Back in My Day, We Had To Walk Up Hill Both Ways to Use the Internet

Back when I was in undergrad, a million years ago, I took a class from my favorite professor probably called something like “Women & writing” where we read a lot of feminist theory and then wrote stories in Storyspace, which was this (oh, look, still is) medium for kind of doing what we do here on the internet, but before the internet was convenient to use.

So, for instance, we were in one of the most wired classrooms on campus–everyone had a computer at their desk–and it was a big deal that those computers were hooked up to each other.  They most certainly were not hooked up to the internet.  Only the computers at the library were hooked up to the internet and you could only be on those for 15 minutes at a time.

The idea in Storyspace is that you can write something, like this post, for instance, and put it in its own space, with a title, much like this post has.  And then you could make another space and write in it and give it a title.  And you could link from words in one space to words in another space and your reader could click through those words and read what you’d written in an order that was kind of a collaboration between your choosing (since you put the links in) and their choosing (since they chose which ones to follow).

Y’all, I even spent a great portion of my master’s thesis deciding if this was “non-linear” reading (no) or something else (somewhat yes).

At that point, though, we did have dial-up at the house.

Still, it’s funny to me to think that thirteen years ago or so, my favorite professor had to spend a whole day teaching us about linking, getting us to let go of the idea that what follows from something you’ve just read has to logically fit.  Or that you would only follow at the end.

And now, everyone’s linking everywhere to everything.

It’s just funny to me to think about me writing my master’s thesis on a computer hooked up to the internet.  I mean, come on!  There I was trying to postulate what a multi-linear world would look like when one was seeping right onto my lap.  I’d have probably gone on to get my PhD if I’d been smart enough to understand that then.

3 thoughts on “Back in My Day, We Had To Walk Up Hill Both Ways to Use the Internet

  1. *laughs* I have a soft spot for all that nonlinear lit theory stuff (even though by and large lit theory makes me roll my eyes, and postmodernist stuff of any flavor makes me want to throw things), because it’s a big part of the basis of my thesis too. (Well, more my Qual than my thesis, but still.)

    I think “no but sort of” just about sums up my reaction to all the theories I’ve ever read on the subject.

  2. The stuff I was reading in the years I was reading it was clearly hampered by our inability to understand how wonderful the internet would be and how amazing video games would become, that’s for sure.

  3. You could still get a PhD–or an MFA, and write more plays and the short stories you used to describe to me.

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