Scott Carter

Scott Carter

Owner

Franklin, Virginia has never been at the forefront of technology. Decades of being a small, working-class town will do that. But change comes to those who wait and no town waits better than Franklin.

That’s why, in the summer of 1996, the only way for a curious teenager from an almost-middle-class family to experience the Internet in Franklin was at the new public library. There sat a single PC connected to this exciting new world via a dial-up connection.

The aged librarian guarded it with her life. It was checked out in 15-minute increments and even then only to those she approved of and with a healthy dose of suspicion. The first time I used it, she hovered protectively for an uncomfortable amount of time.

You were not permitted to check out the computer for two consecutive sessions, even if no one else was waiting. The reason given was that someone else may come along and require its use, but I’m pretty sure it was just because the librarian thought that 15 minutes of a dangerous thing was enough. It would be easy to see the Internet as a threat to libraries at that time, though in hindsight it’s been the thing that has saved them from oblivion.

Yahoo - How you found things in 1996.

Yahoo – How you found things in 1996.

The library’s PC was modern by the standards of the day. It had a color screen (a CRT – Google it, kids), and a decent keyboard and mouse. It produced a quiet, satisfying hum and steady reverberation as the hard drive spun to serve up the glory that was Windows 3.11. Netscape Navigator was installed and functional, though comparing it to modern web browsers would leave you wondering how we’re all still driving cars that don’t fly when browser technology has come so far, so fast. 

Searching for things meant going to Yahoo, or Lycos, or Altavista. If you don’t know what those last two websites are, then I look forward to hearing why you love or hate Billie Eilish in the comments.

You had to go to a site to find a site back then. Search engines were more like categories of sites than proper databases of content. It was often easier just to drill down and find what you were looking for than to search for a keyword. Google changed all of that.

Despite those challenges, or perhaps because of them, using the Internet back then was absolutely glorious. It was discovery. It was adventure. It was fun. You found things by accident but they weren’t useless fluff about celebrities or politicians; it was information that mattered enough to someone that they learned how to post it to the Internet with no hope of earning a penny off of it or becoming famous because of it. They were just sharing what they knew, and somehow, you found it. It felt personal, like a thousand private worlds that you got to peek into, but in Franklin in the mid-nineties, only for 15 minutes at a time.

Netscape Navigator v3

Netscape Navigator circa 1996.

Dial up. Wait. Wait some more. There we go! Probably the biggest thing that sticks out in my mind was the speed. We have come so far. I also have memories of Netscape Navigator. Yikes! I was initially logging on mostly just for email, using a Hotmail account that I still have today! Crazy. And Napster. The idea of “sharing” music in that way was incredible. You could sit in the comfort of your home and freely ; ) exchange songs with people all over the place. No longer did you have to meet up with your friends and your CD collections to swap and make copies. Lars Ulrich never knew about that! 

It’s come a long way and I am looking forward to how it will grow and change the future. What is most interesting is that I have a 13-year-old daughter that has never known what it was like to not have access to the internet. Instant. Information. Always On.

Kristin Abney

Kristin Abney

Support Engineer

Kristin Abney

Kristin Abney

Support Engineer

Netscape Navigator v3

Netscape Navigator circa 1996.

Dial up. Wait. Wait some more. There we go! Probably the biggest thing that sticks out in my mind was the speed. We have come so far. I also have memories of Netscape Navigator. Yikes! I was initially logging on mostly just for email, using a Hotmail account that I still have today! Crazy. And Napster. The idea of “sharing” music in that way was incredible. You could sit in the comfort of your home and freely ; ) exchange songs with people all over the place. No longer did you have to meet up with your friends and your CD collections to swap and make copies. Lars Ulrich never knew about that! 

It’s come a long way and I am looking forward to how it will grow and change the future. What is most interesting is that I have a 13-year-old daughter that has never known what it was like to not have access to the internet. Instant. Information. Always On.

Ashley Wilson-Rew

Ashley Wilson-Rew

Google Ads Specialist

I was too young to remember my very first time online – all I remember is a buzz of excitement for the amount of information (access, freedom) in my hands. It looked nothing like the ubiquitous high-speed internet of today. A three-minute YouTube video took an hour to load, but the fact that it would load at all was wondrous.

The early-2000s internet was an uncharted frontier. There were ads for anything and everything, many of which were seemingly designed with the purpose of inducing seizures. Flash animation and neon Papyrus text on black background abounded.

You always knew when someone in your house was online. You’d pick up the phone and hear a techno-goblin’s discordant screeching in your ear. Then you’d yell at your brother to get off the computer so you could call your boyfriend.

The internet connection was moody and you could never take it for granted. Any long-term activity was a gamble; you never knew when your connection would fail and take all your progress with it. (I could never finish a game in Neopets. Thanks, dial-up.)

I appreciate the internet of today because I suffered through its larval form. Now, with so many people creating and consuming content, you can find the answer to almost any question or learn how to do almost anything, instantly. The early days of the internet were a necessary evolutionary step, but I’m glad they’re done. Now we just have to cultivate its infinite potential for good. Easy, right?

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