with a sort of Wild West nostalgia, the innocent era when Usenet wasn't inundated with spam and hacking wasn't the preserve of organized crime rings and foreign governments.
The book has this wide eyed sense of wonder at the geographically diverse sets of people coming together- the author mentions herself being in Florida and having discussions with people from Maine to Sweden. Today we hardly think about it, in fact it's a given that any online community will have its share of non native English speakers from all corners of the world.
But it took me back, back to the first time I went on public chat on Rediff.(Yes, that very same present day troll haven, Rediff!)
Most people there were NRIs, and I recall the feeling of 'holy shit, what I'm typing here is going to the other side of the world!' that we take for granted now.
It is also endearing and sad to see her reaction to a chain letter with a get rich quick scheme, and her naive confidence that people would quickly reject such things.Remember, this was back when the net was limited to academia, so it was smartass college students and academics who dominated discussions. There was no ecommerce, no spam and no GeoCities, let alone Facebook. And online gamers were hooked onto MUDs, the ancestor of today's graphics heavy MMORPGs like World of Warcraft.
It was a very different net back then - the web as we know it today with huge pages stuffed with images and video was just evolving. Usenet was the place to go for discussions, IRC was for chat and when you looked in your email, you wouldn't find it crammed with porn and Viagra peddlers. And the people you interacted with were not the average trolls who dominate most online fora these days.
I've not finished the book as yet, but it's amazing how quickly it has gone from describing something exciting and new, to literally an archaeological artifact of the early days of the Internet. Internet time is much faster than real time after all.
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