… there was the Internet.
Before that, there were computers, but only clever people like BASIC or C programmers knew about them. Computers were not stuff you furnished your house with, unless you saw one as a status symbol. Those who were lucky enough to get a taste of the Internet, sat before it waiting for it to happen. They would painfully type a URL, the most popular those days being yahoo.com and hotmail.com, get themselves a cup of tea and snacks, and come back to their seats only to find that the page is still getting painted blue on one side (remember the bright blue Hotmail pages of yore?)
‘Patience’ became synonymous with ‘Internet’. The pains of browsing were the price you wanted to pay to get emails from the other side of the globe a moment after they were sent. The phrase ‘snail mail’ was coined. Web pages were not user-friendly, to say the least. No one knew what ‘Compose’ meant. But it did not matter. You could always ask the ignorant guy sitting next to you, and no one would mind.
Things changed swiftly enough afterwards. Websites increased thousand-fold, and continued to crowd the digital space, taking up almost no space at all. Connection speeds skyrocketed and offered fierce competition to the speed of light.
Only one thing remained unaltered: the browsing prowess of the Ultimate Internet User. To be fair, this group also evolved. They learnt to stop dragging the mouse as if it were a reluctant cow at the edge of a lawn full of deliciously green grass.
Dear Little Internet! How you have grown! To me you are still the little one that I held hands with while teaching to walk. To you I am no longer young, and you tend to get impatient seeing me stumble. You learned to walk, to run, and skipped and hopped on, way ahead of me. I tried to catch up but faltered.
Remember us in 1998, when you boasted that you could go all the way to France and fetch me pages I could make no head or tail of? And then I asked you, What the heck will I do with French pages since the only French I remember are Bonjour, Bon Appétit and Je t’aime? Very important phrases, no doubt, but totally useless. But then you lovingly reminded me a few more precious French terms I knew, but that is a different story.
You were so little then that you made me wait all those hours while you painted the screen blue when I asked you to bring me hotmail, and I waited patiently because I knew you were young and new to this world, and I thought patience was what Internet was all about.
Then you began to grow all of a sudden. I was taken aback, but I tried to keep up with you. I think I did manage, for a while. A long while. Soon I began to lag behind. And before I knew it, you were far, far ahead of me. At times you would look back kindly and offer a hand.
You have known me for a long time, dear Internet, in fact you know me much better than most of my friends. Heck, you have seen me make blunders upon blunders, and asked me friendly and alerting queries like “Are you sure you want to do this?” “Are you sure you want to send this?” “Are you sure you want to delete?” and so on, just in time for me to realise my mistake and revert back. You have known my weaknesses and idiosyncrasies, and you have stood by me firmly when I courted disaster.
You alone know one of the deepest secrets of my life – that my left hand is faster than my right when I type, and that I always type ‘teh’ when I mean ‘the’ and ‘adn’ when I mean ‘and’. You have helpfully shown me red underlines on those words with a disapproving tut-tut and made me go back to correct them.
I appreciate all that you have done to help me find my way in the darkest alley, but I request you to put an end to your over-helpfulness.
For the love of God, please don’t jump to conclusions and show me the details of a person or an image or a link, if my mouse moves over a text by mistake. My mouse is restless and it needs to move, doesn’t mean I need to know everything about everything, every single time. If I want to know what it is or who a person is, I will click on their names and go to their profile. Or I’ll click on a darn link if I want to read about it.
I have tolerated your misbehaviours just as you have forgiven mine. When I am fumbling around in my email boxes, don’t let information jump out on my face, or try to fill in data before I think of them. Do you remember the time when you tried to help me send a mail by suggesting the email ID as soon as I typed the name? I hit send happily, trusting you as only an Internet-user can, only to realise within minutes (when the reply came) that the mail had been delivered to a namesake. The reply was gracious and kind, but I don’t think my embarrassment was totally lost on that person. Yeah, please let me type in the whole name before you decide who I want to send a birthday wish to.
My system ain’t one of the best in the world, I know. It is getting old as me too. We’re kind to each other. If I need to travel to the corner of the screen in search of the close button or suchlike, I have to drag my mouse behind me. Like a cow at the end of a … yes, I know I said that before.
Let me grow old and learn at my pace.