Can the web be fun again?

It just struck me that I’ve been on the Net for 20 years this month. I remember distinctly: I was fifteen years old, and a month or so into grade nine. A friend of mine that had been at some high-brow mathematics camp during the summer (I had been reading Orwell’s 1984 during the same period, I recall) and came back with a Datapac account, which was one of the only ways that an individual –at least in our neck of the woods– could access what was becoming the Internet. I had been playing around with tiny local BBSes and QuantumLink (an early large and very expensive BBS service from the States), which at least gave me menus to explore things, get little files, and drop messages into forums. My friend had almost no interest in his account, so he gave me the login and password. I fired up my Commodore 64, jumped into my Kermit terminal, and did the manual dial-up. Mere minutes later, I was face-to-face with a black screen and a blinking white cursor. I started typing commands randomly: “dir”, “help”, “list” and other logical requests gave no information, only errors. Since there were no books at our tiny mall bookstore covering this strange experience, and there were no easily-accessible online sources of information, I could only keep guessing at commands. Eventually, I started figuring things out. Like pieces of a puzzle that suddenly materialise and form part of the broader picture, each new tidbit was not only exciting but hinted at greater things to come. Sad to say, the ensuing year or two of alternating frustration, experimentation and exhilaration was one of the last times I truly had fun on the Internet. Until now.

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