I've been on the 'internet' a long time. The first time I got on what we new call the internet was in 1982; a few friends walked into a computer lab in SDSU and gophered for games and drivers we needed, then hosted them on a FidoNET relay. We also scanned newsgroups for files and games. We dropped everything onto sacks of 3.5" floppy disks to load up on the 'server' at a friend's house so we could all get it from his BBS. No USB, no external hard drives, hell no CD's yet either, just some nerds and free time and some curiosity. This was when 2400 bps was blazing fast, and you were the "l33t' guy in the group if you had your own personal phone line. Eventually they realized that we did not belong in their lab and we got booted out, but the love of the internet was born. The ".COM," ".ORG" and ".NET" domains would go live a few years later in 1984.
Looking through the rosy lens of nostalgia googles it is easy to say that it was better back then, but let's be real; old tech kinda sucks. Sneaker nets are valuable and they are still a resource people use, but broadband internet and high speed data centers will forever beat the hell out of modems and dial up. But that pull of nostalgia is rooted in the friendships and interpersonal connections you make in your youth; some of which will stick with you forever. You don't remember the dinners you ate with your family, after all... you remember the bonding in the kitchen, around the table and the closeness that comes with meal prep and the sharing of food with people you care about. Same thing with old games, old BBS's, old tech. Technology allowed all the weird kids to bond and form friendships around something external to ourselves. We formed friendships. We formed communities.
Fast forward a decade and online forums start to create bigger communities spread over whole continents and beyond.I was active in alt.religion, sci.astro, talk.origins etc. I was a part of The Well back in '92-'94 or so. I still talk to a few people from back then, and once in a while I'll see one of the old greybeard's handle and recognize thier name. This is when I realized the real power of the Internet. The odd, strange, weird, nerdy, geeky people could finally find their own and escape from the normies for at least a session at the keyboard. In the 90's I got real jobs, resource extraction jobs, and lived in places where the internet was nothing but a word you heard on the news. During this time I had stretches where I had nothing but a crappy car and a suitcase full of clothes and books, then I had a stretch where I made good money. All through that I had at least Compuserve to connect to a community. Even when I did not have a place of my own, surrounded by people who did not get me and vice versa, the Internet was there. This is the core of the lens of nostalgia that I see all the old days.
Then in the 2000's things in my life settled down. Fark was a thing that I joined WAY early, a sub 10,000 username! Then I started to see more of the old farts show up and make my Fark name this one, a name I had used in gaming tags since for ever. The old name is still there, but I only use it to shitpost now. I got to meet Drew, went to a few meetups and once again I was a part of a community. But this time, there was something different. The Internet was becoming less of a haven for the nerds, dorks, dweebs and outcasts and more of a place where "normal" (for lack of a better word) people were entering into the fray. About this time I started to work with a group that runs LAN parties, some of them with close to 2000 attendees, and that sense of community and bonding reignited my love of gaming and technology. My personal Golden Age of the internet was this 8-9 years up until... well I'm not sure.
Something happened to the internet. If I want to be snarky here, it is that the internet got run over by casuals and normals, the Eternal September ground down my last nerve. Then Digg imploded (Holy shit that was six years ago this month). 4chan got weird with the influx of digg refugees. When 4Chan gets weird I'm talking WEIRD, man. This is when the Age of Shitposting became a thing, the "Daily Dose" (Don't google that, trust me) and the levels of hostility normally on 4Chan ramped up to 20 on a scale of 1-10. 4Chan has always been hostile to newcomers to keep the community 'pure' but this was something else. Something Awful idiots invaded Reddit, they tried to invade Fark, and the communities that I liked to be a part of became war zones. I'd been a reddit user for about two years before the digg implosion. Reddit went from small neat community of outcasts, dork and rejects to a site full of the former digg people, SA goons, 4Chan trolls, and tumblr freaks, nearly overnight. By the end of 2010, I took a look around at what the Internet was, realized that I was not in a healthy space, saw that the internet's big community hubs were no longer "communities" but now war zones. I said Fuck it, and bailed.
For about two years, I abandoned the Internet. I still played games online, still connected with friends here and there from the days of old. I read books, over 100 in two years. I bought a telescope and joined a club. I still ran LAN events. I rediscovered D&D. I scrubbed old accounts and nicknames off the net as much as I could. I burned all my facebook, linkedin etc. I dived hard into work. I discovered that I have a bit of a skill for explaining space to people and got involved in teaching astronomy and doing outreach. And to the shock of all involved, I discovered that I liked and looked forward to the interactions with people, many of whom had never seen the moon or planets or stars through a telescope before. But lurking in the back of my head was a search for community, a place where i could be the weird, dorky, nerdy guy I have always been. A place where people, for lack of a better way of saying it "get me."
Sometime in 2013 or so I guess my D&D game night they would talk about pop culture and I would nod and ignore. Internet culture moves so fast that a break of a week can leave you feeling left behind, so you can imagine that I was way out of the loop. My friends told me to get back on Fark and reddit because they were sick of having to explain 'memes' to me. They told me to find subreddits that were full of good people, and they convinced me to get back on facebook to help promote the local astronomy club. In one of the first ventures back on Fark, there was a thread about reddit alternatives, and two sites came up. Whoaverse, which became Voat, and Hubski. Whoaverse looked like a conservative circle jerk compared to the Reddit liberal slant, so I lurked there as I like to go to conservative sites so I don't get myself into a liberal circlejerk filter bubble. I also lurked on Hubski. Whoaverse was everything I did not like about Reddit and 4Chan combined with everything I disliked about Kentucky/Midwest Republican politics. Then they got invaded by the /r/jailbait people and realized that was not the place I wanted to be. I did not even make an account there.
Which leads me to Hubski. The place seemed dead, honestly. The "global" was not "global" at the time, and there were maybe 10-20 posts a day. But they were good posts. Interesting discussions. Every time I came to Hubski I learned something. No nonsense for the most part, although I started lurking about the time that the circlebroke trolls and lorelai were winding down and almost said "nope" and moved on. I finally made an account to filter out the jerks; I even got some stickers when my account was only about a month or so old. The way the site is set up is designed to build community, that thing I was missing in my online space, and it looked like a way to connect with those out there who, again for lack of a better phrase, "get me." I still lurk Fark. I still lurk 4Chan once or twice a week. But the only place that I comment and participate on is Hubski.
I like it here and plan to stick around for a while.
As a gift to the community, I present you a picture I took on Sunday of the planet Saturn. This image is a "stacked" image taken from a series of 3000 images captured over about two minutes. I then use software to throw out all but the best 50% of the images, then stack them on top of one another; this is the exact same process that your cell phone's HDR will do. Finally I take that raw image and play with sharpening and de-noising it until there is nothing but pretty left. In this image you can see the rings, including the two big gaps in the rings. The Cassini division is clearly visible. The Enke Gap is the faint black line closer to the outer edge of the rings. In front of the planet you can see the "C" or "Crepe" ring, nearly transparent and hard as hell to see visually. You can see the bands of clouds on the disk of the planet, you can barely see the polar cap, aka the "Hexagon" shape on the North Pole of Saturn itself. You can even make out the shadow of the planet on the rings. And, even though Imgur sucks at these types of photos, very faint at about the 11 o'clock position, is a smudge of light: Titan the second biggest moon in the Solar System. I've been getting better at imaging planets, just in time for all the planets to go away for the winter.
I'd like to shout out to a ton of people who keep me coming back, but that would be most of you who will read these ramblings, and double the word count of an already long post. I'll keep doing #todayinhistory and try to keep it interesting. The #moralemenagerie is still on track if a bit slow so get in there and "git gud," scrubs. And keep pushing back against the dark.
Thanks all, and here is to another 1000 days and an eventual meetup!