The Public Internet Turns 20 Today!

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It’s hard to believe, but 20 years ago yesterday, there was no publicly available World Wide Web. Sure, the Internet existed (and had for many years), but it wasn’t until Tim Berners-Lee (pictured), working at CERN, developed the software necessary to make the Web the information superhighway that it is today. (When’s the last time you heard someone drag out that old "information superhighway" chestnut?)

The difference that the Web has made in the world is undeniable and cannot be overstated, but many of us alive today fit into a generational niche where we’re old enough to remember trying to navigate life, school, work, and relationships without the Web but are young enough that when it debuted, we “got it” right away and quickly assimilated it and its uses into our daily lives.

1993 computer
This is what computers looked like in 1993, kids (Image credit: Fox News/AP)

For instance, “research” meant going to the actual, physical library. Google didn’t exist yet, so if you didn’t know some factoid, so you had to look it up in Encyclopedia Britannica. (And many families had entire volumes of the things on their bookshelves.) If you wanted to learn how to play the guitar, you had to go and find a human being at a shop somewhere to teach you during the day instead of just pulling up YouTube videos and learning on your own in the wee hours. If you wanted to buy something that your local store didn’t carry, you either had to beg a merchant to special order it for you, find it a paper catalog, or just live without it. Selling a car? That’s the newsprint Auto Trader for you, pal.

And on and on and on.

To commemorate this major birthday of the Web, let us hear about your first encounter with it. How old were you? What was the first website you remember visiting? What computer did you use to access it?
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Jaybk26 replied on Tue, Apr 30 2013 1:20 PM

That's insane. The internet is about as old as I am. I can't even imagine life without it at the point it's been so ingrained into our culture. Berners-Lee, I thank you!

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RWilliams replied on Tue, Apr 30 2013 1:24 PM

Oddly, I can't really remember the first time I used the net, although it would have been at school when I was 11 or 12 (back in ~1996, and it was on an Apple LC 500 I believe). Things were primitive back then, and I sure had no idea what was to become of it. "The difference that the Web has made in the world is undeniable and cannot be overstated" sums it up perfectly. I just moved to a new place and don't have net installed at the moment, so I'm borrowing a neighbor's connection at 2/5 bars... it's a little painful. Many of us rely on the Web today and don't want to ever go without it. And to think, there are still tons of people worldwide who've never had the chance to use it =/

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Happy birthday internet! Thank you for the years of entertainment and information!

As for me, I was 17 and in high school when I first started using the internet. First websites I remember visiting were Yahoo and MSNBC.

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ajm531 replied on Tue, Apr 30 2013 2:54 PM

wow im only 23 and even im starting to feel old

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TBL is one of my most favourite people ever. When the net was just for military, he made it publicly accessible and still fights for that freedom today!

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Johnny3D replied on Tue, Apr 30 2013 5:38 PM

I first got on the internet in the summer of 1988 on a VAX machine running Unix. I was 12 at the time. :)

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SNeese replied on Tue, Apr 30 2013 8:24 PM

I remember going on AOL in Jan 94. Wow! My whole world changed. Everything became closer. I was in VA and I remember telling my dad in amazement how I just connected to a computer that was 30 miles from his house in Minnesota!!! And then I told him about how I had just connected to a computer in Thailand! We were shocked as shocked. This was very heady stuff! Amazing.... Just amazing!

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realneil replied on Tue, Apr 30 2013 9:47 PM

I started out on BBS boards using a 1200 Baud modem. Communicating with others with my 8088 IBM clone was addicting

Then I tried the internet out a few years later and was hooked. That was back in the days when Mcafee and Norton were great AV programs. (was using a 286-16 by then)

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Kidbest100 replied on Tue, Apr 30 2013 11:35 PM

I'm only in my teens, and I remember the days of my dad sitting in the living room playing around on the internet with its wide range for cracking and messing around with webcode and such.....

Everything has changed so much, but then again, I couldn't really tell you because while my dad was designing websites and stuff, I was playing Diablo xD

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rodriro replied on Wed, May 1 2013 10:19 PM

I was 21. Windows 95 just came out. Juno was the first website. Compaq Presario.

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