Internet 1995 — The Potential Friend

People working on the three computers in the first AEGEE-Europe headoffice

In 1995, the Inter­net Explor­er was released. At that time every­body surfed the web with browsers such as Mosa­ic or Netscape. The AEGEE-Europe home­page was just one year old, nev­er­the­less, around 35 AEGEE locals had already own web­pages. The Inter­net was young, but AEGEE embraced its oppor­tu­ni­ties with full speed.

Peo­ple work­ing on the three com­put­ers in the first AEGEE-Europe head­of­fice

Or bet­ter: a part of the net­work did. Some coun­tries or uni­ver­si­ties invest­ed a lot in their tech­no­log­i­cal infra­struc­ture, oth­ers not. Espe­cial­ly in the South and the East of Europe. In 1996, the CD dis­cussed whether the paper mail­ing should be reduced and the CD newslet­ters be sent out by e-mail. At that time each anten­na received a few times per year a fat enve­lope from the CD, sent via the Uni­ver­si­ty of Delft, the city where AEGEE had its head­of­fice until 1995. The con­tent of the envelopes: Ago­ra book­lets or min­utes, brochures, fly­ers from anten­nae, nice big event posters and oth­er stuff. The pro­pos­al to send out more things via e-mail were turned down, because it would have meant to cut off a part of the net­work from infor­ma­tion.

One year lat­er, in Novem­ber 1997, I became Net­work Com­mis­sion­er. My first mis­sion was to con­tact each of my locals in Hun­gary, Moldo­va, Roma­nia, Ser­bia and Slo­va­kia and to intro­duce myself. In two cas­es I had to do this by phone, because they did not have an e-mail account. When I called the Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Oradea, she invit­ed me to their local mem­bers’ recruit­ing day. There they told me that hard­ly any stu­dent at the uni­ver­si­ty had e-mail. The few who had an account, didn’t get it from the uni­ver­si­ty, but from com­pa­nies.

In order to write mails from home, I had to dial into the uni­ver­si­ty with my 28 Kbit/second modem. Just imag­ine: it trans­ferred 3.5 Kilo­byte per sec­ond. Today’s web­pages could not have been dis­played at that time. I could also go to the uni­ver­si­ty to check my mails. If I was lucky, I didn’t have to wait. At oth­er times, I had to wait up to 20 min­utes. Fre­quent­ly the con­nec­tion broke, so every­thing got lost! A lot of mails start­ed with: “I wrote you a long mail, but then the con­nec­tion crashed…”

In this atmos­phere Michal Rudziec­ki, the first CD mem­ber from Poland, wrote an arti­cle for the AEGEE News Bul­letin about the Inter­net – and how AEGEE mem­bers can use it. Today, this text appears 50 years old, but in fact it’s just 16 years…

Have fun read­ing it!

Gun­nar Erth


Internet: your potential friend

You must have already met this word somewhere…it is men­tioned time and again every day in the media; often abused by the press. Every mag­a­zine and even a dai­ly paper tend­ing to be up-to-date and pop­u­lar seems to pub­lish some­thing, from just a few words to a long arti­cle on Inter­net in each issue. One can eas­i­ly make out from all that fuss that Inter­net is under­go­ing a peri­od of fast devel­op­ment, being used in more and more appli­ca­tions. Also some social groups are very prone to use this word in an ordi­nary con­ver­sa­tion. It’s sim­ple: Inter­net is con­quer­ing our world in the same way as once radio or tele­vi­sion did. There­fore it’s not so easy to avoid get­ting in touch with Inter­net. And if you don’t feel like being left behind and out-of-date, bet­ter make friends with it and you will find that this friend­ship can prove advan­ta­geous for you.

Those of you who have already had some con­tact with Inter­net may smile at this a lit­tle pathet­ic pref­ace but for the new­com­ers Inter­net seems to be a syn­onym of black mag­ic. Every­body has to start with at least basic knowl­edge of the mat­ter. This arti­cle is most­ly writ­ten by some­one who has a smat­ter­ing of knowl­edge on Inter­net (but isn’t cer­tain­ly an expert) for those who treat it as a great unpen­e­tra­ble rid­dle.

Is it pos­si­ble to define Inter­net in just a few words? There are already dozens of books writ­ten on this sub­ject includ­ing thou­sands of attempts to define it. How­ev­er, let me try. Inter­net is a world-wide net­work of com­put­ers, con­nect­ed by var­i­ous means: tele­phones, cables, radio waves etc. The com­put­ers use the same ‘lan­guage’; all the users are equal and autonomous (actu­al­ly, Inter­net is no one’s prop­er­ty and is gov­erned by no one).

Michal Rudziec­ki, the first Pol­ish CD mem­ber

The first step for each of you will be prob­a­bly obtain­ing an account. You will eas­i­ly find it at almost every uni­ver­si­ty in Europe that has got a com­put­er cen­tre. Some of them pro­vide their ser­vices for free (only for stu­dents, of course), some charge a small month­ly amount of mon­ey; unfor­tu­nate­ly this sec­ond ten­den­cy is spread­ing nowa­days like a hur­ri­cane. The sec­ond pos­si­bil­i­ty is to buy an account in a com­mer­cial net­work, gov­erned by a firm charg­ing also a month­ly fee. In this case you need a com­put­er with a modem at home. Obtain­ing an account may take a while (in Warsza­wa it may last even up to a few weeks); once you get it, the world stands wide open for you. You get so-called ‘userid’, which may serve as your Inter­net nick­name and in some cas­es you may be known world-wide under this nick­name. Prac­ti­cal­ly, your userid togeth­er with the serv­er address sep­a­rat­ed by @ is your address, hav­ing almost the same appli­ca­tion as the one you write on an enve­lope. You have to mem­o­rise it, togeth­er with the pass­word you are sup­posed to invent for your­self in order to pre­vent the account from strangers’ eyes.

The most obvi­ous and com­mon appli­ca­tion of Inter­net is e-mail (which stands for elec­tron­ic mail, as con­tra­dic­tion to snail mail, i.e. ordi­nary mail). The rule is the same; first you write a let­ter and after­wards you mail it. The dif­fer­ence is that you don’t use a pen nor a type­writer: the basic device is a com­put­er. More­over, it’s much quick­er than any kind of ordi­nary mail; the mes­sage is usu­al­ly deliv­ered in a few min­utes with­in Europe. It’s a real­ly gor­geous means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion: you can exchange a few let­ters with­in one hour, pro­vid­ed that each of you is ready to receive the mes­sage and answer it, sit­ting in front of the com­put­er screen. You can also send the same mes­sage to a giv­en num­ber of Inter­net users with­out re-writ­ing it every time: you just send it to a dis­cus­sion list address. By the way; dis­cus­sion list is a group of -mail­ers inter­est­ed in the same top­ic (like for instance ham­sters or moun­tain-bikes or NATO or what­ev­er) that exchange ideas and infor­ma­tion in this way. As you can see, it’s a nice oppor­tu­ni­ty to find elec­tron­ic pen-pals or even real friends.

If you have a plen­ty of time to spare, you can also use a ‘vir­tu­al cafe’ called IRC (Inter­net Relay Chat). It’s a con­stant meet­ing point for cyber­ma­ni­acs spend­ing hours on dis­cussing on var­i­ous top­ics. At first glimpse this con­ver­sa­tion, vis­i­ble on the screen may seem incom­pre­hen­si­ble. That’s not true — it’s only ques­tion of time. You will be able to use ‘smi­leys’ (like famous :-) , :-( , ;-) ) and the spe­cial Inter­net dialect like every­body else. You just have to join one of the ‘chan­nels’ of dis­cus­sion. You can also prac­tice lan­guages in this way as some of the con­ver­sa­tions are in French, Russ­ian or Finnish.

If you need Inter­net for more seri­ous rea­sons, it can always prove use­ful for you in some way. For instance, one can use num­bers of data­bas­es to be found some­where in the cyber­space, libraries full of pic­tures, jokes and doc­u­ments (like pho­tos of Cindy Craw­ford, maps of Israel as well as full text of Bern Con­ven­tion), com­put­er pro­grammes that you can copy for free on your own flop­py disc and so on.

The most impor­tant obsta­cle is time. You need a few hours every day if you real­ly want to get involved and become an Inter­net expert. I know peo­ple who lit­er­al­ly spend their lives in the com­put­er cen­tre. Be care­ful then and good luck in cyber­space!

Michal Rudziec­ki

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