Friday, August 18, 2006

where were you when...?

for me there are three specific events that define the origins of my internet use.

the first time i think i ever went online was using my dad's laptop when he was away overseas. this must have been around 1997 or something.

i don't have any memory of email or the internet before sitting in my mother's kitchen while staying there when princess was a baby and we'd just come back from overseas, with the phone cord plugged into the laptop. i would cruise around, checking stuff out. i remember the search engine of choice was alta vista i think, and i remember i had madonna's ray of light playing in the computer at the same time. to me, this was the ultimate techological sophistication. i remember going into a chat-room associated with dad's isp, i can't remember the name* i remember there were these chat-rooms with different names, like hot-tub and barstool. in one of these rooms i watched someone do a strip-show. even though there were no visuals, it was so erotic and the atmosphere was so charged. i felt like i was peeping at someone, and i backed out of there, heart thumping.

the next lot of internet use was around the monica lewinsky scandal. by this time, i had an office set up. i was doing freelance work at home, and spending hours and hours at night playing games such as harry the handsome executive** and warcraft which my brother had put me onto. i also read for hours and hours about monica and bill.

also around this time i read an article about jonbenet ramsay, a 6-year old "beauty queen" who had been found murdered in her family home basement, on boxing day 1996. her father found her, there was a ransom note demanding $118,000. because the father, john, had found her and carried her up out of the basement to where the police were searching other areas of the house, much forensic evidence was destroyed. rumours began, and people thought the parents had done it, either separately or together. or that the older son had. or that blah de blah had done it.

occasionally over the years i would google jonbenet to see what there was to read. amazing conspiracy theories.

which have been put to rest today, i guess, as i see a man has been arrested in thailand. this man is a teacher, who said that he loved jonbenet and her death was an accident.

a thai policeman is quoted as saying:

they fell in love with each other... so he kidnapped her and killed her by accident.

this sentence is so, so wrong. they fell in love with each other? excuse me, at 6 years old, little girls fall in love with kittens and puppies and the colour pink. they have probably fallen in love with their daddies around the age of 2. they do not fall in love with 31 year old men.

the saddest thing about this is jonbenet's mother, patsy, died of cancer 2 months ago.

things like this freak me out. last night i had a conversation with princess on the edge of her bed about how she says she is scared someone is going to come into the house and hurt her. she said she felt very safe when we moved in here, and she doesn't know why lately she's been scared. she told me she had a dream about her cousins being in a toilet and a man hiding behind the door, wanting to hurt them. i told her it was clear to me that she has been upset by what happened to the girl in perth, in the shopping centre toilet.

what do i say to a 9 year old who is the same age as a girl who was raped and murdered in the space of ten minutes in a shopping centre in our own country? not somewhere overseas. then at least i could consider a lie, and say "that wouldn't happen here."

how do i reassure her, when i myself worry about these things happening too? how do i respond when she asks me whether it would be better to scream, or to try and run away, or to play stupid, or to pretend to be asleep if someone comes into her room? or to fight.

i don't think i could fight a man, mummy.

so i try to tell her about the flight or fight instinct. we talk about david***, and how she's seen him talk about animals running away or fighting. i tell her she's smart and she would work out what to do. as i'm saying this, i'm wondering whether i should be telling her not to worry. am i indulging her by responding? am i feeding her fear, making it credible by not cutting her off and saying "don't be ridiculous. nothing's going to happen to you"? because that's a lie, i can't guarantee that nothing will happen to her during her life? how can a parent say that?

so i tell her i don't think she needs to worry about this. that i don't know anyone who this has happened to. that she is safe safe safe in our house, with john and me to take care of her. i tell her that bad things can happen in life, but we can't worry about them too much. like granny getting cancer. you deal with it. like mum and dad getting divorced. things work out.

then i tell her the best place to kick a man is in his private parts. she laughs, incredulously and tells me about a boy at school accidentally banging himself there and rolling on the ground.

the scary mood is broken and we smile as we acknowledge the male vulnerability.

and then today i pick up the paper and see the story on jonbenet. i will be making sure it's not lying around for the kids to see. she doesn't need to know that some crazy fuck somehow brooke into a little girl's house and raped her and murdered her. even if it did happen almost ten years ago.



* what are some names of early ISPs in australia other than bigpong. it wasn't those fucks. something with "super" in it i think.

** can someone please validate me here. has anyone else seen this piece of superb gaming?

*** david attenbrough, whose docos have been, and continue to be, a staple of princess' life education.

18 comments:

Peter said...

My earliest online experience probably predates the concept of online as a separate place. My dad was in computing before computers really existed.

(My favourite story to tell whenever someone marvels at advancing technology is that I have, in my lifetime, seen a working card reader. If you'd like the long version, please yell out :)

Every now and again dad would be given access to his work's "laptop". It was really nothing more than a type writer with an acoustic coupler, if you can remember them. I can't remember how old I was but I wouldn't have been older than 7 or 8, so we're talking late 70's.

We'd dial up and play this online version of hitchikers guide to the galaxy. Well now, that dates the experience and perhaps a little later than I mentioned. When did the first H2G2 game come out?

So that was way early, I guess. My next real experience was the irc, chatroom stuff at uni. That was 1990 and I called myself HanSolo. (Yes, I was indeed a nerd!)

It wasn't until I moved out of home, which would've been about 1994, that I had email for the first time. That also coincided with the first "unsupervised" internet access, if you get my meaning :)

And yes, I remember Alta Vista well. I remember it being the only one at the time not beholden to a particular point of view, like the yahoo's and aol's of today. Then they sold out, to one of the big media players, I think.

I've only just tripped over your blog, btw. Lots of fun :) I think I'll be checking back :)

sublime-ation said...

i just saw that line in the paper to, and went 'huh?' and the way it was quoted by a Thai official was so strange.
it's all so weird.
and did you read how he was writing a paper on the case at a university?


my mum always just told me about 'kidnappers'; not to be scared, just aware. it helped me out a few times when i was with other girls who were way too trusting. i think being mostly an only child helped me, as it will Princess, who is so bright. it is a hard one though as a mum. i guess just reassurance and a sense of security will help.

Enny said...

I think you're doing it right - a balance between caution and reassurance - As long as she kinda knows what to do on the very rare offchance that something could happen (scream, groin, run) it's the best you can do!

henrykwool said...

I had my exposure to internet just 7 years back.
Iam astounded by peter's exprnce with computer.
Now Iam kind of 18 hours working on computer. At work and at home. iam slowly learning almost everything form it.
Its been just a few months since I am into this thing of freelancing.I feel its really good.

Me actually a search engine optimiser.

I came across a wonderful site which provided me projects for seo

And it really is wonderful.
The site also provides Web designing, website dvlpmnt proj etc.
Nw I am thinking of learning web designing.

Rowena said...

MG, my first experience of the internet was in 1997 when I was living in London. Me and a group of friends decided that we were going to have a "special" outing to an internet cafe. We were extremely excited. We went to one near Warren St (maybe one of the few at the time?) and all gathered round a single machine. "What shall we look up?" we wondered. We decided we'd look up the Spice Girls website. We found it somehow and tentatively clicked around it. Then we errr... left.

Soon after that I got a job in London where they set me up with my first ever email address. Round the same time my parents got a computer and set up THEIR first email address. I used to email home with my Channel 4 address and I thought I was pretty good.

RE: Princess. When I was a kid in the early eighties Mr Baldy was all over the news, and I was utterly utterly terrified by it. I think my mum appeased me by saying that it happened far away (in Melbourne - we lived in the country at the time), and that he'd been caught and the kids were ok now. I remember her telling me that one of his victims was reported to have been happily drawing pictures of the police cars that had come to take Mr B away. I don't know why I remember that particular detail.

I've actually been thinking about how honest one should be with children lately as I might be writing something on the topic. I reckon I would have preferred it if I had never known about Mr Baldy. (Even now when I see the recent headlines about him I get a twinge of the horrible feeling I had as a child about it). I reckon maybe giving kids a general "stranger danger" talk is enough - I would really have preferred not to have known about specific cases.

So I reckon hide the newspapers and switch off the news!

Enny said...

Oh yeah - my first look at the internet was watching my dad go into a chat room called 'Alphaworld' where you make a body and walk around and your chats are displyaed above your head.

His name was Trainboy and the only chat we saw was ppl telling him his name was lame.

Then we were allowed to have one hour each and I spent all my time finding X-files pictures, printing them out and putting them in a folder...

yublocka said...

My first internet experience was in 94, although that was using good ole UNIX with the text-based lynx browser - wasn't till the year after I started using Mosaic (the precusor to Netscape). What can I say, I am a geek from way back.

As for early ISPs hmm I dunno. For a long long time I used a 2400 baud uni connection. To think!!

MelbourneGirl said...

hey everyone, i am thrilled to see people's memories of the olden days.

i found out, the isp was compuserve. i just spent the weekend with my dad, and he remembered.

peter, i sense i share a similar childhood to you. my dad was/is a systems analyst. he trained as an accountant at uni in the early sixties then his at first company, they got one of the first computers and he had to learn how to use it. it was a huge mainframe thing, with punch-cards etc. i remember going into his work at about the same age as you and playing with the old punchcards, we used them as scrap around the house as kids. the computer would fill a whole room. we played blackjack and horse races (which we just numbers "running" across a screen) on "desktops."

later on, my dad had his own company, a one-man show, and i would do data entry. he had an accoustic coupler, a big old wooden box that the phone went into. it was so amazing and at the time (we are talking early 80s i think now, like '82) it was space-agey. but i think he used this to send files, i don't remember email messages.

i also did data entry on a trs-80 for a family friend who was a barrister working on the mr asia drug case. i remember keying in all this stuff into data fields on the screen. i can't remember if the files were then saved onto floppy. i think they were. this was using dos-type command codes?

at this time also there were these adventure type games. there were no graphics at all, but you had to work out how to move around a castle and its garden, for example, and find clues to find whatever it was you were looking for. these were so basic but they fired up the imagination and i would play for hours.

but the internet has really changed everything so much.

and rowena, interesting what you said about the mr baldy thing. when i was a kid a girl called eloise worledge was taken from her bedroom in beaumaris. i was about the same age as her, or a bit younger. i remember being scared and wondering if the same would happen. with princess, i have always had the news off and the papers not lying around. some might say this is wrapping her in cotton wool, but i think kids can learn about the world in a very real way without having all the graphic details in their faces. she heard about the girl in the shopping centre in perth only because we were at the market and before hand, she was able to go to the toilets on her own with another child of the same age, then we stopped them going that. of course she wanted to know why, and she sensed our anxiety (after the awful thing had just happened) and she questions me so ferociously and is so freaking cluey and mature she knows when i try to be evasive and won't let it go. she would make a damn fine lawyer, that girl.

more nerdy computer stories. PLEASE.

tokenwoman said...

My first internet experience was at a company open day back in 1996.. I remember the first thing I looked up was Devon Sawa who was in Casper.

I am now working for that same company, in their IT section...

Riss said...

I really love reading your blog mg.

MelbourneGirl said...

why thankyou miss riss. that's made me feel very nice inside.

glad you enjoy.

Peter said...

Cheers, MG

Those punch cards were fun. Never saw them at home, from memory. We used to get a lot of that printer paper as scrap. You know that stuff, it continuous sheet, it was about 18 inches wide with holes down that edge that grabbed the wheels on the printer.

Those text based games were exactly the ones I was talking about before. I have a feeling that wasn't Hitchhikers then, because I remember when I first saw that game, at a family friends house. But the games we played on line were those text based adventure ones. "Look left", "take pen", "go north"... that sort of thing.

More Nerdy stories?... what more do you want from me? I've already told you I called myself HanSolo on line. There's nothing left!

Well, I suppose there is the fact that my father taught me to count binary when I was ten :) You know what they say... There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who know binary and those who don't!

omg, I am still a nerd. I thought I'd outgrown it :(

MelbourneGirl said...

i think your father and my father would get on well. love the binary joke.

and about outgrowing nerd-dom, it's impossible. it's in the genes i think.

Peter said...

I fear you're right! I just hope, if I ever manage to procreate, that I can avoid passing it on :)

On the JonBenet part of your original post, have you noticed the ever tasteful Channel 7 have decided now is a good time to replay that movie about the whole affair?

Suse said...

I had email in 1992 when I worked at RMIT and the only places that were hooked up to The Information Superhighway (as it was known, - the WWW didn't come about till 1994 I think) were universities, research orgs and defence orgs. We felt oh so posh and modern.

Re Eloise - I lived in the same street as her, went to the same school (I was a couple of years older) and our parents were involved in the same local community theatre group. It haunted me. A couple of years ago my parents were contacted by the police (they now live interstate) who were following up new information about someone from that theatre group. The whole thing was just too close to home and I had nightmares about her for decades.

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