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Long before it became the commercialized mass information and entertainment juggernaut it is today, long before it was accessible to the general public, and certainly many years before Al Gore claimed he “took the initiative in creating” it, the Internet – and its predecessors – were a focal point for social interactivity.
Granted, computer networking was initially envisioned in the heyday of The Beatles as a military-centric command and control scheme.
Not only could you send a message to your friend via a newfangled technology dubbed “e-mail” (granted, the concept of e-mail wasn’t exactly newfangled at the time, though widespread public access to it was).
What’s more, this whole sitting-in-front-of-a-keyboard thing was so…
Though the technology of the time restricted the flexibility of these systems, and the end-user’s experience, to text-only exchanges of data that crawled along at glacial speed, BBSes continued to gain popularity throughout the ‘80s and well into the ‘90s, when the Internet truly kicked into gear.
Indeed, some services – such as Tom Jennings’ Fido Net – linked numerous BBSes together into worldwide computer networks that managed to survive the Internet revolution.
Machine languages were bewildering, and their potential seemingly limited.
One such option was Compu Serve, a service that began life in the 1970s as a business-oriented mainframe computer communication solution, but expanded into the public domain in the late 1980s.
Compu Serve allowed members to share files and access news and events.
But it also offered something few had ever experienced – true interaction.
Yet it also was during this time, and with a parade of purportedly antisocial geeks at the helm, that the very gregarious notion of social networking would take its first steps towards becoming the omnipresent cultural phenomenon we know and love in 2014.
Put all this together and you have a medium where only the most ardent enthusiasts and techno-babbling hobbyists dared tread.It was, in effect, a breeding ground for pocket-protector-wearing societal rejects, or nerds.