It was 20 years ago today…

Sgt. Pepper taught the band to–no, no, that’s not it.

(That’s a whole other chapter of “Makes you feel old,” realizing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released 51 years ago. I remember when its release on CD [remember those?] was a big deal and even that was 31 years ago now.)

No, 20 years ago I got broadband. It was 1998 and Rogers was my ISP because back then there wasn’t really a choice. I got Rogers@home, their broadband service, allowing me to experience the world of high speed internet.

And disconnects. And outages (sometimes for more than a day at a time). And speeds that would go from very fast to slower than dial-up.

It was both amazing (“I don’t need to tie up a phone line to get on the internet!” “The internet is always on!”) and amazingly frustrating (see the aforementioned issues above).

It opened me to a world of online gaming, from which I think I’ve just finally cured myself, having let my WoW sub finally lapse after more than ten years with little interruption. But back in the early days, Tribes, a multiplayer-only first person shooter, simply wouldn’t have been the fantastic experience it was without broadband.

Broadband let me start exploring news online instead of having to sit down in front of the TV for the news hour and watch what the broadcaster wanted me to watch. I still get my news online. It’s so much better.

It was also an age before YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. In some ways this was better. Most ways. Nearly all ways, if you really think about it. There were forums for different games and hobbies, but with hundreds (sometimes thousands) of users rather than millions. You got to know people. There were a lot fewer funny cat pictures and even with broadband most of them were still small and horribly compressed.

The internet itself was still young and awkward. Websites had animated gifs and midi music. Sites were spartan or ugly or both. Spugly. But it was fresh and new and exciting.

Today, Blue’s News has literally the same design as it did back then. If you want a retro taste of what once was, that’s your active go-to right there. It used to be my home page back around then, too. It predates my high speed internet by two years. Zounds.

A few years after I got broadband I jumped ship to Telus and their ADSL. It was a bit slower but much more stable (well, not so much in that first year but it’s been solid since). The speeds today are a lot faster than they were in 1998, but web pages now serve so much fancypants content even before you include the singing/dancing/popping-up/sliding-in/good-chance-of-carrying-malware ads that it doesn’t necessarily feel a lot faster. And then you download a 50 mb file and wonder why it won’t start downloading only to realize it finished in a fraction of a second.

Fiber (or fibre, if you prefer, this post is being written in Canada, after all) is becoming more widespread, though not yet in my neighborhood. I wonder what that would feel like, speed-wise? Would I even notice? I actually don’t download a lot of stuff anymore. Mostly I just need the connection to be there and be reliable. Still, if it becomes an option I’ll probably go for it. Maybe ridiculous speed will open up new possibilities, the same way broadband did for me back in 1998. Or maybe it’ll just make it easier to exceed my bandwidth cap.

Either way, I’m ready.

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