Stories: The Internet

  • Russell Brown,

    Your first time, your worst time, and every moment in between. To mark the publication of Connecting the Clouds, Keith Newman's new history of the New Zealand Internet, we're offering five copies of the book, heaps of Eden coffee and an internet-capable Nokia mobile phone for the best stories about you and the internet.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

92 Responses

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  • Jackie Clark,

    I've been online for about 13 years I think. It started with discovering chat rooms - one was a pagan one that I just wandered into, and enjoyed their company so much, I was a regular for a few months. I once was a member of a NZ chat room. Fascinating people in a very creepy way, some of them. Most of them were deeply poisonous - I discovered this only because we had a lot of chat meets, and I met a woman who I became friendly with. I ended up going to Hamilton to spend a couple of nights with her, to hang out. Turns out afterwards that she had spread the rumour that I was a lesbian. I didn't mind, really, I just thought it was a bit tragic. I met my very closest friend online - I call her my platonic soul mate. I would never have found her if it weren't for the internet. As I would never have met any of the good friends I have met online. I use the net as a social tool, and a research tool, and everything in between. I use it to arrange meetings, and to meet new people. I really can't imagine my life without it.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I’ve never been a cellphone sort of guy. I freely admitted from the outset that I would eventually own one, but I’ve never felt liberated or otherwise blessed with the idea of being able to ping my friends and foes on the move. But there was something truly quite exhilarating in receiving my first email, in the (northern) summer of 1997. I had just finished the military service back home and was waiting for the visa from London to come over here. Suddenly the Internet seemed just the thing, and I had to learn it fast, fast enough to teach my mum how to use it. If you’ve never tried to teach a visually impaired, computer illiterate retiree with no English everything she needed to know to use email, from turning the machine off to switching it off and all the little steps in between, I promise you it will test your pedagogical skills some. It resulted in a couple of typed pages of instructions, a real idiot’s guide (sorry mum) that fell over every time she unwittingly dragged a window one inch to left of its usual place. Fortunately I had a couple of friends who’d pay her a visit when that happened and put everything back in kilter.

    The first six months in New Zealand were hard. It doesn’t matter how friendly the local populace was, and how relatively easy it was to find work and a place to stay; they don’t call it uprooting for nothing. But at the same time my immigrant experience - which was rather cushy to begin with, compared to most - seemed almost unfairly easy thanks to the Internet. I could read the paper, email my family, chat with my friends (one of whom had designed a fantastic little IM programme), follow politics and sports. And it was alienating, too, after a couple of hours of such activities you became quite unsure of your geography. I toyed with those programmes that let you know where you are in the world, tracing the route of the information packets, but of course they don’t mean a thing. On the Net - even on dial-up - you really are everywhere at once, or perhaps in a single place of scrambled coordinates. It’s one of those things that really shouldn’t work, but it does.

    And it becomes a second skin, so quickly. Everything is still there, those first emails I received thanks to a friend’s account at uni, to the tune of the high-pitched screams of a brick-like modem in the little flat that we occupied above my father’s workshop. (One of them read just, Have you been to the toilet yet? Because my friend-come-tutor had warned me that I’d start checking my email in the morning before all else). All the emails I exchanged with my family are also there, those sanitised and optimistic accounts of my first weeks on the other side of the goddamn planet. My mum got a bit carried away, I suppose: when my father died, she informed me via email. Fortunately, in the circumstances, it happened overnight and I got the phone call before I could read the message. Which is still there, although it’s nine years later and I still can’t bring myself to open it.

    Now she doesn’t email anymore, it just became too hard. So last year I got her a new machine and now all she has to do is sit down and turn it on; within a few seconds the grandchildren appear thanks to the magic of Skype. And it still seems almost unfair, that it should be so easy, that it should make us feel so close. Almost, but not quite.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    So last year I got her a new machine and now all she has to do is sit down and turn it on; within a few seconds the grandchildren appear thanks to the magic of Skype. And it still seems almost unfair, that it should be so easy, that it should make us feel so close. Almost, but not quite.

    Giovanni, that's lovely. That closeness-distance thing has made me realise what I wanted to say.

    I got into the internet seriously when my kids were little and I was ill. I remember thinking just before I found writing boards and blogging that I was probably pretty much done with this internet thing.

    The parenting boards and CFS support groups left me completely cold, but eventually I found a bunch of happy, relaxed, porny women with whom I felt comfortable. Given the way the net lets you drip-feed personal information, it was a while before I found out who was Republican, who was Pentecostal, who was four foot ten, who was twenty or forty or sixty.

    But then there were the times when something went wrong, and it really smacks home to you how far apart you are. A friend's child goes into hospital, and you can't help look after their other kid or drop over food. Another friend is suddenly uprooted and moved to another state, and you can't help her pack or lend her boxes.

    And the worst thing is when someone suddenly disappears. A few days pass, and you realise you haven't seen them. They don't respond to emails, they don't blog, they don't write, and you have no idea what happened to them. They're just gone.

    Should I get run over by a truck, there's a list of people I've never met that my partner has to tell.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Should I get run over by a truck, there's a list of people I've never met that my partner has to tell.

    I was having this same discussion with an ex-girlfriend who I met via the internet, and who lives overseas. I'm now going to add a page to my will of 'people that should be informed if I die or get seriously ill'.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Rus Holland,

    The Grok Parties under the Civic in Auckland
    (went to both - still got the smart card somewhere)

    Patrick O'Brian and DomaiNZ sueing Alan Brown
    (following the discussions and cross postings (sic) on usenet)

    Rex at Waikato issueing domain names within an hour (or two) if he wasn't busy - very first in first served
    (I got a couple of nice ones which I still have)

    And the good ol' SODA awards....
    (still lasted longer than Anson and Wammo)


    Great times - back in the day...

    Gisborne • Since Aug 2008 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Ladymink,

    I think we got our first modem sometime back in 1994 or 5, it took up to ten minutes to download our first current affrairs webpage- much quicker to just read a newspaper back then. I seem to recall our ISP was a small outfit called ICONZ or something similar.
    When I found myself pregnant in early 1996 I found an online support group/closed members list in the US called 'November Moms' set up for women expecting babies in November 1996:those women and their families became a daily part of my life for almost the next decade. when I couldnt log in for a daily chat at one point due to not having a computer, the US women put together and bought me one -shipped it to NZ in fact!
    Ive met some of my closest and dearest friends and lovers on the internet, spent probably far too much of my life online but...
    Memorable moments: sitting up the whole of last Christmas night keeping my son company on Skype (his first Christmas in the UK, lonely, cold and without family or friends I couldnt bear to think of him spending Christmas day alone); seeing photos of my cousins and their children posted on Facebook, not seeing them since childhood and being shattered by the ties of blood and family resemblances..the delicious and sometimes surreal conversations with people all over the world you will probably never meet.. MSN in the middle of the night..helping a friend through a crisis..feeling a deep soul bond with someone on the other side of the world...chatting to someone new in Europe and suddenly they have arrived in NZ, are on your doorstep and living in your home..and you know it will be a friendship that may last a lifetime..having scored yourself a fee trip to Europe as they return the favour...I could go on...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2007 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    You know I’m bit unsure of the actual dates, but looking back at the test match records it must have been the summer of ‘93/94. I was a newly minted scientist and I was already pretty familiar with the internet. We did things like download DNA sequences and of course lots of e-mail and newsgroups. Back in those days the newsgroups were pretty civilised places where you could ask questions about methods and get really useful responses, and of course give useful answers when you had them to give.

    Oh and there were newsgroups devoted to things like cricket :)!

    So there I was sitting in the computer room at work (we had 4 or 5 computers for the whole floor) listening to cricket on my radio and at the end of a post mentioned that I was listening to the test match live. Immediately, I got responses back from a group of Pakistanis and Indians wanting me to jump over to their dedicated cricket channel and give them commentary. So I did. It turned out there were hundreds of cricket mad folk from the subcontinent whose only access to news of their favourite game was the newsgroups. In a matter of hours I was led to the dedicated channel where I started giving ball-by-ball commentaries. There were 3 or 4 of us kiwis giving live feed and we handed over to each other when we needed a break (or needed to do some work). The listeners wrote scripts for us to use so that we could keep up with the play. I think I did 4 test matches that summer, in between trying to do my work. I can’t remember exactly but I think we got a “listening” audience of a couple of thousand at one point.

    It was a neat experience and I guess probably was one of the first “live” commentaries of cricket on the net. By the time the next summer rolled around I was too busy to do any more commentaries and I think by then cricinfo had really started up properly. And then we moved to the US where RB’s hard news e-mails were our best connection to home and my connection to cricket was those same newsgroups I had served before.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report Reply

  • pacap,

    the internet....
    early 90's using x-modem to sending 2mb dev files to Australia over 9k6 circuit at 2am cause it'd only take a few hours. The pain of it all

    .... then Bulletin boards...with these strange gateway options to other bulletin boards

    driving into Mayoral drive to get the disk for the ICONZ, ISP config nice couch...

    Fetch , Gopher a regular part of the internet experience (pre browsers)

    Downloading the first http server and the first browser (Mozilla) and thinking this may be something cool, even had my hands on a NeXT box

    Usenet and the great for the taste of home, using awesomely fast internet access while "working" at NT in London (knowing who was running the open dns important)

    trolling alt.pavetheearth

    Going to the Java 1.0 release in London and thinking this may be cool, still got the pin!

    Nowadays it still blows me away how ingrained the internet has become in our day to day life, no turning round now.

    A request....when will there be re-rendering of the PA site for MobilePDA display, we all know internet access by mobiles a given and sites need to be rendered for the format hint! hint!

    auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Ray Gilbert,

    1993 I think. With the help of the IT guy at work on our new SG workstation.

    I got access to various .alt newsgroups and archives which contained access to all sorts of information in the days before there was any sort of regulation.

    Some of the stuff (all non sexual) which we could freely look at would get you fired, and probably arrested these days, but it sure was fun to read.

    Since Nov 2006 • 104 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    I had a look at this page about Connecting the Clouds. It has a (non-exhaustive) list of 191 people who appear in the book. Only 17 of those names are women, and six of those are politicians.

    I know the internet industry is typically male-dominated, and back in the day it was even more male-dominated than it is now, but it was never that male-dominated.


    Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    In the pre-broadband era, taking advantage of Freenet and ZFree to the max until the loopholes were closed. Including all-nighter sessions of Camper-Strike and the earliest P2P programs. And I haven't yet mentioned when Otago Uni IT dept started relaxing its Internet access policy...

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5446 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Only 17 of those names are women, and six of those are politicians

    No Lin_Nah?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    I may not know one end of usenet from the other; I may have taken an embarrassingly long time to work out what an RSS feed was; I may get thoroughly confused by pretty much every technical aspect of the tubes. But there is one internetty thing I have on most of you, and that is this: I met my husband in 1997, in what may be *the* nerdiest place on the internet:

    Costello-l. The Elvis Costello discussion listserv.

    You just can't get a nerdier starting place than that for a long-term relationship. I'm sorry. You can all try, but you will not top it. It is totally ludicrous.

    (Moreover, costello-l has been going for so long that it has spawned something like five marriages and, at last count, about five kiddies. It's also where I initially encountered one Mr Simon Grigg...)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    I spent 1998 sick with glandular fever. I remember very little of that year but one thing I do recall is creeping into my flatmate's bedroom while she was at work and 'borrowing' her computer and internet connection. I really don't know what I was looking at back then but I rapidly discovered that I could fill whole days very easily.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    OMG, here they are The men of the Internet

    And 29 out of the 39 wear glasses. Is there a conclusion to be drawn there?
    I wonder.

    Anypoo. For all those of you that have lost stuff on the interweb and wonder where it went, have a look at The Museum of Broken packets A curiosity of the net, those poor little lost packets of data that forever roam the net looking for their home.
    If you really get a kick out of this you a probably wearing glasses. I know I am ;-)

    I don't really have a story as such but there was a time when i sent out an eMail invite to a gallery opening for a friend (1998). I inadvertently sent a flashy graphic as a .bmp instead of a .jpg, it came out at a "Massive" 600K file. I got blisteringly nasty responses from all those that managed to download it and it didn't help the gallery owner one bit.
    (hangs head in geek shame)

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    And. On second look, I'm sure some of those pix are of the same person, or do they "All look the same to me" ;-)

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    One of them used to be a lecturer of mine.

    Is it a gallery of people influential on the internet in some way, or just strange looking?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    I met my husband in 1997, in what may be *the* nerdiest place on the internet:

    I think that just may be one of the sweetest things I've ever heard. See, that's what I love about the Internet as social tool. It brings people together who may not have otherwise met. Just awesome.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I met my husband in 1997, in what may be *the* nerdiest place on the internet:

    Costello-l. The Elvis Costello discussion listserv.

    You just can't get a nerdier starting place than that for a long-term relationship. I'm sorry. You can all try, but you will not top it. It is totally ludicrous.

    I'm with you there, and what a great story.
    I trust the band at the wedding were Elvis impersonators?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Adrian Wills,

    My first time... who could forget:
    It was using Netscape Navigator on our brand new family Apple PowerPC circa 1997, at the ripe age of about 14. In front of me sat what seemed like (and still does) an endless stream of free information, far superior to that of the dusty encyclopedia's that sat on the shelf next to the computer desk. From then on, I realized that if I ever wanted to know anything, I was more likely to find it there than anywhere else. If I thought it was wrong, I'd check it on another site.

    And since then, I've educated myself to th best of my abilities via the world wide web. I've sat numerous times and had discussions / arguments with flatmates and the like, laptop in hand and managed to cite any reference I may use. Yes it's nerdy, yes it's geeky, but it's hard to argue with he who is educated.

    And it's changed my life because at the time, I was to be an architect, or in radio... but since my knowledge and passion for that which is online has grown, I have now made a career out of building websites, becoming fluent in html, php and the many other languages the internet speaks. And I NEVER could've imagined I'd enjoy it so much. I love my job, I enjoy getting up and going to work, and too few people I know can say that. Spam and Porn aside, I think the internet has only just begun to show us what it's capable of, and I'm happy to be at the forefront of what will hopefully be a still-got-plenty-of-growth-left industry.

    I heart the web.

    Parnell, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 45 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    You just can't get a nerdier starting place than that for a long-term relationship. I'm sorry. You can all try, but you will not top it. It is totally ludicrous

    Ahh the post I was waiting for in this thread.....

    To be honest, I didn't know Costello-l was still trucking but it seems it is. It's also spawned a variety of albums including one which included a track by a young guy, Dane Wagge, who died in 1996. His story was a pretty moving part of my early days on the net and the power of it.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3284 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    My first encounters with computers were a matter of fear and trembling. I had started a PhD in the American Culture PhD Program at Bowling Green State University (25 miles down I-25 from Toledo, Ohio), living on a teaching fellowship which kept me quite well in bagels, onion rings and $2 beer, served in jam jars. Part of the PhD programme (it was a taught PhD, which mean't doing two full years of courses, internship, practicum etc, before writing a thesis in year three), included a 'language' component. The choice was between French, German--or rudimentary computer programming. I can still remember spending many hours at a curious machine, punching out little square holes in cards, then feeding packs of these cards into a machine which turned them into on-screen data. One false key-punch and you started all over again!! There seemed to be a purpose to it all but it pretty much eluded me at the time.
    In fact, it put me off computers and I ignored email and the Net for quite some time--making my way back in a series of evolutionary steps ie semi-electric typewriter, electronic typewriter--then I discovered the Apple Mac. I wish I could remember the first email I ever sent (I can vividly remember the first film I ever saw!).
    After all these years, some aspects of the connected world still fill me with awe and wonder--such as when I have finished a long book chapter or review after labouring over it for weeks, then send it off to the other side of the world at the press of a button.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2562 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    I completely forget the first time I stumbled across the intertubes (wouldn't even know what year, possibly 1998 or so?).
    I have no idea what HTML/Java/Silverlight is (although am regularly astounded by the beauty my brother can conjur with the technical pixies).
    RSS STILL confuses me (I signed in to Google's Reader thinking "pffft, it's Google, must be easy". Looked around for about 90 seconds then backed slowly out of the room rather wide-eyed).

    So I will instead recount a couple of excellent Telecom-ad-in-real-life-showing-the-wonder-of-the-internet-through-empowering-children stories.
    My nephew, whom I gave a 5minute introduction to the internet when he was 3 years old had, within a matter of days, worked out how to click through the banner ads on (or similar) to ToysRus. And then managed to find the Bob the Builder workbench he had his eye on. And "add it to his cart". And get to the credit card page. At which point he asked my wife if he could borrow her credit card and when she kindly wriggled out of that, proceeded to write a series of numbers on a PostIt Note and proclaim it was "OK because I've got my own".

    And that of a loving Grandmother here in NZ that communicates primarily with her London-based 18-month-old Granddaughter via the wonders of Skype. Lily* believes that Granny lives inside the stylish little box on Mums lap and has a tendency to yell BYE GRANNY and slam the laptop lid shut in the middle of a conversation - I really think Fisher Price are missing an opportunity somewhere here.

    Moral of the story? They both use Macs so OSX is clearly superior =P

    *Names changed to protect the cute and adorable

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Anne M,

    In 1993 or 1994 when I was finishing my PhD I discovered the .alt newsgroups. I have NO idea how, the only interwebby access we were meant to have was for molecular biologists checking their DNA sequences on BLAST. And I wasn't one of them. But no matter, I was in love.

    In 1994 I got a job in a recently privatised ex-Victorian state government lab. Naturally there was no internet or anything close to it. But there were computers hooked up to telephone lines. Lines with no toll-bars. And somehow (an early "Internet for Dummies"?) I found that if you telnet-ed to the CERN, voila, the internet was there. Text only, but hey who cares? I got my "WYSIWYG NZ News" and I could buy books from America, very cheaply.

    The company went bust at the end of '95. Toll bills to Switzerland probably didn't help the bottom line

    Since Nov 2006 • 104 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    I was thinking back, trying to remember what my "wow" moment was when I thought, "Hey! This interweb this is amazing!!!!" But I couldn't think of such a moment.

    Then I realised - the internet has never been an amazing new technological innovation for me. As soon as I first got online, it just seemed ordinary.

    And that's why it's become such a big part of my life.

    Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

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