They all devised coping methods for surviving the epidemic in 2020. Gough Liu, a biomedical engineer, enjoys tinkering with technology, especially antique technology, and chose to attempt to replicate what it was like to connect to the Internet through dial-up in the late 1990s. He documented the whole operation in painful real time, interspersed with comments.
Anyone of a certain age (ahem) may recall that even starting up the computer needed patience, especially in the early part of the decade, when one could shower and make coffee in the time it took to boot up one’s computer from a floppy disc. A dedicated phone line was required for the Internet connection since an incoming call may break the connection, causing the user to restart the whole dialup procedure. Back in the golden days of Netscape and Microsoft Explorer, browsing the web took the same amount of time.
So much has happened since then, as the Internet has evolved from a curiosity to a necessity, altering our society along the way. According to Liu’s blog:
The internet has become a vital part of our everyday lives, but the way we experience it now through broadband high-speed connections is not the way it was in my childhood. Back in the late 90’s to early 2000’s, I was dialling up from my Pentium 133MHz non-MMX machine equipped with 48MB of RAM running Windows 98SE (and later, Windows 2000 Professional). This experience was in itself, reflective of the fact that “always on” internet was not considered a necessity or normality—back then, “ttyt,” short for “talk to you tomorrow,” was a thing.
The video begins with Liu’s Techway Endeavor II computer (around 1995) powering up without narration for maximum dramatic impact. The essential specifications are provided by the tongue-in-cheek “credits”: an Intel Pentium I 100 MHz CPU, 32MB of RAM, and a Fujitsu 2.6GB hard drive, supplemented by a Sony 3.5-inch floppy disc drive and a 65k voice modem. Microsoft Windows 98 SE, Netscape Communicator 4.8, and Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 are among the applications included.
There are the familiar static noises of calling up to connect to the Internet, and presto! We’re ready to surf with your lightning-fast 31.2k connection. (According to Liu, “56k is not conceivable due to the analogue nature of the link.”) This is when things start to get interesting. Most current websites cannot be accessed directly because changes in https protocols make it difficult to negotiate a common encryption. So Liu employs a miniProxy, which connects to the site through https, gets the material, and delivers it back to Liu’s PC with all links rebuilt so that they can be accessed via the proxy.
The remainder of the trip takes you to the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology (which still uses http), Google.com, Wikipedia, xkcd (“we will be waiting a long for this comic”), and other sites, all of which load in real time. A basic software update takes 3 minutes and 27 seconds to download an executable 120kb file. The whole film will make you thankful for all of the technical developments made in the previous 20 years, particularly the comparably large amounts of bandwidth we now have. Today’s youth are unaware of how fortunate they are.
Subtly charming pop culture geek. Amateur analyst. Freelance tv buff. Coffee lover