“Electronic mail is what I do most,” says The New York Times‘ John Markoff in the intro of this amazing time capsule of a video. “Here, you see an email I got from Steve Jobs.” Markoff appeared on the 1995 episode of Computer Chronicles, the PBS show that ran until 2002. Usenet, cyber cash, and a post-punk Internet band also feature in the video, which warns of the dangers of “picking a good password” and “the complexity of programming links.”
While the intro is certainly full of punchlines, the next 20 minutes of the video are also interesting. First, we meet a CompuServe sales rep, who tells us about netiquette in Usenet news groups, FTP sites, and a new web browser that lets users play web games (!). Then there’s a segment about the Whole Earth Catalog, the progressive mailorder magazine, which was one of the first print publications to go online. How do you pay? With your credit card–but a safer option called “cyber cash” will arrive later this year.
After that, we learn about becoming an “information provider on the Internet,” dropping in on a web design class in San Francisco where pupils learn to entice visitors with “interactive aesthetics.” Finally, we get a demonstration of HoTMetaL, the early HTML editor. Perhaps the best quote, as Mental Floss‘s Chris Higgins notes, is the insight that “successful home pages could be seen by twenty or thirty thousand people a week.”
As dated as the “how to get onto the net” segment seems, it’s worth noting that there are still plenty of Americans without access. So many that the Ad Council recently launched a how-to campaign that will likely look just as dated as this baby in a few years. Can we agree to meet back here in a decade and watch both?