It was 1995. We were passing out of our MBA class and getting a job offer was top on everyone’s mind.The problem was how to know what company’s to approach and also how to approach them all at once.Some bright kid came up with the idea of email.What’s that ? all of us thought.Don’t be surprised sending a message through a computer and not through your friendly neighborhood post office was still something weird.I won’t say we were alien to the concept but it was a concept at the end of the day.
Emails were sent out and each day we waited closely by the side of the only computer with a dial in connection which was set up in the Dean’s office.Some companies did respond back and for the first time I got convinced that folks do exist in cyber space and our ’email’ just doesn’t get lost into oblivion.
Once this miracle happened it threw a challenge as to how do you find more email addresses of more companies so they don’t get deprived of our managerial talent.So we set ourselves a task of going and meeting ‘potential’ managers and then taking their email ID’s to start the dialogue.It sounds primitive alright but believe me in those days of vsnl.net.in it was the most happening stuff you could do.We did back up all electronic communication with physical ones just to be sure.After all sending out emails was more a measure of our smartness than a means of getting a response.
Finally I found a job but my tryst with tech ended quite unceremoniously as the company I joined was a government organization. They had some 486 desktops but they were mostly there to keep the 4th grade employees gainfully employed.Each morning or sometimes each week the plastic covers were removed in a ritual only to be put back in place after the customary cleaning had been performed.Seeing this ceremony everyday I got curious I asked my manager who put these ‘ things’ here if no one knew what to do with them and he came up with an equally interesting explanation.According to him these things were procured under a UNDP grant so that the idle funds could be utilized.If this was not done there was a lurking danger that the funding would get reduced by that quantum.One day I got really catty and so I unveiled the shroud on one of the monsters to see what was inside. I quickly realized that the only trick it could show was a ‘welcome to UPEC Ltd.’ screen which zoomed in and out gyrating while it did so.
I might be failing in memory here but it was sometime around 1998 that hot male Sabeer Bhatia sold his innovation to Microsoft. Till hotmail the only way you could communicate via email was through your organizations email or through an email provided by your Internet service provider. What was exceptional about hotmail was that it was web based and so it freed you of the clutches of the organization and ISP. By 1999 everyone who could switch on a computer had an email account. A web based email account meant an ability to communicate without the barriers of time and space.For the very first time it also gave us an option of faking/hiding our cyber identities and having multiple ones if we so desired.
The web based and cheap hotmail opened a world of opportunity for those in the export business and even I got the idea of exporting some stuff out on my own to a friend in the US. Email was not the driver but it was a motivator, an enabler -If I could communicate almost for free across 16000 kms there was something to be done about it right. My luck didn’t shine and my fledgling ideas died their natural death but I still know of a few friends who would owe a large part of their success to hotmail if not all of it.Of course Sabeer became a millionaire leaving all of us awed, inspired even feeling cheated as to why the hell I didn’t get this simple idea.Its been happening ever since first with google and now with facebook.The only respite on the facebook idea is that I have taken refuge in a moral high ground of not looking at pictures of females while sloshed out of your mind.If my character is the price I have to pay for not being able to invent facebook the so be it.
I can clearly recall that till about 2000 Internet explorer was the only popular web browser and it was almost magical to see the globe at the top right corner of your computer screen go round and round once you pressed the ‘enter’ key.Some smart ass told me that the faster it rotates the quicker the website will load itself and I always used to get confused and ask myself ‘ faster than what?’. I knew that faster meant faster than itself but each time I though I had figured it all out the website would load faster even if the globe was moving slow or vice versa so that my calculations would fall through. Then one day a geek friend of mine enlightened me that speed is not the only thing and it depends a lot on the how ‘ heavy’ the content of the website you are loading is. Now what’s ‘ heavy’ about something that shows on your computer screen I wondered.And thus began my endless race to keep up with all the mysteries of the ‘ INTERNET’ which I still seem to be running to full strength of my intellectual stamina.
Sometime around 2000 someone gave a 100000 $ cheque to 2 young guys out of stanford.No one knew at that time that how ‘search’ would get much bigger than mail.Curiosity has led the way to human civilization and this was no different. An angel investor wanted to know where his bet on the google boys would take him and suddenly the whole world wanted to know where all they can go on google. The ability to search websites for most relevant information gave the power to WWW as we knew it. Everyone had figured out by 2002 that things will never be the same again except the google team in the valley who were still trying to figure out a way to make money without being evil.
Unaware of the strife on the west coast here was me happily typing away in the box at the top end on an empty page finding out everything from flights to hotels to jobs to cures for allergies…….Wow with this new genie I was omniscient and so was everyone else across the globe.I am convinced that google was the turning point of our relationship with the internet and what it could do for us.The websites and the information were there but without a trusting way of knowing if I am looking at the best possible information , one piece of it was as good as the other.
My next big association with the internet happened when I was at a low point in my life and career.Things were not looking up either ways and I needed to reinvent probably re produce myself before I lost my sanity.Someone told me about blogging and wordpress.My posts offered me a medium to express myself to the unknown, to think and write about stuff I never thought I would think or write about.In fact I never knew I had so much or even anything to say.Initially I would post something and look at stats every day sometimes twice or thrice a day.I used to wait for comments from strangers.Somebody had to clip the wires around them and reach out to me from cyber space.They did until one day when I realized my catharsis was complete and stats were just a set of numbers.Still my blog is and perhaps will remain one of my closest friend ever.
In between the world changed many times over and we started doing almost everything on the net.So much so that we were ‘skyping’ each other from one bedroom to the other !!!
Finally facebook happened and friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even adversaries got a new lease of life. Dead relationships got exhumed although some skeletons remained in the closets.
My status today is not the house or car or the designation it is a line or two in the rectangular box next to my smiling picture on the fb page.That’s how the world knows me and that’s what I keep updating.My physical existence in a 6 foot frame today is perhaps much less precious or popular than my digital footprint reaching out to places and people who were otherwise completely out of bounds.
When I look back the last 15 years and ask myself if I have gained more or lost much because of my relationship with the wi fi the answer is never black and white but a shade of grey just like the screen of my laptop…..