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Chapter 1. Introduction > How Did We Get Here?

How Did We Get Here?

We live in a grand age in which information flows at the speed of light and regional boundaries collapse under the weight of the Internet. Once upon a time, our parents were penpals to others living in foreign nations, scratching out long messages on paper to be mailed off. Weeks would pass without notice or confirmation, until suddenly a heavily stamped envelope would arrive from a friend overseas. Now we enjoy instantaneous communication to nearly every country in the world. The world of penpals and business has become one of instant global communication. But the struggle to get to this point has been long and filled with peril. We are at a stage where the world of communications is being turned upside down, and many users and businesses are forced to make a choice: to adopt new technology or to confine themselves to the relics of ancient devices.

Personally, I have been lucky to follow the advent of the instant-messaging world from the beginning. It all started with the days of bulletin board systems (BBSs) running Renegade and PCBoard, which had very basic chat components to allow you to “talk” with the handful of others who could be on the same BBS at the same time. It was the introduction of FidoNet, an old-school mail-relaying system, that whetted my appetite for international communication. I quickly established my own bulletin board as a FidoNet node, allowing myself and my users to send messages to the vast reaches of the world. The fall of the BBS world led to my time in Internet Relay Chat (IRC), which after 12 years I’m still in the habit of visiting. Back when the BBSs crumbled, the world wasn’t ready for instant messaging. Everyone was accustomed to their chat rooms on AOL, IRC, CompuServe, and Prodigy, where they could join a channel of other random “thirty-somethings” and discuss the latest Seinfeld episode.


  

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