Back in the mists of time, before we called the internet the internet, before we even called it the Internet, I started using the what-would-become-the-internet in October 1987. Unsurprisingly, I was at university and initially I used it mainly to email my friends. Gradually, although I don't remember quite how, my use widened over the next couple of years to include things like playing MUDs - one of the early AberMUD instances (quite possibly the one at Aberystwyth itself) and a MOO in, I think, Manchester. I was a member, and later a moderator or editor or whatever it was called, on the Unaccess system at Bradford, and I'm fairly sure I did something or other on the Tardis up in Edinburgh. Back then you had to know network addresses, protocols, gateways, and all sorts. On the otherhand, things were small enough that if you emailed the postmaster account somewhere, you stood a better than average chance of getting a reply. Indeed, it was just such an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (look at the crazy backwards address!) that lead to my chum Andy and I having two rather lovely trips to Trinity College for the Leprecon games convention.
After I left Hull, I went to work at the Open University. The Open University is a great place to work, because it's a university campus but without students cluttering up the place. We used to play cricket at lunchtimes in the summer. We had the not-quite-called-the-internet there too. Gopher, via the medium Archie and Veronica, was the thing for a while. I had a brief email exchange with Bruce Sterling. I remember telnetting into CERN to have play with something called the World Wide Web, but being slightly non-plussed because the console-mode browser seemed to be just like an internal system we had on the VAX cluster. Shortly afterwards, NCSA Mosiac appeared on the Macs in the computer centre, adding lots of slow-to-load pictures to and exposing some of the innards of the Web, as we didn't yet call it. It was then I realised that the WWW wasn't anything like the thing on the VAXes at all - links could go from one computer to another somewhere else, and underneath it was all just text. Anyone could do it. Got a bit excited by that.
Back then, you could feel the rhythms of the network. At Hull, things were slower during the day while classes were running and people were in the computer centre. While I was the Open University, you'd notice your connection to Northern Lights slow down in the afternoon as the Americans woke up. There was also the October effect. Every autumn, new students arrived at University, got their network credentials, and started to flap around the place. Initially you saw it in October, then as the various networks around the world became more interconnected, it moved into September when the US university terms start. New posters would appear on Usenet, bulletin boards, mailing lists, and so on, asking silly questions, being rude, and giving themselves ridiculous handles. Things would settle down quite quickly though, until in 1993 AOL gave Usenet access to its previously closeted users and we began to live in the September that never ended. That's an exageration obviously, but it took longer than a little while for the effects of AOL opening up, commericial dial-up, and what-not through to widespread domestic broadband and mobile connectivity to work themselves through. To some extent, we all still are but we now longer experience that disruptive mass influx in the regular way we used to.
In these modern times everyone is on the internet all the time and there are nice places and there are silly places and there are unpleasant places. I spent the majority of my interacting-with-other-people-on-the-internet time on Twitter, but I do poke around in a few other places too. I like my internet. It's nice.