What was the speed of your first internet connection?

The internet is what brings us in the open source community together. How did you first get here?
229 readers like this
229 readers like this
people on top of a connected globe

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Improved internet connectivity has been key to many things, including the growth of the open source movement.

It's amazing in a way that many people who are now old enough to be active participants in the open source community had the opportunity to grow in a world where fast, reliable internet has always been present. For many of us, erm, slightly older folks, this was not always the case. I'm one of the people who laughs out loud when I watch those videos of teens reacting to '90s Internet. After all, this was my first experience with connecting to the outside world with a computer.

Without that connection, slow as it felt, I never would have had the opportunity to discover Linux, or open source, or any of the many wondering pieces of our connected global culture that are only possible because of shared experience. And yet, I have to remind myself regularly, there are many people without this basic level of access, both across the globe and around the block. I'm excited by open source projects seeking to put a dent in this problem of global information access through mesh networking, distributed server projects like FreedomBox, and other projects working to bridge the digital divide.

Each of you has a story of your first internet connection, and what it meant to you. What is that story?

When was your first connection? How did you connect? And what did it mean for your life once you did?

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Jason was an Opensource.com staff member and Red Hatter from 2013 to 2022. This profile contains his work-related articles from that time. Other contributions can be found on his personal account.

10 Comments

My first dialup modem experience was 300 baud on a Commodore 64. We had a 300 bps voice modem at our school which we used for distance learning. I progressed to 1200 bps modem with a Mac Plus and then 2400 bps. Those were pre-internet. My first internet experiences with gopher, Bitnet, FTP etc was a 9600 bps modem. That was about 1991. Shortly after that we got a 56K frame relay connection at our school district and we thought that was very special. We got our first real taste of the world wide web with the Mosaic browser at the school district. At home I got a 14,400 modem and an account with an ISP that used the Chameleon Browser. I later moved to Netscape and Internet Explorer and when I started using Linux I used Mozilla and later Firefox. My first real broadband experience at home came in 2001 when we got a cable modem and much faster speeds. At school we moved to a fractional T1in the late 1990s then a full T1 in 2001 and eventually to gigabit ethernet in 2009.

I didn't say it explicitly in the article, but my first connection was the 2400 baud modem on my 486 SX. Combined with the awesome power of America Online and the blazing fast telephone network in rural western North Carolina, I'm sure the average web page from today would take over an hour to download. Not that my computer back then could have actually rendered it.

A tricky way to get some age demographics on your readers, too!
I can't actually remember if we originally had an account below 2400 or not. But I do still have a Hayes in the basement somewhere that you'd remember the model number of!

1200 Baud; I used to chat on a 8-line 300 Baud chat room too. I can't think of the name.

Our first internet connection was often at 0 bps. There was the recurring call (something like yodelling I guess) of, "You need to get off the phone, I need to use the internet!"

Having said that, I'm kind of nostalgic for the musical tones you used to hear as the modem was connecting.

I remember a "nerdy" friend of mine telling me and another friend about the internet, some time in 1991. The two of us wanted to see what it looked like, so we spent an entire day setting things up at my second friends house to make it work. I couldn't tell you the specifics about the modem but the computer was an Amiga 500. The main thing I remember is that after hours of work, we were finally on line and I had an incredibly underwhelmed feeling looking at bulletin boards (which were the only things we could view or had an address for) since they looked pretty much like the teletext service my grandparents had on their TV. It wasn't until 4 years later at university that I had my first Web experience at one of the universities' computer labs.

In 1995 my college got its initial taste of e-mail via dialup and UUCP over a 2400 bps line. This was not the Internet. A few months later we "upgraded" to a 9.6 kbps VSAT link and got the first taste of the web. This 9.6 kbps would have been shared between 25-30 people (those in the computer center at the time). Fast forward to my first job at the end of 1996 with a prestigious computing research organisation of India. 100 people sharing a 14.4 kbps VSAT link. How happy were we when it was upgraded to a 64 kbps terrestrial radio link. At home, I got a dial-up connection in 2000 that never gave me more than 44.1 kbps :(

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