Surprisingly, the Internet Stuff Is Older Than We Think
Selfies, e-mails, spam, emoticons and in general the Internet is not as “young” as you might believe. No, these things weren’t “born” a decade or two ago. Surprisingly, people in the mid sixties actually were using this stuff, although not the way we do now.
1 The Internet
Even though officially the Internet was “born” in 1991, the World Wide Web, a way of searching the Internet using specific characters, was invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989. The CERN employee made the software for the World Wide Web available freely, which helped in getting users to adopt it and eventually made it widespread. The Internet had humble beginnings in the 1960s, thanks to networks such as ARPANET. This allowed universities to communicate with each other over a closed system. Networks from that time weren’t compatible with others, preventing communication across separate networks. Later, systems such as BITNET and USENET allowed users to access messages from different servers, yet there was still no real unifying system to connect all of the networks together until Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web.
2 Online gaming
Platforms like Xbox, Playstation, Steam and Origin have made online gaming incredibly popular and addictive. People connect with others from all around the world to play a multitude of game. Furthermore, online multiplayer has evolved to be one of the most important aspects of gaming, with developers spending as much time creating these types of games as single player experiences. While consoles like the Xbox have helped make online multiplayer mainstream since 2002, and the tools available meaning you can use sites to see twitch viewers, gamers have been able to play with others through the Internet for far longer. Doom was released in 1993 and became one of the most famous shooters of all time, thanks in part to its online death match mode. Sega, meanwhile introduced an online service in 1990 known as Meganet but, the first online game came out more than 40 years ago. John Daleske and Silas Warner created Empire in 1973, allowing players to control a spaceship and battle with up to 30 players at a time.
This trend wasn’t invented in the past couple of years as a result of the popularity of the phone cameras. This story goes back in the nineteenth century when a letter from the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna speaks of a photograph that she took of herself in the mirror, much like the type of photos you see on Facebook. Similar photos from the same time exist, showing that the process was at least somewhat widespread. The first selfie is widely believed to be a photograph taken by Robert Cornelius. The American photographer created the portrait in 1839, making the selfie at least 175 years old.
4 Electronic spam
How much we hate this! Probably 150 years ago, people hated it too. You wonder how it was possible? Of course, the spam was going in their actual mail boxes where the junk mail was arriving. Mass-market printing allowed companies to send junk mail, advertising their products or services through the mail, filling up people’s homes with paper that in nearly half of cases were thrown away unread. Today, we have our electronic mails full with spam and junk mails that are immediately deleted.
Emoticons are used in almost all forms of Internet communication, from message boards to emails to instant messages but, not many people know that they have their start in the Morse code. Early documents show that operators would use particular numbers to express emotions and feelings as shorthand, something of a precursor to what emoticons would become. Then, in 1881, satirical magazine ‘Puck’ published some typographical emoticons, though not with the same intention that they’re used today. Graphical symbols used to express emotions became more mainstream, thanks to the smiley face from Harvey Ball that inspired the creation of other graphics. The first use of emoticons from text used to express feelings came from Scott Fahlman, on a message board in 1982. The use then spread across the web through other message boards and eventually evolved into what we use today.
6 The “@” symbol
The symbol has become one of the most easily recognizable and most used characters on a keyboard. We can’t write emails without it and now in social media it seems impossible to function without it. But can you believe that it is over 500 years old. There are numerous theories about who invented the symbol and what exactly it had been used for in its long history. It may have evolved from other words, such as the Latin ‘ad’ and the French á, or it may have been a way for scribes to be more efficient in their writing. The most widely accepted explanation is that it was used by merchants as useful shorthand for “at the rate of,” with the first documented use coming from a Florentine merchant in 1536. Merchants used the symbol in this manner for a long period, but it eventually fell into obscurity until Ray Tomlinson decided to use the symbol to separate usernames from the computers that they were used on.