Saturday, August 26, 2006

The journey begins...

Okay, I'm a baby boomer. I admit it. I have to because I began this weird journey back in 1988 when I married a guy who actually owned an IBM PC jr. He actually had an email address on Prodigy. Remember that service? Then you must be a baby boomer also...

He tried showing me this new thing called electronic mail. I thought he was nuts. But I let him play with his DOS commands and watch those blinking orange letters by the hour. Me? I worked 8 hours a day on one of the old Wang computers and watched blinking orange letters for the entire time I was on the clock. The last thing I wanted when I came home was more #^)~ing orange letters. So he watched his computer screen and I had a couple gorgeous daughters who sucked up every spare moment.

Then NASCAR announced they were going to start running the Winston Cup at the Brickyard. I knew the DH would be excited by the prospect of seeing the inaugural race, so I put my name in the pool for tickets and won. My Dad was from Indiana, so I made the arrangements and the DH came home from work one day to find his suitcase on the floor. No, I wasn't divorcing him, but I was sending him to the Brickyard while I stayed at home with our babies.

What does this have to do with the Internet? Actually, there is a connection. Before he left, he showed me this tiny little community on Compuserv called The Literary Forum. I was a big reader and he thought I'd like to trip through there while he was away. After all, our daughters were in bed by 7PM, so what would I do with my time?

It was August of 1995 and I logged on. The first two people I ever tripped over were Diana Gabaldon and Judith McNaught. I remember sweating profusely as I composed my first-ever message and I hit the "reply" button to a message posted by Judy and asked the simple question, "Are you _the_ Judith McNaught whose books I'm tearing through?" Magnanimous, wonderful lady that she is, she responded with, "Yes, I am and welcome to the forum."

That's it. I was hooked and I lurked for hours, eventually even posting with some level of comfort.

Now, as a reminder for those who were there and to scare the heck out of those who are too young to know this, I had no idea we paid to connect by the hour. Way back in the Internet infancy, it was a privilege and honor to connect to people from God-only-knows-where. To the tune of $22.80 per hour. Only my wonderful DH hadn't informed me of this little fact. So, when he came home, thrilled and exhausted from his own journey, we had a staggering bill of over $300.00 for my little foray into cyberspace.


OTOH, I'd found a place where I felt I belonged. A place designed just for me. I had to learn how to collect messages so I could read offline, compose my replies to an outbox and then log back on to drop them off. Hours of reading pleasure but only minutes to collect and drop off. I even began to teach others how to do the same thing, trying to save them the staggering bills I'd accrued.

And Alex Krislov, the owner of the Literary Forum, took note and offered me a "job" helping out in the forum. I became a section leader with Karen Pershing and navigated the first curve in this very twisted tale.