CALGARY, AB, Aug. 12, 2011/ Troy Media – I’m having a wicked sense of déjà vu these days. And no, I did not try on my old 70s bell-bottoms, which wouldn’t fit anyway. Well, maybe if I turned them upside down and sewed the ultra-wide legs together. Never mind, I digress.
Back in the early 90s I got involved in the Fidonet community of bulletin board systems. For you kids, that’s email, chat and file sharing by dialup. 2400-baud modems. Geekery in the extreme. We BBS operators were in the minority by far. I didn’t expect anyone to pick that stuff up, but I reveled in sending email that arrived in California a mere two or three days later!
Mosaic the first web browser
Next for me came the command line Internet. That’s right, pre-browser, pre-WWW, with apps like Pine, Gopher and Lynx. Worldwide connectivity, OMG! Again, only a small segment of society had access or could be bothered with that binary bullpucky. Never gonna catch on.
Then came Mosaic, the first web browser. With pictures and everything! Being the prescient type, well able to spot the obvious, I thought “Holy crap, this might catch on!” And it did. But slowly, and painfully, and with resistance from practically every quarter.
In January of 1995 I assembled the then-owner of my newspaper and the senior management team for an introductory session on “this Internet thing that’s coming.” I had stats and academics and demos, a real whiz-bang production. My punch line? “I think this thing might impact print and we should look into it.” Bouahahahahahahaha, oh for such thirty-something naiveté now.
To their immense credit, the owner and managers gave me the green light to do something about this “Internet thing.” And that’s where the fun began. Due to a series of unfortunate coincidences I was immediately nicknamed Doogie Howser (later shortened to Doog). I was the youngster in this script, also named Doug, with the same birthday as the TV character. Also a redheaded geek, which at the time was NOT a badge of honor. Maybe not now either, come to think of it.
“Doog, why do we need a website?” the reporters would ask. Reporters ask a lot of questions, which, over time (say like five minutes), can become quite annoying. Well, I’d reply, in the future people will read on screens, maybe even portable electronic devices. “Pshaw!” snorted the luddites, as they’d stomp back to the smoking room.
“Why do we need email? Messages are for secretaries.” ad reps would say. Some day ads won’t come as photomechanical transfers (PMTs) I’d reply, and they won’t be delivered by couriers either, and you’ll do your own typing. “You’re a riot Doog!” they’d exclaim between swigs from their flasks.
Then came the incidents. The day technical problems prevented publishing the paper for many hours, but not the website. The day a giant advertiser said you’ll get your ads by FTP or not at all, and we were one of the few papers that didn’t skip a beat (or the ad revenue). Slowly it crept into the culture. Advertisers went from ignoring a website pitch to listening, to signing up. Acceptance of the inevitable came inch by inch.
No time for this Tweety stuff
Fast-forward to the current day and people regularly say “Doog . . . ” (which is highly inappropriate as youth has long left me and genius was never there) “. . . why do we need a Facebook page?” “Doog, I don’t have time for all this Tweety stuff.”
Well, some day the whole web will be interconnected with your social graph and you’ll know at a glance how your friends and family feel about products, companies, events, politics, society, and what they’re up to. The web will amass knowledge about them and you and present you with intelligently filtered information based on what it knows you like and care about.
“Doog, you’re a riot.”