In the early 1990s, I read the Sprawl Trilogy by William Gibson and a bunch of stuff about hackers. When my wife applied to grad school for Library Science, I read through the materials she got, and saw stuff about the internet. Having no career, and finding this quite interesting, I applied to grad school too. So when people ask me how I got interested in my career, I can honestly tell them it was cyberpunk science fiction that pulled me in. At the time I read that stuff I had barely even touched a computer.
The Internet was different back then. The World Wide Web, as the highly graphical representation of the internet we know today, was just taking off. This was about 1994. Mosaic was the web browser of choice, then came NetScape. There wasn’t that much on the web, and I actually preferred using Gopher, which was a non-graphical predecessor to the Web. There was no such thing as home broadband. You used a fairly slow modem. Downloading an image took some time.
I feel like there was, back then, a more geographic notion of the internet. A lot of activity was still based around universities. When you went to a Gopher site, or a Web site, you had more an idea that you were “going somewhere” — the idea that you were actually traversing cyberspace was more immediate. My first job as a reference librarian was at NASA Johnson Space Center. When doing research for the engineers, scientists, and astronauts there, I’d often imagine myself physically exploring the data — immersing myself in it.
Not everyone was “on the internet” back then, so if you were, you felt like you knew something. It was cool. To this day I like to Telnet to a server to do some work — makes me feel like a wizard.
Anyway, I watched this documentary about William Gibson tonight. I really enjoyed it. I am grateful to William Gibson for igniting my imagination and leading me to a very rewarding career.