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Thirty Years Online

It dawned on me the other day that it is coming up for 30 years[1] since I first got online.

Needless to say, the world was a lot different back then!

For starters, the ‘Internet’ as we know it know wasn’t around yet. In 1989, only large companies, research institutes, universities and the military were connected to it. The online world for regular folks—or rather, those regular folks who had the means to do so—consisted of dial-up modem connections to bulletin board systems (BBSes) and online services like CompuServe and AOL.

I first stumbled into that world via the pages of Computer Shopper magazine[2], which had a forum on a service called the CompuLink Information eXchange, or Cix[3] to those who used it.

I was at university at the time, doing a BSc Computer Science course, part of which involved a year’s placement at an IT company. I’d gotten myself a trainee position at the Bracknell headquarters of International Computers Limited (ICL)[4].

It was through my day-job at ICL that I was able to access Cix and buy a second-hand 1200/75[5] dial-up modem from someone on there. Then I persuaded my dad to run a phone line extension up to my room so I can connect my new modem up to my BBC Master 128[6] home computer.

Fun times were had accessing various UK bulletin boards as well as the aforementioned Cix. Expensive times, too—back then, phone calls cost a lot of money. My parents had words with me after a couple of large phone bills!

That was how it all started. In future posts, I’ll recollect some other milestones in my online life.

  1. I forget the exact month and date, so I’m posting this now while I remember! ↩
  2. The UK version published by Dennis Publishing, not the US version published by Ziff Davis. ↩
  3. Pronounced ‘kicks’. ↩
  4. It was in the process of being acquired by Futijsu as I neared the end of my time there. Or, perhaps more accurately, swallowed and digested. ↩
  5. That’s 1,200 bits-per-second download, 75 bits-per-second upload—not that unusual for the time. Thankfully, I was able to get a faster modem later on. ↩
  6. Yes, the British Broadcasting Corporation. Acorn’s BBC Micro series (produced for the BBC for the Computer Literacy Project) were the principle 8-bit home computers in the UK in the 1980s, alongside Sinclair Research’s ZX-80/ZX-81 and ZX Spectrum, and later on Amstrad’s CPC range. And before anyone writes in, yes, I’m aware there were other UK computer makers around at that time, but these are the ones that survived and thrived. ↩

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