The Internet At 50: Life As It Was And Now Is
The internet was invented 50 years ago this week, with a simple message sent from the University of California, Los Angeles to the Stanford Research Institute (SRI).
Unfortunately, the system crashed only two characters into the transmission of the word “login”; SRI received only “lo” — “as in ‘lo and behold!’” in the words of UCLA’s Leonard Kleinrock. But even with this glitch, it didn’t stop the inventors from making changes and improvements. And today, more than half of the world depends on it.
Before The “Dark Age”
The recent generation might refer to this time as the dark age, maybe due to the fact that they are now accustomed to the ways and influence of the internet and can’t imagine life without it.
Ironically, those who came into existence at the time when the internet was nowhere to be found, refer to recent times as the “dark age” as highlighted as the article unfolds. Even with this in mind, there are a couple of things the early 90’s babies and those before indulged in that left really fond memories.
If a diary was human, it probably would have been the most informed person; just imagine the bounty that would have been placed on his or her head. Why? That was the only means of letting out the feeling you had for the finest boy or girl in your class or your one-stop spot for spilling all your best friends secrets even after the “don’t tell anyone[thing]” warning.
With this in existence, all that was written was for you and you alone. Nobody really cared what you had to say (I.e personal opinion about issues), your opinion, somewhat, mattered only if you were a journalist for a reputable media house.
So all that pent-up creative energy mostly ended up in your diary.
Also, as much as we loved to write, we loved to read as well. One of the go-to-spots for valid information and fact-checking was the library. The library provided answers to our questions, not google. We enjoyed lending books and learning one or many new English phrases from the authors. This made up our list of hobbies aside every other seemingly unrealistic thing we included just to look “cool”. And if at all you couldn’t make it to the library, the encyclopedia helped.
Letters and Dial Tones
In the wake of evolving means of communication, and way before the internet became “a thing”, we welcomed the idea of not sending messages via ravens. We had working postal services, like NIPOST, that for a few bucks, sent letters from one loved one to the other.
However, it is anytime the letter gets delivered that you get informed; so, for instance, if you were dying, you helper may not know until you are dead. Additionally, this had an effect on our social life. We wrote love letters and fixed actual dates with those we fancied and while on the date, there was room for a natural connection, no distractions. You could sit at the table and have real conversations.
On the other hand, trolling people was not a full-time job, because come to think of it, if you were to pen mean things to someone you dislike, it means you will be spending money on postage. I bet no one thought of that or bothered because they had priorities for every penny earned (or stolen).
Also, the introduction of Telephones was automatically a welcome development. As much as we liked this, it had glitches which even led to the lamentations of New Edition in “Mr Telephone man”.
“There’s something wrong with my line When I dial my baby’s number, I get a click every time”.
Anyway, we had “call centers” where you paid 10 naira or a little more per minute. Trust Nigerians and how easy it was for it to be exploited. Often times when you stop by to make a call, you end up being charged for more seconds/minutes that you probably actually used, due to one’s inability to check the call duration at the end of the call; unlike how knowledgeable we all are now. Dem no fit pull that stunt now.
But, this was often experienced by those who were unable to afford personal “land lines” in their homes because it costs an arm and a leg. I recall the day I called a fellow classmate on my dad’s land line at the time, clueless on how much per minute the conversation was worth. Let’s just say, it ended in tears.
Either way, the experience was fun while it lasted.
Tapes and Tunes
Ah, music. The real question should probably be what will life be without music?
There was a classic time when people who loved music, went shopping for their faves latest releases at a music store. There were tapes and discs that were worth cherishing. But, as expected, the evolution affected this aspect too. So now we have streaming services where you either pay a few bucks to buy your favourite artistes album (On Apple music and the likes) or download from a pirate site, just because “I can’t kee mysef” in Timaya’s words.
Evidently, these highlights are just a few out of many fond memories shared before ‘Aliens invaded earth with their inventions”.
Another instance is when the only time we watched any of our favourite TV shows was only when it was being aired. The popular “Netflix and chill” cruise did not exist, what we rather had was “borrow a CD and pick a time when NEPA would most likely not off light”.
Bottom line is, there were zero unnecessary pressures that taunted humans mentally, emotionally and in other ramifications.
Life During “The Alien Invasion”
Whether superstition or just in a bid to be extra, there are actually people who walk the face of the earth believing the invention of the internet among other things we see were made possible by “aliens”. Sometimes, I imagine UFOs (unidentified flying objects) landing in the middle of Lagos at night and parading their alien selves among us. I can also imagine how hysterical the typical Nigerian man will react – ah, mo da ran! esu lo n wo kaa kiri.
However, since we haven’t witnessed any avatar-looking being among us, we have come to accept that there are actually geniuses responsible for the life changing inventions. But, we are definitely not capable of holding them (these geniuses) to ransom at how the world accepts and (mis)uses them.
Basically, the internet has turned our entire existence upside down; it has succeeded in revolutionising communications, to the extent that it is now our preferred medium of everyday communication. In almost everything we do, we use the Internet, we eat, breathe and live on the internet.
The Good Side
When I earlier quoted Timaya “I can’t kill myself”, I actually meant it. The internet has made life so seamless. Everything is now online – the answers to your biology assignment, you can read any book on your mobile phone or laptop, people’s information and how to track anyone is on the internet. It is also fascinating to know that with just a click of a button in the comfort of your bed, you can get that sumptuous meal you ordered; you also get to contact your loved one at any time thanks to social media platforms and their video calling services. All these and more are thanks to the internet.
… And The Bad Side
However intriguing or fascinating this may seem, it is moving this generation’s (and the one’s to come) environment into pretentious and toxic. People are now too laid back and overly self-entitled. Social media keeps putting pressures on people to achieve a million things either by crook or by hook. Bitter people now have an avenue to let out their negative vibes and hate speech on to people. Also, people don’t have any regard whatsoever for “privacy”; nobody understands that there are certain information that should remain within certain reach.
Ultimately, since a wise man once “change is constant, doesn’t mean it is easy”, it is left to us, individuals to reshape how the internet and its cohorts shape our lives.