As I was filling in the “About” page for this site, I started thinking about when I first went “online.”

In high school, I know we had internet access via AOL at home at some point. I recall goofing off in chat rooms (nothing sordid, I promise).

But it was arriving at college in the fall of 1994 that really plugged me in, so to speak. Actually, it literally plugged me in; I was lucky enough to have my own computer in my room, and it was a simple matter of connecting the back of that trusty ancient Windows tower to the fresh Ethernet ports in my dorm room.

This meant lots and lots of e-mail; back then, it was a total mindblower to send and receive e-mail. I remember friends actually popping by my room just to check their e-mail, like it was an event, or hanging out at the computer lab. Notes flew fast and furiously between myself and any high school friend I could track down. Real letters, too, not just one-liners; there was a window of time where e-mail was real correspondence and I remember spending hours on replies to my friends.

But it was Usenet where I really took my first step into the internet as a boundless source of human connection through inhuman means. Being…well, let’s cut to the chase here…a NERD, I have always sought out groups of like-minded people. In grade school, it was the Nintendo Players Club I founded with my friends; in high school, it was theater and speech and Star Trek conventions.

On Usenet, I quickly discovered that I could instantly join any number of thriving communities dedicated to my every obsession. I would visit the David Letterman Top Ten Lists newsgroup and literally print out archives of every top ten list ever read on the program. I wrote comic book and movie reviews. I spent more hours replying in detail to anyone who would engage with me, those little arrows noting excerpts from the posts of others, into which I would type my own thought-by-thought responses.

As far as I can figure, all of this–Usenet through web publishing through message boards through MySpace through Facebook and Twitter–started on September 15, 1994. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the day I stepped into the world wide web. It was a post to rec.arts.theatre.musicals.

Subj: Matt’s Top Ten Songs From Shows

My Top Ten:
10. “Gethsemane,” Jesus Christ Superstar
9. “Sue Me,” Guys and Dolls
8. “Prepare Ye (the Way of the Lord),” Godspell
7. “Somewhere,” West Side Story
6. “Reviewing the Situation,” Oliver
5. “A Hymn to Him,” My Fair Lady
4. “Pity the Child,” Chess
3. “You’re the Top,” Anything Goes
2. “Easy to Love,” Anything Goes
and the number one song…(drumroll, please)
1. “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” My Fair Lady

Thoughts? Comments?  Let me know…

And thus, an obsession was born–not with musicals, although fair play, I was pretty obsessed with those at the time. No, this was an obsession with whatever was out there in the ether of the internet at any given moment in time, a constant urge to reach out and connect via any means at my disposal. Because in real life, friends were sometimes disagreeable and words often failed, but online, you could find your precise tribe and be exactly who you thought you were.

Maybe I’ll share more some time; it’s a pretty deep hole, because I was very lonely at points during college, and so I spent a great deal of time on Usenet. The title of today’s post is taken from my first blabber about Star Wars online, on October 16, 1994:

Subj: WOW!!! I LOVE THIS!!!

I just got in here about an hour ago, and spent the last hour
gleefully scanning the articles, esp. those rumors about the new
films and toys.  What fun!  It’s such a blast.  I say keep the
rumors coming; even speculation is better than nothing at all.
Also, any new info on the toys this Christmas?  If Santa left me
a new Star Wars figure in my stocking, I’d die!
And where did “Just an average guy” go?  He claimed to have solid
info about a week ago, but then he stopped posting.  If you’re out
there, please continue!
Thank you all so much for this!  I’m forever grateful!!

I still LOVE THIS, and I’m still pretty damned grateful.


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