Thursday, July 16, 2009


For some reason, I was reminded of the day I got internet. I guess its because I have been spending so much time on it lately, that I realized that there was this time when I wasn't dependent on it.

I don't remember why my dad decided to get internet at home. We didn't need it. Nobody else in the neighbourhood had it. Few people in my school or my neighbourhood had personal computers. Nevertheless, I distinctly remember knowing about the internet. Being curious about chat. In those days (1998-99) there was only one company that provided internet. And getting it wasn't easy. As with most things in the 90s, VSNL was a government owned company which handled the international communications side (BSNL was the only phone company then) and which provided internet. The VSNL office was far out of town. Applying for internet (yes, you had to apply for it, and wait till your application was approved) involved stuffing into the car with my cousin and dad and driving for maybe 30 mins or so and submitting those documents. I don't know what documents they wanted, I was too young to know what they were.

Once the application was approved, we had to contact this other office. VSNL had authorized a few local vendors and computer dealers to provide modems and what-not. Sorta like franchisees I guess. Since my dad used to work out of town, I had to be the man and call the office and fix up a date when they would install it. We had a local electrician fix up additional phone lines in the house so that we could get a phone next to the computer. Since this was during the age of dial-up, my dad had gotten a second phone line. He knew that us kids would be spending loads of time hogging up the internet.

The day arrived. My house used to be considered outside town. (Now, the same location is the hub of all activities fun.) In those days, getting anything down for the computer involved calling in a technician. He would call, get directions to our house, exclaim that it was soo far, we would agree, he would turn up 40 minutes later, exclaim again that it was far out, we would give him a glass of water, direct him to the computer, he would start opening up the computer, we would give him a cup of tea with biscuits, he would continue working and eventually fix the comp. The distance remark would be made once again before leaving. We would nod in agreement again.

That day, the technician came. He had the modem and I-dont-remember-what-else. He spent a good 30-40 minutes fixing things. Changing settings. He was sorta surprised that we still had a 486 computer and that it was running Windows 95. (We put our computer through a lot). Finally he proclaimed that everything is ready. I was thrilled. He then switched the modem on and dialled on the VSNL number. After a lot of screeching sounds, the modem went silent and the screen showed that it had connected. I waited for something to happen. Nothing did. The guy then proceeded to explain what to do. He started Internet Explorer and opened Yahoo (or some other search engine.)

He explained how we could find information, like for example for my school project. He typed in Taj Mahal and pressed enter. Explained what the results page showed and opened a random one. After that small tutorial, he started packing up to leave. Thats when I asked him, "How do you chat?" He gave one of the most amazing smiles as I asked that. I think he found it funny that a 13 year old would want to know about chat. (It was 1998 and it was India, remember). By then, the computer was already switched off. So he told me that the Yahoo site he had shown had a link called Chat in it. When I started it next, I could have a go, though I will have to create a login for it.

I bet he used some other words. I don't think I would have understood "link" or "login" then. Over time, I understood all these things. My first email address was on Hotmail, since it was developed by an Indian. I really started using internet later on. After about 3-4 months. I hooked on to sites like, had email on and I think I played a lot of Yahoo games. Dail-up internet meant that even I spent a lot of time on the net, I actually visited only 2-3 sites. Slowly, Yahoo caught up with me. Friends around me also discovered the wonders of the internets. Chatting became the new way of communicating.

I remember this one year, I was still in school and so I wasn't allowed to be out alone for the New Year's eve. And we generally used to all sit at home and watch all those specials on tv. In my family, the new year has never been a big deal. That year, all of us friends welcomed the new year online. Woohoo! Over the years, internet has taken over my life. Yahoo gave way to Google. I was desparate for the Gmail invite and when I got it, I became this important guy who had spare invites to distribute among friends. I joined Orkut just on the basis that it was owned by Google. It didn't strike me that I was allowed to dislike stuff that Google made.

Now, after two years in the US, I am dependent on the internet. Of course, I like those days when I get shut off from it. Its a welcome change. But I depend on it for so many things that I have no clue how I would survive without it. Today, I did a google search to find out what movie was playing on the TV. I find it natural to contact someone by email first and then call.

And I am waiting for Google Wave. Send me an invite if you get it before me.