There was an awful lot of Internet to be had before the World Wide Web, which dates to the early Nineties. But using it wasn’t the slightest bit intuitive, since everything needed either a properly configured terminal, a gateway from some online service, or a dedicated client. (That said, you can still get Gopher plugins for some Web browsers.)
One could argue that today’s wild and woolly Web is a step down from those halcyon days, and such an argument might begin this way:
The Internet has proven itself to be a place where any idiot can post anything he wants (I mean, look at this blog), and some other idiot will find it and agree with him. I long for a day that may never have existed in the first place, where the Internet was simply a repository of scholarly information about legitimate subjects. I look at the purity and innocence and wonderment with which my son has discovered it, and I remember my first internet searches in the library of Dublin Scioto High School in 1995. It was like finding the world’s greatest microfiche catalog.
Of course, in 1995, the Web had started to catch on, um, world-wide, a process that wasn’t even slightly accelerated by the opening of this site the following year. And, well, there were other factors:
Of course, being that I was seventeen years old in that library in 1995, my first web search ever was for “Pamela Anderson.” I then waited approximately ten minutes for a picture of her in that legendary red Baywatch bikini to load on my screen. It was a glorious day.
I may as well admit that I snagged a few pictures — GIF, of course, — from the barely raunchy Go Graphics forum on CompuServe, almost a decade earlier.
Which, in the end, proves that just having access to an encyclopedia won’t make anybody smarter. Teenaged boys will still look at pictures of girls in bikinis (or less). Old maids will still take pictures of cats. Twentysomethings living in their parents’ basements will still find ways to play RPGs. The Internet has just allowed us to be who we already were on a much grander scale. It hasn’t changed us. It’s magnified us.
Sometimes I think it’s engulfed us.