Created by Heyday

1993: "The printed word is dead"

In 1993, the web was still a patchy affair at best… but some local pioneers were already declaring the printed word out-of-date as updates of the world's big events, and everyday minutiae, streamed down to early-adopters in real time via the Internet.

Track of the Year 1993

Hey Seuss (The Venus Trail, 1993)

3Ds - Hey Seuss (The Venus Trail, 1993)

The 3Ds were a super group. Dunedin born Denise Roughan from Look Blue Go Purple along with Auckland immigrants David Saunders from the Battling Strings, Dominic Stone from the Bird Nest Roys and David Mitchell from the Exploding Budgies and Goblin Mix. They promised so much and unlike virtually any other super group delivered. Sonically loud and delightfully soft with mighty clashing guitar anthems and pure quirky pop songs. Guaranteed busted instruments, amps and speakers along with bleeding fingers and sore ears. Perfect really.
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Track of the Year by Flying Nun Records

Ascent of online publishing

Victoria University undergrad Nathan Torkington creates the first ‘real web site’ in New Zealand in 1993. Later he would help Colin Jackson and others at the Ministry of Commerce deploy the first Government website. He also becomes known internationally for publishing the ‘World Wide Web Frequently Asked Questions’ (FAQ) document which explained to those of us online, but not yet on the web, how we went about accessing it. This was not for those who needed hand-holding however – the response to the final question for those wanting to know more was a curt "use the web".

Buried in Torkington's FAQ was a hint that the age of old-media irrelevancy had begun: "In all cases, regard this document as out-of-date. Definitive information should be on the web, and static versions such as this should be considered unreliable at best". Despite this it was a decade before television and newspapers really began to feel the pinch of online publishing.

Jack Yan

Jack Yan talks about realising the power of online publishing.

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Jack Yan

WWW – now with NO images

In 1993, the Mosaic browser was released to the general public – not the first, but the first truly accessible browser for the World Wide Web. A killer feature was the ‘no images’ button that stopped pictures in a web page from downloading – causing page load time on slower connections to jump from several minutes down to just one or two.

Mosaic was the most accessible, primarily thanks to its availability for home computers running Microsoft Windows, rather than the hardier operating systems used in academia. Microsoft itself wouldn’t provide a browser for its own system for some time – just like our own technology giant Telecom, it steadfastly ignored the Internet for several more years.

Mosaic was also notable for being another first – the first example of an Internet hit created by a University student. Unlike many later wunderkinds, Marc Andreessen from the University of Illinois managed to actually graduate from school before going on to create the Netscape browser that commercialised the early web and, of course, made him a fortune in the process.

Stop asking me that!

“There are plenty of other things to do on the Internet – just finding out about them could easily become a career in itself!”1993/94 were clearly the years that early local Internet adopters got sick of answering the same questions since Torkington's FAQ was quickly followed by Simon Lyall’s ‘Local Internet access in New Zealand FAQ’. This listed the publicly available Internet Service Providers and offered local newbies a few tips.

The question "What can I do once I'm on the Internet?" was answered at length, ending with "There are plenty of other things to do on the Internet – just finding out about them could easily become a career in itself!" – prescient of the amount of time most of us would waste online in the future when we should be working. 

Internet! Live! Chat!

With all this talk about how to access the Internet but not much to see once we were on it, despite Lyall's ascertain to the contrary, it was hardly surprising that we gravitated towards the one thing the Internet could do relatively well on low bandwidth other than email… Internet Relay Chat or IRC. 

Satellite link speed doubles for third year in a row

Satellite link speed doubles for third year in a row

Our Internet connection to the US backbone increases to 256kbit/s. The cost of bandwidth across the country escalates. Government maintains its hands-off approach.

IRC allowed for text-based chat in ad hoc virtual rooms. Anyone could create one by joining IRC and starting a new channel prefixed with a #sign. There were popular channels that persisted like the earnest #friendly, the well-before-its-time #vampcafe and the to be avoided, #spanking. This use of the hash symbol to aggregate conversations would return 15 years later on Twitter where hashtags are used to join together similar tweets.

IRC was also where much of our shorthand for online conversation evolved or was popularised – such as the unreliable measure of time ‘BRB’ (‘be right back’), the clearly untrue ‘ROFL’ (‘rolling on the floor laughing’) and the invariably ironic ‘IMHO’ (‘in my humble opinion’).

Fun, games and gatherings

IRC peaked locally a couple of years later when an NZ server was installed at ICONZ in Auckland, speeding up chat for us Kiwis. Popular local IRC channel #NZ was known for taking its online conversations offline with the 90’s equivalent of ‘tweetups’ – IRC parties at various locations around the country. These may have been the first instances of “online dating” with a number of couples forming from what started as online relationships. As well as the first instances of kiwi parties where photos were taken and ended up on the Internet!

Greer McDonald

Talks meeting online friends offline & how we've come to embrace it.

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Greer McDonald

Another pastime that saw a brief peak of interest before the graphical web flourished was detailed in Lyall's FAQ: "Many games and bulletin boards are also accessible via the Internet, including the very popular MUDs, or Multi-User Dimensions. These allow people to wander around a simulated world, interacting as if they were physically in the same place".

You had to have a really good imagination for MUDs to live up to this promise. Though that didn’t stop some of us from living the lives of dwarfs, orcs and elves online well before Lord of the Rings made it socially acceptable to be a fantasy fan Down Under. 

You also had to have a really good imagination if you picked up a copy of new American magazine title, "Wired" that launched in 1993. It was to become the defining magazine of the dotcom boom in a few years - regaling us with tales of world changing startups and online successes. But in 1993 it more closely resembled its predecessor Mondo 2000 and painted a blurry vision of the Internet that resembled William Gibson's cyberpunk classic Neuromancer. It was hard not to be attracted to its fluorescent covers in local magazine shops but many of those whose first experience of the Internet came from its pages were none the wiser after reading. Many would look to friends, or the the soon-to-arrive cybercafés to see what the Internet really looked like "in person".

Russell Brown

About finding the Internet in the pages of Mondo 2000 and Wired.

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Russell Brown

Tomorrow: While more of us were finding something on the Internet that kept us coming back it wasn't enough to justify having a connection at home for many. So 1994 saw the rise of the cybercafé where we could get our caffeine and Internet fix at the same time. But who among us could get past the bouncer at the Internet nightclub?

All

Anecdote

Event

  I remember being at Waikato just prior to the first web browser being released (Mosaic). Connection then was via Telnet, and all domain addresses were served from one or two machines called NICs (Network Information Centres). I connected to the NIC and sent a single character telnet command "?" which returned the names of all the computers connected to the internet. It scrolled over the green screen for a few minutes, and was just a few thousand machines at most. And half of the addresses ended .mil  

 
Chris Harrod - Saturday 30/10

  At the end of 1993 I moved to Dunedin and met Rodney, a technician at the Otago University Computer Services Dept. He invited me in to check out the Mosaic browser. He visited the site of a university in the US which showed a picture of a building. He was hyped, but I remember thinking "So what?". Little did I know that the following years I'd be designing websites for a living!  

 
Zef Fugaz - Tuesday 19/10

  I returned to New Zealand after working for 3 years in Kiribati. A friend working for MAF at Ruakura said I had to see this new thing called Mosaic. I still remember it .. it was like when I first saw Lotus 1-2-3, or the iPhone/iPad; the feeling of a new era in computing.  

 
MikePearsonNZ - Monday 18/10

  Ah yes, 1993. I had a dial-up account on ICONZ and a brand-new 14.4 baud modem courtesy of Internet evangelist (and modem salesman) Jonathan Ewart. I remember being inspired at the time by Howard Rheingold's The Virtual Community. A later generation of users heralding online social media as Internet 2.0 were essentially rediscovering the 'virtual community' premise behind the early Internet.  

 
Chris Lipscombe - Friday 15/10

  My first experience of what is now IMDb.com was almost certainly 1993 — it was a pair of 800Kb text files that I downloaded new versions of every few weeks, via a newsgroup, and searched in a text editor.  

 
Matthew Buchanan - Friday 15/10

  1993 was the year I first saw the Internet for real. On visit to Waikato University on a NeXT computer I was shown email for the first time. I can remember the person demonstrating sending an email to themselves and it took 10 minutes for it to arrive. I was not very impressed at the time.  

 
Richie - Friday 15/10

  This was the year I visited Seattle to meet the people I'd met on IRC. All my friends thought I was crazy and maybe I was, but it was fun.  

 
Bill Walker - Friday 15/10

  I was a heavy user of IRC - in particular, Undernet's #nz channel - but eventually I stopped. The reason - the main thing I had in common with most #nz'ers was just that we were all online. Once the 'net became more popular, I could communicate with people I had more in common with.  

 
Robyn - Friday 15/10

  I met my husband in #nz. We met in 1997ish when a bunch of us (during a late night chat session) decided to go to BK for dinner. We discovered that we'd just missed each other at various BBS gatherings over the previous years. We then met up again properly in 1998 and now 12 years later, we're even more awesome!  

 
Andrea - Friday 15/10

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