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Tuesday, 2006 July 25 - 11:24 pm
The fascinating world of Internet history and lexicology.

I've been on the Internet since before it was the Internet.

I started my computer network experience when all we had was dial-up bulletin board systems. Anyone else remember the BBS days? They were private systems with a handful of dial-in lines. A lot of times you had to sit and redial for hours until one of the lines became free. Once you got in, you could send email to the few dozen other people who happened to be registered on that same BBS. And you could add comments to a few message boards.

Even back then, people started to develop computer-ese. I remember the first instance of typo-speak that I encountered. (That's when a commonly mistyped word becomes a recognized replacement for the actual word.) The word was "opps", meaning "oops", as in, "Opps, I misspelled a word in that last line". I found that quite funny.

The early BBS systems started to link together to form larger networks. There was FidoNet and PicoNet and a few other systems. We started to get multiplayer online role playing games. Games like City of Heroes owe their lineage to MUDs (multiple-user dungeons or multiple-user dimensions), which were text-only multiplayer adventure games.

Commercial services started to develop. With my Commodore 64, I got a subscription to Quantum Link, which eventually became America Online. Universities started to get mainframe systems with dialup access. Email became universal. Private message boards gave way to Usenet, a global news posting and information sharing system that is still in widespread use today.

On Usenet, a whole new society developed. The term "spam" was used for people who flooded multiple boards with the same message... mostly involving "MAKE MONEY FAST" pyramid schemes. Hackers used Usenet for trading tips and pirated software (warez). The best-connected hackers were called "elite", and one of the most commonly seen messages on Usenet became "I AM ELITE! GIVE ME WAREZ, DOODZ!" Of course, the true elite started to distinguish themselves with "elite-speak", with letters replaced with numbers and phonetic alternates. The word "elite" was changed to "leet" and spelled "1337". And "hackers" were "h4x0rz."

With the rise of the world-wide web, things started to evolve even more rapidly. Typo-speak is all over the place: "Teh"; "PWNED"; "ZOMFG". Obscure little words and phrases have blossomed into gigantic inside jokes for the Internet intelligentsia: "All your base are belong to us"; "O RLY"; "Goatse"; "YTMND"; "Numa Numa".

And just in the last couple of weeks, we're witnessing the birth of a new phenomenon... "The Internet is a Series of Tubes". This originates from a bizarre confused speech from Senator Ted Stevens, in which he describes the Internet as "not a big truck... it's a series of tubes". If you've been living in a hole and you haven't seen this, you've got to see the Daily Show take on it.

It can be hard to keep up with it all at times. But you gotta be in the know... if you want to be 1337.
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Posted by Ken in: interestingtechwatch


Comment #1 from Noelle (Guest)
2006 Jul 28 - 1:05 pm : #
Thank you for that facinating foray into the world of nerds. :)

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