Happy Birthday, world Wide Web!! My First Memories

This occasion makes me remember my first introduction to the web. Compared to many of you, I was a bit of a latecomer. It was around 1995 when Blazie engineering made its presence known on the Web, if my memory is correct. Prior to that time, I was the system operator or sysop of their bulletin board system running the Opus software on a 386 DOS machine, using ASAP as my primary screen reader. Windows 3.1 had been out for a few years and I knew it well enough to save my life, but not much beyond such basic knowledge as to how to move to Program Manager and open and close programs. I disliked it and wanted to stay in DOS forever and saw no reason for why the world needed to change.
It was around 1995 when I was told that the beloved Braille Inn Speakout BBS was going to be moving to a telnet server and I had to dismantle the BBS, which almost felt like I was saying goodbye to a child who was leaving home. Along with this change, the blazie.com domain was launched.
I didn’t know about the web and, frankly, didn’t understand what little I was really hearing about it. I knew that Web pages could link to other Web pages. Being the technology geek that I am, some may be surprised to learn that, at that time, the concept sounded totally stupid and I didn’t really see what the point was about a Web page linking to another Web page. This all changed when I had a conversation with Cecelia, my sister-in-law.
My sister-in-law, who is sighted and who has no knowledge of access technology, listened to my rambling about how the web sounded silly to me and offered a suggestion which would change my life. At the time, I was a fan of the British TV series “doctor Who.” Cecelia knew this and said, “I have an idea. Why don’t you go onto Yahoo (there was no Google back then) and search for “Doctor Who” and see what comes up.”
I didn’t know very much about Web navigation but I knew enough to know how to open Lynx on Blazie engineering’s Unix shell account and that the tab key moved to different links or sections of a Web page.
OK, I thought, I’ll give it a whirl and see what this world wide Web thing can really do. I don’t know the exact day I tried it. I don’t know the exact time of day I tried it. I’m sure that it wasn’t during my lunch hour but back in those days you could get away with doing things like occasional Web searches for Doctor Who during working hours. Anyway, I fired up my DOS machine, loaded good old ASAP with the trusty internal Doubletalk, opened Lynx, went to yahoo.com, found the edit box with the tab key, took a breath and, probably with a gleam in my eye, typed in the words “Doctor Who” and pressed enter.
I knew ASAP very well and knew how to use the numeric keypad to read the contents of the results page. and what did it tell me but that Yahoo found 23,492 sites about Doctor who. Really? You mean, the Web had thousands and thousands of sites about one particular esoteric TV series? A light bulb went on in my head. No, a whole panel of lights went on in my head, neurons of my brain which were previously inactive began to fire and I began to realize that, just maybe, this World Wide Web wasn’t so bad after all.
From there, I began to branch out, exploring a variety of Web sites as well as an ftp server, complete with Doctor Who and star Trek fan fiction. Once I began using windows 95, I began to actually enjoy using the operating system and used DOS less and less. Window-eyes was the first screen reader that I encountered which was able to display Web pages in an easy to understand manner, allowing you to navigate them just like moving in a word processor. This is a feature we take for granted and expect to see in all screen readers, but it was pretty experimental back in the day. At the time, Web page rendering was pretty slow but JAWS 3.31 came along in 1999 and made the process much faster, with Window-eyes catching up to it eventually. The web has changed my life in so many ways, giving me instant access to news, weather, books and so much more that I can barely count the ways. Those are my memories of being introduced to the Web. I’d love to hear some of your own stories as well.

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One thought on “Happy Birthday, world Wide Web!! My First Memories

  1. Pingback: Early Memories of the Web — Zoomed In

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