Online Then and Now

By Garman, Nancy | Online, July/August 1996 | Go to article overview

Online Then and Now


Garman, Nancy, Online


As I put the finishing touches on my last issue of ONLINE, many memories flitted through my mind, juxtaposed with glimpses of what is yet to be in the world of online. Having entered into online in the early 1980s, I don't qualify as a real old-timer like some of our authors, advisors, and ONLINE publisher Jeff Pemberton (who was putting together the first issue of ONLINE exactly 20 years ago), but still, a lot has changed.

Travel back in time a minute with me and remember online's adolescent years. Do you remember:

Acoustical modems with two rubber cups for the telephone handset?

The Texas Instruments Silent 700 terminal and its thermal paper?

Searching at 300 baud, and then 1200 baud, and wondering how your eyes could scan the screen that fast? (And then 2400, and then 9600 and losing all hope of scanning text as it crossed the screen?)

Learning APL programming language to search I.P. Sharp, the numerical online service in Canada?

Learning how to search on a PC instead of a terminal? And learning that your new computer needed special software in addition to a modem to go online? (Little did we know that was just the beginning of the complexity!)

When DIALOG 2 was introduced?

Seeing the Wilson Indexes newly online on Wilsonline at SLA?

When PROMT became a "megafile?"

Finding out you could automate your logon process in scripts, using Smartcom? And when everyone used Smartcom because it came with your brand-spanking-new 1200 baud modem?

When SDC became ORBIT became Maxwell Online became Questel Orbit?

ALANET, the email/BBS system for the American Library Association?

PACS-L, one of the first LISTSERVs for information and technology professionals?

Belonging to an online users group?

Thinking back, the most impressive change is how quickly the Internet has pervaded and influenced every corner of the online world. ONLINE published one of the first articles about the Internet (then called the National Information Infrastructure) in September 1990. Despite the obvious interest, none of us grasped its full import or foresaw what would happen. During the next several years of change, I remember being particularly concerned about using the Internet since we were a commercial organization-how strange that mentality seems now that we are blasted with ad banners at every click. …

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