Aaron Straup Cope: Uh, first mem­o­ries of the Internet. I mean…I was always— When I was like a pre-teen, I always heard—you always heard about like the [BBNs?] and…basically face-suckers that you put your phone into. But I was­n’t— It was hard to sort of wrap my head around that. 

And then in 91, 92 I had a friend who was an engi­neer­ing stu­dent. And it was just before the Internet had been com­mer­cial­ized. So he had an account through the school, and most­ly I remem­ber the phone lines being tied up all the time, and hav­ing to pay atten­tion to whether or not he was down­load­ing some­thing for three hours. 

And then, the Internet got com­mer­cial­ized and you could hear—you know, you sort of knew what was going on. And I was liv­ing in Toronto. And I was liv­ing in a shit­ty, shit­ty base­ment apart­ment with six-foot-high ceil­ings and fake wood pan­el­ing every­where. And I had an account on the Toronto Free-Net. And I signed in just fol­low­ing like the instruc­tions that I did­n’t under­stand for ZTerm or some­thing. And it was dial-up, and it dropped all the time. And it was still all text-based. Or at least Free-Net was all text-based. Because essen­tial­ly it was a shell account some­where. And I remem­ber fir­ing up Pine and try­ing to fig­ure out what I was doing. And I sent my lith­o­g­ra­phy professor—I sent him an entire email in the sub­ject head­er. And I got a reply like five min­utes lat­er say­ing, Oh you’ve dis­cov­ered the Internet.” 

And then it was Lynx. Just being like…trying to fig­ure out what the big deal was? Like, the friend of mine, my room­mate who was an engi­neer­ing stu­dent, like you could poke around and you could see Gopher, you could see WAIS and… But it was sort of very cere­bral and a bit of an intel­lec­tu­al exercise. 

But there was that moment where at one point I was just sort of pok­ing around try­ing to fig­ure out what was even there? It was hard to get a sense of…the size or the scope of it, because you were just look­ing at essentially…like a typed mimeo­graph on a screen, and you were like…okay, what’s the big deal? 

And for what­ev­er rea­son I end­ed up on a web site that was…the serv­er was in Germany, or at least they said they were in Germany. And that was sort of the aha moment, where you’re like wait. There’s a machine…across the ocean, and I am on it, for some def­i­n­i­tion of pres­ence. And that was very excit­ing. Cause sud­den­ly you start­ed to real­ize, you were like, wait. There are things at a dis­tance that you can do call and response with. 

And I was study­ing paint­ing at the time. And most­ly I had the sense, I was like, You mean…I could—” Maybe it was­n’t that moment. It was a com­bi­na­tion of that and dis­cov­er­ing the actu­al Web and real­iz­ing that there were pic­tures? And the sense was you were like, Wait a sec­ond. This might be an end run, a com­plete end run around the gallery sys­tem.” That was very very excit­ing. Because I was get­ting close to grad­u­at­ing and I was just like oh my god, there is noth­ing but that world of like, net­work­ing and rela­tion­ships and… And you’re just like, this is the only way I have to make a liv­ing doing this. And it was very depress­ing. And so the Internet was…just super excit­ing. And at that point I decid­ed that I did­n’t want to be behold­en to any­one else to know how to do any­thing on it. And now I think the joke is on me because I don’t paint any­more and I just type.

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