Internet's History As Tracked By Codrescu

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On July 20, 1969, I mourned the last virgin moon, before man landed on it, with some hippies on a beach in Southern California. On Sept. 2, 1969, two computers exchanged meaningless data in the first test of Arpanet, an experimental military network.

In 1970, my first book of poetry, titled License to Carry a Gun, was published. Many people thought a social revolution was imminent because of the Vietnam War and civil rights. Arpanet got its first East Coast node in Cambridge, Mass.

In 1972, I was sure New York City was on the verge of collapse. I got robbed at knife-point twice in front of my apartment building. In 1972, Ray Tomlinson created e-mail for the network, choosing the "at" symbol to specify e-mail addresses.

In 1973, I lived in San Francisco and planned a commune with my friends in the redwoods. In 1973, Arpanet got its first international nodes in England and Norway.

In 1974, at Mary's Commune on the Russian River, I met the Angels of Light, a group of street performers and rabble-rousers who communicated telepathically with one another. In 1974, Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn developed TCP, a communication system whereby multiple networks understood each other; this was the birth of the Internet.

In 1983, I started the journal of arts and letters called Exquisite Corpse and began broadcasting commentaries on NPR. In 1983, the domain name systems of .com, .edu and .gov were proposed. My first computer was a KayPro, a so-called "luggable," with a miraculous 36K of memory.

In 1989, communism started giving way in Eastern Europe, and I had the sudden hope of returning to my native Romania. The Internet was instrumental in hastening the demise through information that could not be controlled. In December, the dictatorship fell and I went to Romania to report for NPR on the dramatic end to four decades of Soviet domination.

In 1990, I returned to Romania to report on the violent repression of student demonstrations against the neo-communist regime of Ion Iliescu. In 1990, Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web while developing ways to control computers remotely. In 1991, the Soviet Union itself was history.

In 1993, I was teaching at Louisiana State University and still working hard laying out Exquisite Corpse on a light table, each issue a huge manual effort, made easier by help from the Publications Center at the University of Illinois. In 1993, at the University of Illinois, Marc Andreessen and colleagues created Mosaic, the first Web browser to combine graphics and text on a single page, opening the Web to the world with software that was easy to use.

In 1995, Exquisite Corpse became an online-only magazine, one of the first literary publications on the Web. In 1995, set up the first major Internet book business. I had the fleeting thought that I might get rich if I bought stock in Internet startups. I didn't. Everybody else did.

In 1998, I wrote Messi@h, an apocalyptic, end-of-the-century romp featuring Web-surfer Felicity, who made love to people from history. In 1998, the U.S. government delegated oversight of domain name policies to Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers.

In 1999, we prepared for Y2K and the end of the world at a memorable Mardi Gras. Huge puppets called Y2K marched in New Orleans. We partied like it was 1999. And in 1999, Napster made file-sharing of music popular, and the world Internet population reached 250 million.

In 2000, Y2K failed to materialize, and I thought of my laptop as an accessory, like a watch. I was all Apple. In 2000, the dot-com boom of the '90s went bust.

In 2002, I noticed that I was spending many hours a day on the Internet — a lot more than I'd ever spent watching television. In 2002, the world Internet population surpassed 500 million.

In 2005, Katrina flooded New Orleans. The Internet became the chief means of keeping track of one's friends and the wild diaspora that followed; 2005 saw the launch of the YouTube video-sharing site.

In 2006, I lived six hours a day in cyberspace, and the world Internet population surpassed 1 billion.

In 2007, Apple released the iPhone, introducing millions more to wireless Internet access. I got it the day it became available.

In 2008, I had no trouble identifying myself as a virtual citizen as the world Internet population surpassed 1.5 billion; China's Internet population reached 250 million, surpassing the United States as the world's largest.

In 2009, I retired from teaching after 25 years, hoping to make some extra cash writing freelance articles for newspapers. In 2009, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer became the first major daily newspaper to move entirely online. Goodbye, extra cash. Google announced development of a free computer-operating system designed for a user experience that primarily takes place on the Web. See you on Facebook.



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