When was the last time you went an entire day without using the internet? The web has become so engrained in everyday life that it’s hard to imagine a time without it. But a mere 17 years ago people were still confused by the budding World Wide Web, and a campy comic was published to help the everyday user navigate “the Information Highway.”
Larry Seltzer, of Information Week, took a look at just how much the online world has changed since “Everything You Need to Know (But Were Afraid to Ask Kids) About the Information Highway” was printed.
In 1995 the online world was cartoonishly simple and vague at the same time.
In the upper left of the image below, we see some names–Genie and Compuserve–that many of you are too young to remember. As the sign says, these were “on-line services” which, before the cable and phone companies got into the business, were the primary gateways for users to the Internet. But the Internet wasn’t the point of these services; they attempted to provide their own content and community. Only AOL remains from this group of services. Compuserve was bought and destroyed by AOL. Genie shut down on the eve of January 2000 rather than fix its Y2K problems. On “Communication Road,” we see some classic services that remain, including e-mail, financial and travel services, and news.
Traffic gets even more treacherous, below, where we see another burst of online services. There’s AOL, still technically in business. Prodigy, which tried to do a better AOL than AOL, died many years ago. Then there’s “E-World,” an attempt by Apple at its own online service. It lasted less than two years and was formally dead in early ’96, a victim of AOL’s overwhelming dominance at the time. It’s all kind of hard to relate to these days.
There’s also the “Bulletin Board System,” a term we don’t use anymore, but that’s because it’s everywhere, including the comments section below this article. Finally, the cute “modem at work.”
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So while you’re at your desk staring at a computer screen and counting down to 5 o’clock, take comfort in the knowledge that things have come a long way and the information highway/world wide web isn’t quite as confusing and mysterious these days (which probably makes your job a whole lot easier).