Internet was for James Bond or Maxell Smart, Agent 86 for Control

by shiva
Maxwell Smart

Maxwell Smart

I knew about the internet rather early on as I’d grown up with some of the pioneers in California. I don’t think the impact hit me but I remember thinking that communicating via computers seemed normal and pseudo James Bondish or Maxwell Smartish at least!

I think my first connection was working as a university instructor and getting my first account. I used it for library research mainly. This was in 1995 or so. I remember that coworkers, gender unmentioned, would bombard me with interesting articles about teaching and I began to wonder if it wasn’t just replacing the overstuffed mailboxes of the past!

I also remember looking into bulletin boards and being rather shocked at how uncivil people could be on a medium that existed through the written word but because you could not tell the person’s identity, anonymity bread contempt! For someone raised to communicate with relatives, friends and colleagues in writing, it was a brusque awakening.

When I did move from the States and no longer had that access for a time, I used a private system and the best customer service at all in France in those days was AOL. The other systems had virtually nothing at first in the late nineties.

I actually remember neighbors asking me for help and as I’d become accustomed to using it in the States, I would go over and give it a shot. The internet became a vital link for me to friends and family around the world as I’d always worked in an international environment. More and more friends became linked online.

Using the internet for jobs in France wasn’t easy at first as they had begun using the MInitel system that was well in advance of other countries but, not terribly user friendly! Most computers included an emulator when you got set up though. It would just emulate the Minitel for phone book look ups and other functions. The Minitel was still installed in many French households as it came with your phone but the connections were charged. This held back many French from getting onto the net.

As the net grew rapidly, I remember researching a book, contacting old friends, meeting new ones and then expanding my job search. As I had always been at ease with writing, it came easily to me.

When I began working in companies, I contributed to the websites, with a focus on English language versions. Sometimes it was one of the main points of my work. It was exciting stuff in those days.

I could tell many stories about how it changed my life from a professional and personal level. One story might be logging on immediately one afternoon in Monaco at the office when shouts came from another cubicle about New York. Skeptical, a coworker and I logged on but the internet went immediately down and was clogged so I logged onto a website I worked on as a volunteer and people from around the world began reporting in. You will have guessed what those events were. One group of our coworkers was on a flight to NYC and was rerouted to Canada so we all were seeking information to give to their families. As the only US citizen in the office, the ability to share information via the internet with people around the world, helped me deal with the polarity that I felt after the events of September 2001.

On a personal level, I’ve been informed of deaths, births, marriages, divorces and other life events on the net and adjusted to the new way that we communicate these events. I feel that the internet brings us together instantly at these times. It is one of the most effective tools I know for communication.

Story by Heather Buckner Vitaglione Independent Translation and Localization Professional, San Francisco Bay Area.

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