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Reminiscing: the good old pre-Google internet days

ahhh.....the old days....

9:48 pm on Jun 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Ahh, those were the days...

Veronica...Metacrawler...Gopher...Galaxy...Savvy...'The Wanderer', the list is endless.

In the mid 90's the search engine i kept hearing about is the now forgotten about MetaCrawler. I used to use that place all the time. I didnt worry about meta tags, didnt worry about robots.txt, didnt even worry if my page was listed. I used that place to search for other sites.

Fast forward to 2000 and 2 things happen.

1: My site gets a LOT more bigger.
2: I kept hearing of the name Google popping up in a lot of emails.

Those email's were saying that some people found the site i am running in Google. Even to this day im getting about 50 to 60 hits coming in Via google...i like checking the server logs.

In the mid 90's i used search engines to look for other sites.

Now in 2003 i'm using Google to search for my OWN site on a regular basis to see if it's still there in the top 3 for the keywords i used, and it always is, usually in the top spot as well. I've ripped apart the site to make it search engine friendly and i thought i was doing grand...

...till i joined this place and realised that i was messing up on a lot of things to do with Google.

Yup, the Pre-Google internet world. When sites were sites and search engines didnt give you a headache if you were'nt listed in them.

Anyone remember thosedays? Would you go back to that time?

1:04 am on June 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I don't remember those days, but I have a book that tells about Gopher, Archie and all those. Are they still around?

When my daughter was a teen she was a sysop on local BBS services with our old IBM XT (the 8088 that's now under the bed) - I guess those were the predecessor of modern day forums and BBS's.

I do remember back to when doing a personal site was fun and creative self-expression, like my very first attempt. We did links pages because we liked sites and guestbooks were actually packed with genuine visitors.

At that time I accidentally stumbled on some forum where people were watching search engine results and I thought they were crazy. Had no interest and swore I'd never be like them.

Times sure do change! I'm not sure whether I'd go back altogether because this is all such fun (in a different way), but I do get longings for what it used to be like when some of us just put ourselves into sites and the internet was still about communication instead of just ecommerce.

Nice post, Katie!

1:24 am on June 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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600 baud modems, thriving BBS's with ASCII graphics, MUDS! Archie and Veronica, green screens, war dialing, 30 meg drives, the good ole days. You actually had to know a bit about your computer to access anything.

Then came Prodigy, and ads scrolling across the screen and chat...

2:00 am on June 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I use yahoo and found it to be the "google" of those days.
2:09 am on June 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Commodore, BBS, sys-ops who'd rip ya from point B on a BBS just to have a chat, BBS get-togethers ... just about enough to make you forget about MTV and LA Law every now and again.
12:19 pm on July 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Moving on from a commador amiga i bought my first real PC with over 5 mega bytes of space. We then got Internet access through BT which gave me half a megabyte of free home page space.

This is where it all began for me, created 2 pages that I managed to link together to write about skiing etc.

I never used search engines at all didn't know what they were. Used Yahoo as a directory but only went to web sites that were in magazines.

I first heard of Google in the year 2000 when the keywords I targeted had only 20,000 pages. Now I have to compete against 75,000 for the same keywords :(

Oh, since then I have created many big web sites, learn't php programming and now earning a living from my home not bad for 3 years of self taught knowledge.

What fun it is :)

12:21 pm on July 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Excite and a Template = guaranteed #1....
1:20 pm on July 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Marcia, the gopher:// protocol is supported in modern browsers, so is ftp:// so there's no need to run dedicated archie or gopher clients anymore. It's rather hard to find live sites using the gopher protocol these days, but here's a list of gopher links:


I tried a few, but could not connect. Here's another nice long nostalgic list from the Mosaic people (Indexes, gopher, ftp, wais, news, telnet...):


For archives, you can still hit this link in your browser, and there are still a lot others out there:

ftp://ftp.worldbank.org/ (go for /pub/ ... always go for the pub ;-)

Anyway, it's not the same, you don't get the file descriptions in IE but the "navigating folders with obscure names" experience is about the same. There are also still public telnet terminals around. As an example you can use this for lynx browsing:



<added>actually many public libraries offer the telnet service</added>

Nobody mentioned the WWWW? How can this be true?

He, and here's a very nice link to a working mirror of Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle, AD 1994 [web.bilkent.edu.tr] - boy, do i recall hitting what's cool and what's new and then waiting for ages... download times were double digit minutes back then, there were just no way you would consider hitting "what's popular" ;). And they had graphic buttons (!)

I see it was pre-Google. I was already going back to pre-search engines, and well on my way back to pre-indexes, and "lists" and "list of lists of lists". Back then it was hard finding relevant information, but once you found it, it was really relevant. Of course in the archives and on the BBSes, there were funny games, software, and even pr0n as well, but the web was so much more difficult to navigate. Hypertext (links) helped a lot, that's the single most important thing - tables were nice too, images were, like, wow, but links were essential.

The web's perhaps a better place now. And then it's not. There's basically just an awful lot more, both good and bad. I don't tend to do much surfing nowadays, though. I guess it's just because it's not that new and exciting anymore. Or perhaps it's because now you know that you can "find it if you need it". Back then, you didn't even know if somebody had posted what you were looking for, now somebody somewhere always have - SE's hold the credit for things being easier to find.

But then, i actually did go back. I've used the freenet recently, it's much like the old days, but i expect it will develop much faster if it catches on - free being "as in libre, not as in beer", well, as in beer to actually. It's just as slow as back then, it's got it's indexes, and it's hard and sometimes impossible finding the right stuff because there's really not that much stuff around yet, so you tend to explore.

[edited by: claus at 2:36 pm (utc) on July 22, 2003]

1:29 pm on July 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Pre Google I remember building pages for the Yahoo directory and Inktomi. I would go back to then. It was alot easier and required far less effort. Not near the amount of competition as today.
2:33 pm on July 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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wonder who remembers GNN?
it has a screen shot too :)
2:42 pm on July 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I can remember MUDs, more MUDs and only MUDs. And nearly failing at university because of them...

Oh yes, and webcrawler, where I would look for new MUDs.

2:54 pm on July 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I remeber playing on the old Amiga C-Net bbs's and playing the muds on those, as well as connecting to the internet through some of the bbs's. Wasn't text browsing great?
2:56 pm on July 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I remember dialing the Infoseek phone number and hearing a bright and cheerful voice from a REAL LIVE HUMAN say "Goodmorning, Infoseek."

When I ask the guy why my site never show-up in the SERPs, he replied "Well, let's take a look at it and see if we can figure it out." (!)

He told me to "View Source," and then said, "Well, you see that section about halfway down the page where you have...(this is where I had stuffed about 4 million keywords)...?"

He was a nice guy...I wonder what he's doing now.

3:11 pm on July 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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ya the good old days, in '94 in the UK surfing with Compuserve would cost you about 4.40 an hour (phone bill and ISP charge).....I am glad some things just fade with time ;)

I can't even remember the name of the SE I used then...it was a few years until I had discovered the nukes and crannies of Yahoo, and their search engine before it became my default.

A few years on I seen this strange ad "search results provided by google (what a daft name i thought)....and proceeded to click. The rest is history.........though I'm sure google will have it in one of their databases. ;)

4:51 pm on July 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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It's weird. Strange to hear people talking about 300 baud modems (I could out-type the modem back then!) mixed in with "ah, it was so easy to hot-wire search engines back then. Good times." :)
4:59 pm on July 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Things I remember:

AOL would fit on one floppy disk.
You would trade GIFS
4mb of ram would cost 160 dollars
Why would you ever need more than 420megs of hard drive space(I know that this is huge by some standards)
3x cdrom drives
Windows 3.1
Hunt the Wumpas
Hourly ISP...oh the bills )c: My first job would barely be enough to cover it.

5:46 pm on July 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Interesting stuff. Keep it up. I didn't know the first thing about the web until mid '97. Felt very out of place taking my 11 year old son into looking at PC's...for myself! Discovered Google in '98 or '99 from a webmaster. Haven't looked back, but I do play with the other SE's.
6:32 pm on July 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Excite and a Template = guaranteed #1....

Boy do I remember those days, not too far away even. Pick a keyword, make a template on the site, submit.. within 3 days you're #1 and all your pals who wasted their time with spamming are in awe of you. Loved it.

First search engines I used were Netscape and AltaVista, thought they were a genius idea. No real ads anywhere, simple searching, type something in, found it. That's all you needed.

6:38 pm on July 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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All i gotta say is hotbot.com was the bomb back in the day
6:50 pm on July 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Oh god back then! I recall a conversation overheard in a bar this guy was boasting he had an email address!

I thought what a turkey why did he bother.... No ones going to use it or so I thought.

Then I bought my first real computer in early 1998 oh lord! the first time I went on the web, started at 7 pm and wondered why my eyes ached... it was 4.30am.

6:57 pm on July 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hytelnet anyone?
8:17 pm on July 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Way back:

CPM, not even DOS.

My first hard disk: tremendous 8 MB, weight about 10 kg.

First connectivity: acoustic coupler, greeting every bit coming in by his first name ;) ... after establishing a somewhat stable connection, though.

Liking XEROX PARC, still.

Commodores, Apples, Ataris.

MS-DOS 5.0 was really great. Load high, xcopy *.* d:somename /t /e and stuff. You really could handle that.

Windows coming up, always beta. 3.1 first slightly stable - noteworthy.

Gopher, FTP, and other revolutions.

Tim Berners-Lee. Links! Then pictures! Surfing! - Costs!

44 MHz, 4 MB Ram, 200 MB hard disk: that would last forever (up until now I don't understand why an operating system needs some 100 Megs of disk space).

Yahoo, Altavista, Hotbot ...

Dot com hypes.


Recent depressions.


Found WebmasterWorld. Realized that I have to learn, again.

"If we survived so far, we began to understand how it works." citing myself :)

6:11 am on July 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

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A 300 baud modem and the legendary Mass Mac & Electric BBS, Mr. Barr Plexico, sysop. A FidoNet node.

I remember seeing the Apple I on sale in my campus bookstore -- you know, the one that used a cassette tape for storage.

(If you don't have it, get a copy of Ted Nelson's _Computer Lib/Dream Machines_, the best computer book ever written.)

6:36 am on July 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I remember using Yahoo and Webcrawler back in 1994, and I didn't think Yahoo returned relevant search results at all, LOL. My original ISP had a list of about 5 search engines, with WebCrawler by favorite and Yahoo my least favorite.

I also remember voting on WebCrawler's new logo - it was a horrid B&W line-art style image of a spider on a web, everyone thought it was the coolest thing, at least by 1994 standards ;) And yes, I voted for the one that ended up winning.

6:38 am on July 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

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the good old days..

Was accessing the internet at university using the UNIX Erkey-Perky. Could email others and they could email back. later we could send files. But i didn't really "know" it was the internet.

Then experiences with BBS's at 2400 bps, then that was a monstrous speed delivered by a big box modem.

Then there was compuserve... 20 USD an hour, 50% off after midnight.

Then there was connection to the internet publicly. Heh, i could only do that before in the university computer lab.

Read my first internet book. Learned about email veronica, jughead, archie, ftp and the new wonder - gopher. In that book there was a very small section on something developing for the future that would revolutionize the way we use the internet and would make it mainstream. That was the www. Bah Humbug! Why would anybody want pictures from the internet! the internet is a SERIOUS communication tool.

Meanwhile i spent time trying to find pictures of jazz heroes using gopher. My first picture download on the internet was a pic of Theolonius monk, followed by miles davis and john coltrane and finally mahalia jackson from a US university site.

Usenet was big too then. What a great way to share messages with others in very specific areas. soc.culture.malaysia, soc.culture.china, etc etc. and all the academic/research newsgroups like those related to psychological research and some related to jazz and blues. The global village was born, for me, there and then.

In one usenet group i mentioned that i was from malaysia. Where's malaysia asked just about all, mainly from North America. Eventually someone answered that it was somewhere near Singapore! (At around 300 times the area of Singapore i found that interesting!)

The i downloaded mosaic on my trusty 2400 modem. Set it up an went to get a coffee as nothing seemed to be happening thought the lights on my modem were blinking like crazy. Came back after half an hour and it had almost loaded half of the mosaic homepage. How could this plaything ever be useful i asked myself.. and promptly forgot it and gaily played with gopher and veronica etc, and did email and discussion groups with compuserve, (late at night of course!).

Later i upgraded to a 9600 modem and suddenly mosaic worked! Then we started our first site. Then we found webcrawler and yes GNN. Much later along came AV and excite.

I thought yahoo was a waste of time, but we submitted our info site then anyway and it is still grandfathered though 200 times the size...

I was so gobsmacked to find our site in webcrawler, and then suddenly i started seeing commercial sites. Why would any site want to index commercial sites i thought? I never even gave a thought of submitting our company site because i never thought they would be interested in it, and they obviously made a mistake in indexing those other sites!

We used notetab to design sites. Then the first good WYSIWG editor HotDog. When you started it up, it woofed at you. Eventually we went back to using a text editor and still do. NoteTab Pro.

It doesn't woof.

Then some idiot used our mail form on our info web site to suggest we have pictures too! Oh how we laughed at that one....

Then of course the commercialization of the web hit us with a big whumpff, and TV started airing short news items about this new WWW.

These are my first experiences.

Now looking back, I wonder if the influence of Google has been, in some ways, by reinforcing the inter-networked and information-oriented early development goals of the web, is to return some sense back to a Web that several years ago looked like it was to turn into a massive ad hoarding and shopping mall. It seems to me that they knew more about how the Web worked than many of the new breed of entrepreneurs who worked against the natural flow of the web by using old-media models, rather than with it by emphasizing free exchange or information, targeting, and emphasis on linking. That may be well how we remember Google when we do this same exercise 10 years hence.

And yes im proud to say i too voted for the winning "spidey" graphic! ;)

[edited by: chiyo at 7:12 am (utc) on July 23, 2003]

7:00 am on July 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

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does anyone remember
on my good old 9600 modem , i had to go through a BBS to get internet access through lynx

does everyone remember lynx?
the browser with no pictures, no sound, just text
and i thought that was amazing

7:47 am on July 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

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someone showing me how to uudecode images of the usernet, take from that what you will, but I was 19 :)
1:01 pm on July 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

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My first acquaintance with email came in 1988: after that, I thought of all non-networked computers as autistic.

In 1994 I was playing with lynx and mosaic - and put my book reviews on the web just because I could.

In December 1994 Lycos appeared, and traffic to my reviews goes from a trickle to 100+/day. In December 1995 Altavista appeared, and it went to 1000+/day.


7:04 pm on July 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I started on local BBS's. Free membership to dial-ups like Prodigy. Downloading cool JPGs from Nasa. The first live election tallys.

I started on the Internet on my 3270 dumb terminal in MVS. No HTML, just FTP and Gopher. I can remember arguing that WWW wouldn't work because most users had text based terminals, boy was I wrong. I miss the wide open anonymous FTP sites, and the whole mystic behind being on the net.

When the backbone went from education to business. Now it's like having an extra TV.

Dual Floppies. Card punches and deck readers. CGA graphics. Lotus 1-2-3 had the key disk. Gate's cute basic programs that came with DOS. I remember unboxing my 386 running at 20 mhz with 16 megs of RAM from this really cute little company that started in a barn named Gateway. That computer was a super screamer - cost me 3 grand. I could run Windows on it. I had to explain the benifit multitasking to my friend Gerry the computer guy.

I had a 10 meg hard drive that was the size of a small toaster and weighed like a brick.

7:57 pm on July 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I used gopher - I remember going to Adam Curry's MTV gopher site. At one point he started talking about how great this new 'World Wide Web' thing was. So I talked to the guy who did the computer stuff for our department and got Mosaic on our computer. I remember being excited about seeing pictures of the U. of Illinois campus on it, since I had gone to school there. I thought it was really cool!
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