#802 Watching something download really fast

You have no idea how excited I was to see this.

The first website I ever visited was Yahoo.com.

The whole sordid affair went down in the mid-90s on a school trip to the Science Center. While other kids from our class learned how paper was made or watched Imax films about the Amazon, my friends and I raced to a dim room at the back stuffed with clunky computer monitors sitting in a big circle. See, we had read ads in the paper about a new exhibit showcasing the Informative Superb-highway and we wanted to experience the straight dope first hand.

Unfortunately for us, geeks from other school districts were keen to surfboard the internetwork as well, because the room was jam-packed with sweaty nerds in long lines waiting for a small half-hour turns to ride the wave.

Learn about the science of the ocean and the art of lifeguarding

Well, we waited and waited and waited and eventually scored a yellow, plastic stool in front of a big screen. Giddy as schoolgirls, we decided to begin expanding our minds and broadening our horizons by researching the hit TV show Baywatch. This was because we had many questions about the show.

Now remember — this was the mid-90s here. Cell phones looked like briefcases, encyclopedias filled home libraries, and young kids with dirty faces stood on street corner soap boxes hocking the evening edition on your way home from work.

old_cellphoneIn these dark times, the only website any of us had heard of was Yahoo, so after spending ten minutes finding and opening Netscape Navigator, we typed in yahoo.com, hit enter, and began waiting for this new dawn of civilization to drop down upon our young and eager heads.

But first …

… there was nothing.

Nothing at all.

Just a blank screen in a dim room filled with nerves, teen sweat, and yellow, plastic stools. We waited and prayed until eventually heart-pounding teasers dribbled out at the bottom of the screen. “Contacting server,” it pledged robotically first, which sounded promising until it updated itself with only “Connecting to server” a couple minutes later. Then a few minutes later “Transferring data” had finally begun, and big red pixels slowly began dropping into view.

But it was too late.

Our half hour was finishing up.

A red herring

Yes, our big dreams and wild ideas of this magical fantasyland on the other end of the wires dissolved into a page full of text, broken image links, and a complete lack of Baywatch. We walked away that day broken hearted.

Some of us cried.

But now, up here in 2009, when I look back on that long bus ride home, I smile because it reminds me of how far we’ve come. Websites load in the blink of an eye, mp3s zip home in a few seconds, and giant video clips of skateboarding accidents download to our monitors in no time flat.

Watching something download really fast sure does get your juices flowing, doesn’t it? As those little bar-graphs fill up, you just rub your palms together and cackle like a madman. I mean, things are just so good now. It’s gotten to the point where David Hasselhoff can appear shirtless on your screen without you even noticing he’s coming.



Photos from: here, here, here, and here

36 thoughts on “#802 Watching something download really fast

  1. How did I miss this?

    I remember the days of buying blocks of internet time from Vaxxine. No one ever wanted to tell dad when we were almost out, and then we went without it for a few days. Imagine going a few days without internet now…. it’s enough to force someone to go to an actual, physical, freestanding library for 15 minutes of free access.

  2. Yes, I remember this. Not to mention AOL’s “connecting…” screen before you could even do anything. You hear that annoying beeping, you’re in! Dial tone, you yell at your mom to get off the phone.

    Also, The Hoff needs an entry in his own right.

  3. What about the sounds your modem made when dialing out to an ISP and then the tones of connecting?

    I could tell by the sounds that the connection was a success or failure when standing rooms away. I memorized the right patteren to a tee that when there would be an error my heart sank and my temper rose. But that intisapation of all the tones hitting at just the right time in the right order was absolutely music to my ears.

    And when calling a friends computer to play some old school Command and Conquer -the tones were slightly different but equally patterned in my ear.
    Oh the days of 14.4 and 28.8. And when I heard of 56k I thought the internet could be surfed in a night…..


    1. Awesome comment. Having been an early “on-line” adopter (logging on to BBS’es with my 2400 baud modem), I was all too dependent on those shrieks and electronic warbles myself. You captured it perfectly.

  4. A fine entry on all points. The Hoff ending is what takes it from fine to great. Some friends of mine participate in what I like to call “Hoff-rolling” – stealthily inserting pictures of the Hoff into seemingly innocent attachments, that sort of thing.
    It’s pretty awesome.

  5. I remember how much faster the Internet was in the 1990s. The pages came up in an instant almost even on a dial-up modem. Now it takes forever to load any page on my dial-up. I miss those 90s.

  6. I’m really old :)

    We connected to Prodigy in the early 90’s with a 2400 baud modem. Connecting often took over five minutes, and this was just to the Prodigy service. The internet cost extra. Heck, until like 1994, each e-mail cost a quarter (but boy, how exciting it was to get one!). And don’t even get me started on how much it cost to peruse message boards.

  7. Recently, I had a sureal moment when I recalled the flood of excitment in signing up with my first email address (hotmail) and that flutter of emotion opening my inbox each time to discover an email waiting to be read.

  8. I remember hearing people say that the internet would improve reading ability… it’s true because every time I was waiting for my emails or yahoo news to download, I would pick up a book and read a chapter or two.
    Anyone else so old (and geeky) that they surfed the BBS community before the net went global?

    1. Yes! In Fact I ran a BBS in the mid 80`s (Network called FidoNet). I started my surfing in about `82 on dial up with a 300 baud modem attached to my Commodore 64!

  9. Why is there no Digg button on this amazing, well-written post?!

    I came here from galadarling.com and I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. It’s a simple pleasure I don’t actively appreciate enough, and this lovely little anecdote brought back waves of nostalgia. Man, what are the kids of today’s young generation going to reminisce about in fifteen, twenty years? That old dinosaur piece of crap the iPhone? Whoa…

  10. I remember surfing the early web with a browser called MacLynx. No color, no pictures, not even a mouse! I thought I was so cool then, because it didn’t take so long to load on the 14.4. That’s the only way my MacClassic was able to handle it.

    They predict in 2025 that a computer will have more computing power than a human brain. What will our technology be like then?

  11. I will immediately grab your rss feed as I can’t find your email subscription link or e-newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Kindly let me know so that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  12. Howdy, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam responses? If so how do you stop it, any plugin or anything you can recommend? I get so much lately it’s driving me crazy so any assistance is very much appreciated.

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