Created by Heyday

1990: The mystery of the exploding fish

A Wellington woman was preparing a flounder. She had cut off the head and was slicing along the backbone with a sharp knife on a wooden cutting board. Suddenly, there was a loud bang and a flash of light! What happened? 1990 Internet sleuths to the rescue!

Track of the Year 1990

Gaskrankinstation  (1990)

Headless Chickens - Gaskrankinstation (1990)

This was an exciting time. “Gaskrankinstation” saw a band built on a unique vision and experiment in the process of naturally and organically developing a cohesive sound that would also appeal to the general public. A song about a dysfunctional petrol station worker who virtually narrates the song over a throbbing building klank of processed sound before exploding into an inevitable orgy of guitar driven destruction. It sounded modern and it sounded exciting, it still does. - Roger Shepherd
[ Watch Video ]

Track of the Year by Flying Nun Records

From academic chat to gossip

Our first Internet link to the world was secured through cooperation between staff at our universities and NASA. So naturally, it was first put to use aiding academics in their lofty pursuits. But just as naturally, this didn’t last long.

A particularly telling thread on the nz.general newsgroup relates a story from the 21 May 1990 edition of The Dominion newspaper in which a woman is filleting a fish that suddenly explodes. The thread devolves into a MythBusters-esque exploration of the likely, and unlikely reasons for the exploding fish between New Zealanders and interested parties offshore. Once we realised we could talk about anything and everything online, we were unstoppable.

Russell Brown

Discusses his first encounters with Newsgroup discussions.

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Russell Brown

This story is not about Nazis

Our connection to the Internet was still at a snail's pace in 1990 and public access was limited to Usenet and email. Meanwhile, overseas, the launch of The World as the first full Internet Service Provider for the public meant the Internet was becoming ever more multimedia and the discussions ever more varied.

One thing Internet discussions seem to have in common is codified in ‘Godwin's Law’ that claims: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one". As it turns out, our own early discussions about the mystery of the exploding fish only went so far as to suggest alien intervention, rather than any involvement from a member of the Third Reich.

nz.general chit-chat

“I've just talked to my HOD and managed to get permission to send email anywhere I want!”Usenet, a collection of text-based discussion groups on various topics from mathematics to cooking and fan cultures, was the public flipside to email's private online discussions. Messages posted to a group appeared for all to see – and in many cases remain to this day. In these early days, there was a handful dedicated to New Zealand, the town centre being nz.general. Our online population was even small enough to contain most of its public discussions to a single discussion group.

Colin Jackson

Discusses working towards the future he saw in 1990.

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Colin Jackson

Of course, New Zealanders, once connected to the world, didn’t want to just talk to locals and we found ourselves able to participate in international discussions about Godzone. Dave from Waikato University proclaimed his arrival onto the information superhighway with: "Alright! I've just talked to my HOD and managed to get permission to send email anywhere I want!". A seemingly small, but remarkable and liberating feat.

Popular topics involving Kiwis included sports, tourism, employment and music. On misc.emerg-services, Trevor from Saskatchewan wonders about getting an ambulance job in New Zealand. Jane from the US regales the world on rec.bicycles with the practical side of cycling around our country. While Kumar from India is keen to hear from anyone who has news about the India Cricket tour of New Zealand. Back home, Dave from Waikato is doing his bit to promote local music such as Flying Nun bands to the world. And Dave from Canterbury is more interested in making scathing comments about music in the local pop charts.

Alastair Thompson

Talks about playing in the MUD online.

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Alastair Thompson

The original killer app – email

Email was the early Internet's killer app – especially for isolated New Zealanders. Academics at the time describe the arrival of reliable email access as ‘liberating’. Finally they were on par with their more worldly peers in the USA and Europe where, even without the Internet, travel between institutions and knowledge sharing was significantly easier. And even though sending an email cost an institution several cents a page, academics justified it to their bean counters by saying it compared favourably to the price of an international fax or letter.

Richard Ram

Remembers when the email was checked once a day.

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Richard Ram
Selling Telecom to ease the national debt

Selling Telecom to ease the national debt

Former State-owned Telecom is sold to America’s biggest telcos for $NZ 4.25 billion in the biggest business deal in New Zealand history and the sixth largest deal in the world.

An MP for the Internet

1990 was also an election year and Maurice Williamson was a second-term MP who came to power with National's landslide win under Jim Bolger. It wasn't part of any party plan but Williamson lobbied for, and took on the role, of our first Information and Communications Technology minister upon National's arrival. With the newly deregulated telecoms industry to oversee and a passion for technology, the man who claims to have personally told Bill Gates that Word "needs a good mail merge" function was keen to help lay our own information superhighway.

While Williamson wrangled with red-tape the public were pleased to see competition entering the Telecommunications market finally in 1990, with Clear Communications launching, offering us an alternative Toll provider for the first time.

Tomorrow: Overall government interest in the Internet is low at first but a handful of individuals in local and central government drive some world firsts online. But just how did New Zealand cause so many people to be kicked out of the New York Public Library?




  I bought my first PC in 1988 and a modem soon after for accessing the very active Wellington BBS scene. Sometime in '90 I fronted up with (IIRC) the $168 annual subscription for a dial-in unix shell account on Actrix, through which I could access the Internet directly. I'd never seen any of this stuff before so every day I had to learn 10 things to do one thing. It was awesome. I knew then it was a dawn of something awesome. I took it all very seriously and cringe now thinking of my earnest contributions to nz.general for hours every day.  

Steve Withers - Sunday 17/10

[edit] Updated to reflect Clear Communications launch - offering Toll competition for first time.

Thomas Scovell

  Wow. I'm Dave from Waikato. One of the people I used to correspond with about Flying Nun bands back in those days alerted me to the mention of me on this page via Twitter. We've come a long way!  

Dave from Waikato - Friday 15/10

  In 1990 I came back to NZ and worked for DEC in Auckland. My very first job was organising the DECUS User Conference -- including the use of a personal mobile phone, hired for the duration of the project! Keynote speaker was Ted Nelson, who coined the term "hypertext" and founded the first hypertext project (Xanadu) in 1960. What a blast. I started to see how electronic networking could revolutionise traditional publishing.  

Chris Lipscombe - Tuesday 12/10

  I didn't get around to Usenet until later, but I (fondly?) remember the whirlpool of opinion that was nz.general. Fave memory: some guy going off at me because my quoting style offended him. Those were the good ol' days, etc.  

Robyn - Tuesday 12/10


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