These past few days have been a whirlwind. I have been at the World Internet Summit with the ubiquitous long days and nights with many different speakers.
In the midst of this, my eldest daughter needed to interview me for a biography she had to write for her English project. One of the questions from her was “The internet has just turned 20 years old – what were you doing 20 years ago?”
It was fascinating taking a long dip in the memory pool with her to realise how far both I and the internet had come. My daughters have always known of computers and the net and can’t imagine life without it. Whereas me … well, let’s just say my love affair with computers started before the birth of the net.
About five years before the birth of the net I graduated from Uni where I can still remember hand-coding Fortran computer program cards to run simple programs, and the net wasn’t even considered. Our libraries still had paper card files, and personal computers did not exist in the mainstream (yes … I am THAT old).
20 years ago we were using floppy disks the size of LP records at the Queensland Industrial Commission where I was the Research Officer.
In those days the computer screens were black and white, and systems crashed with amazing regularity. Data regularly corrupted and files disappeared never to be seen again. It was a dicey subject saving files – it was always done with fingers crossed.
Computer terminals needed to be shared among employees, with most people still using typewriters for regular correspondence. I was one of the few with a personal terminal, and I remember the pride and love I felt for that temperamental piece of machinery. For me, it showed me that I had “arrived”.
At that time I was involved in creating the first Australian National Industrial Relations Thesaurus – a thesaurus of industrial relations keywords to be used across all states and the Federal Commission. I then taught the Qld Registry and Commissioners to keyword their Industrial Decisions so they would be able to be found on the database designed for the net. It is funny how keywording is still a major part of my life today.
Before our project with NIRT, I used to research the cases for the Commissioners by manually looking up bound copies of all decisions and by phoning my interstate colleagues. Now people looking for industrial case law can just hit a few buttons, and all decisions instantly appear.
I can’t imagine my life now without the net. It has made information easily accessible and the world so much smaller. Yes, it has many growing problems similar to having a rambunctious teenager in the house – but would I turn back the clock? Not on your nelly!
I love the web and the internet. Yes, I have been on the net since the early days. Yes, I still love what I do and yes I still write for the net.
It is in my blood – although I am not so sure I liked the label of “Internet Pioneer” given to me by my daughter. I felt like I should be wearing gingham and in an episode of Little House on the Prairie.
That said, she is right – there are not many people who have 20 years experience on the net.
I wonder what the net will be like in 20 years from now?