What was internet like when I was a teenager

07Jun10

So BSNL finally upped their unlimited broadband plans to 512kbps for good this month and I felt like recollecting how the experience was back in the day of screeching dial up modems. My region never had 56kbps. It was 33.6k and then onwards to 256k unltd bband.

Even though we had a 33.6k D-Link modem, we had to configure Windows to connect at lowest speed possible and that was 4.8k. Why? Coz, the line wouldn’t stay on more than a few seconds and the screeching sound of connecting really made you think twice before trying otherwise. Pages of text streamed as slowly as videos do now on youtube (on 256k unltd) and the cost was real high. 15k INR just to get a line. There was just IE then. Given the speed, looking back I’d be freakin out if there were tabs back then. Still, being the experimental person as far as computers are concerned, I used to test out higher speeds (read: 19kbps) and would be like “yay! an image loaded” and poof! (screeee-kraawww”kaaaaa….here we go again). Things did get better and better with the speeds and especially the stability. I could also set the modem speed rate to 115kbps (this apparently was speed between the modem and my machine…as far as i was spoon-fed then) and enjoy superfast (relatively) internet for a few seconds. We had prepaid plans and much later postpaid plans for dialup.

Having spoken of the ISP side, let me cover what the web had to offer back then. One way for you guys to verify (yea me lazy) is to visit waybackmachine. Yahoo! was _the_ homepage. It was a directory much like what the neglected dmoz.org still is. Yahoo and Hotmail were the first of web based email providers. It really felt weird when school friends would give me email ids given by their ISPs (don’t you have a free one of your own?) Email is important for me. Time and again its been proven so. Communications via email have been more interesting given the extra time and thought that have gone into drafting them. Yahoo had chatrooms (which they’ve made a serious PITA to use right now). There were no Yahoo Messenger. It was called Pager previously. There were PM’s in chatrooms and a/s/l ‘s everywhere. Chatting was interesting coz it was real time, interactive and less bandwidth consuming…until Napster stepped in. Napster to me, to this day is like a fresh new start to internet for the average user. It allowed something unimaginable at that time. Yes, who wouldn’t expect getting a music album for free was illegal. But most of us rather felt pleased at the ease of it all and at the nice people (with infected hard drives) who shared GB’s of content (when I had like a 20gb disk and a 2.0kbps net connection).

P2P certainly sucked up a lot of the bandwidth and time, but another important thing is that I was and to a point still am happy we had dial-up phase. One learns to be economical in usage of the internet and goes for what’s lean and minimalistic. Need a video? Get a .asf or .rm file and use a download manager which can save all the bits to a file. Atleast I’d one for the asf files. Need a song? Search for 96kbps mp3 CBR. sounds just fine. Need to browse pages faster? There was a pre-fetching, page compressing web accelerator that just took some memory footprint and gave a ‘good feeling’ (for free no less). Need to get a certain tool for a task? Oh that’s 1.1 mb but this is just 640kb. You know the choice. Tucows was my goto site for downloads as it had mirrors in India.

I was always interested in the alternative offerings to what came with the desktop. Open source was not prevalent back then. Back in those times, magazine CD’s (and machines with CD-ROM drives) were really useful as they saved hours and hours of download time. For example I discovered Netscape through Chip magazine. The one feature that still stands out in my memory is its display of actual page download speed while visiting a site to know how well the line is doing (this ranged from 200bps 😦 to 2.1kbps 😀 )

Speed of your line is used to the max only when you are downloading a file, whether it be during dialup days or broadband days as of today. Yet, the dialup days were much more congestion-factored and speeds were never reliable. Having said that the most happiest moments were when download speeds for all the lined up songs,videos, etc. went up to 8kbps. Approximately it was possible to download 20mb in an hour, which as per my pop music interests of those times would mean about 5-6 songs approx.
Besides Yahoo! (and for some the IRC) there wasn’t a virtual community or “why play akele?” type game-infested social networks which left me to mostly searching and lining up downloads…to complete in ages.

What was your dial-up days like? At what age did you start using the internet? Write in your experiences in the comments.

This post feels like I’m back in the livejournal days, crossing 850 words!

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2 Responses to “What was internet like when I was a teenager”

  1. I initially had an ISP called Dishnet, then switched to BSNL. I remember running around in joy every time a song finished downloading (at 3 kbps). I also remember the telephone lines needed replacing every once in a while to keep the net running…I used Shareaza for P2P at that time…oh yeah and we also had Netscape Navigator installed (anyone remember that?)

    • 2 Diabolic Preacher

      Hey Mistcrafter, glad you dropped in. 🙂 Running around in joy would be the apt description. All the private competitors helped get the price of packages lower ad lower. Dishnet Dial was the package name I think. I used Napster, followed by WinMX, followed by KazaaLite, followed by Ares. Then onto torrents ofcourse. Netscape Navigator is basically what I mentioned in the article. It was the whole suite of email, chat, browser, and html editor.


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