Kio Stark: Two moments that are the first time I got on the Internet. One is prob­a­bly before the mem­o­ry of a lot of peo­ple who are lis­ten­ing to it, which is using Gopher. Which was a text-based brows­ing around…thing. And what you would do is you’d log on… I had a uni­ver­si­ty account. And you would see a list of basi­cal­ly places and some of them were oth­er uni­ver­si­ties, and some of them were things like the Madison Wisconsin freenet, which was some­thing where you did­n’t have to be asso­ci­at­ed with the university. 

And you could click on them, and they would take you to that place’s list of places. And there was no back but­ton, so if you want­ed to go back you would have to actu­al­ly remem­ber where you came from? So you end­ed up sort of mak­ing a map as you were doing it because oth­er­wise you were absolute­ly, ran­dom­ly lost. 

And the fun­ny thing about using Gopher’s I don’t real­ly remem­ber what the stuff was that you got to. I only remem­ber the process of jump­ing around and being dis­ori­ent­ed by not being able to get back to what I was find­ing. And I think you can still use Gopher. I’m not pos­i­tive. It was at the same time as using Pine for email, which was basi­cal­ly command-line. And I found out the hard way that the back­space but­ton did not actu­al­ly delete any­thing. So I wrote a kind of angry response to an angry email that was very care­ful­ly writ­ten, with lots of things writ­ten and then delet­ed. And then I was told kind of gen­tly that all the dele­tions were vis­i­ble. Which was…awful. But also, because email was so new, it seemed sort of forgivable. 

The sec­ond time I first got on the Internet was when some­body showed me Mosaic. So I was at a friend’s house, and he was kind of geek and kind of an artist. And I went to vis­it and he said, [whis­per­ing] Come here. I have to show you something.” 

And we went into… I’m sure a lot of peo­ple have this sto­ry. So we went into the room where his com­put­ers are and he’s like, Look.” And again, I don’t remem­ber the con­tent. I don’t remem­ber what I was look­ing at, I only remem­ber that it was a pic­ture. And it was like oh; this is all different. 

And he’s like, I’m gonna learn how to make these.” And very excit­ed and also, I’m gonna learn how to make these because that can be a job.”

And you know, sud­den­ly this was also a whole new realm of things you could do you. And I’m not a pro­gram­mer, so the side of it that was excit­ing about the idea that you could make some­thing wasn’t…that did­n’t real­ly res­onate with me. But I’m a writer, and some­how being able to look at things and hop around and look at dif­fer­ent things was real­ly amaz­ing. And it was such a change from using Gopher, which had a cer­tain ran­dom excite­ment and this was much more purposeful. 

I actu­al­ly— One of the things I remem­ber about see­ing Mosaic is just the room that I was in, and the light, and the messi­ness of the room, and the fact that the com­put­er was at stand­ing lev­el, in a way that with sig­nif­i­cant moments you remem­ber sort of every­thing about them. And look­ing at Gopher, what I remem­ber is the var­i­ous desks that I was sit­ting at. There was a desk in a room that had a sort of gar­ret ceil­ing angle, and there was a desk in a room where I had my own study in a whole house and I could go sit in my room and look out the win­dow. And I had some tiny box of a Macintosh. So, it’s strange to me that what I remem­ber the most is the spaces. 

I’m not sure how to describe what I miss and what’s lost, but I think par­tic­u­lar­ly with mov­ing away from Gopher, I real­ly miss the sense of dis­ori­en­ta­tion, and of find­ing not only stuff but inter­est­ing paths, and find­ing out which place was get­ting you to the same oth­er place. It was like when you play a text adven­ture game and you end up draw­ing a map because you know oth­er­wise you can’t remem­ber the lay­out and how to get back. And it had that kind of feel­ing of a game. And it wasn’t…purposeful. I was­n’t look­ing for any­thing, I was look­ing around, and so it felt like I’m look­ing around at the world. Except that I was­n’t look­ing at any­thing, I was look­ing at words. So…

I also think, and this isn’t from my first mem­o­ry but it is from my ear­ly use of email and like every­one I sort of miss, the let­ters. But I don’t so much miss the phys­i­cal­i­ty of the let­ters. That’s sort of a quaint way to miss it. I just miss the length and the care­ful­ness with which things were artic­u­lat­ed. And the sort of long…pauses as you were writ­ing, and the long thought that goes into the response. And also, I had one friend who—we were using all chan­nels. So we would still actu­al­ly write let­ters and she would send me pho­to­copies of lyrics by this gui­tar play­er she had a com­pli­cat­ed crush on. And then we would talk about it on chat and refer to the let­ters. And to some degree we still do that now, we say you know, Oh did you see my tweet.” But it was dif­fer­ent when it was so deeply thought-out. Even though you were still doing it in the mid­dle of work. 

So, I think those are kind of the moments that I remem­ber the most about ear­ly encoun­ters with the Internet and what I miss about it. But I’m also not very nos­tal­gic as a per­son. I like to tell sto­ries. Things remind me of things and I always talk about them. But I don’t miss them so much. I’m real­ly aware of the idea that they are invent­ed, you know, that your mem­o­ries are sto­ries you made up. Because they’re mean­ing­ful to you. So…yeah, so I’m not sure if any of what I just said is actu­al­ly true.

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