I was 12 when I met you. I already knew a little about you. I was so excited.
My father brought you home that night. He was sitting on my favorite chair, the one with the red metal legs, and the computer’s screen reflected brightly on his face. He fiddled with the wires of the modem, configured the NoorNet dial-up connection, and lo and behold… I heard the magical sound of connectivity for the first time in my life. It was a sound that would become dearer to my heart than any song or television show or jingle. It was the sound of the beginning of you, the beginning of the Internet.
Beep booop eeeeeeeeee beep boop.
Imagine the scene. My father, in front of a big, fat computer screen, excited to show his little kids this new genius technology called the World Wide Web. I was 12. My youngest brother was six. How do you show your kids the potential of the early, text-heavy web?
We were lucky that my father worked at a company that was the first to bring the Internet to Saudi Arabia, and we were among the first familites to “test it”, before it was rolled out to the public. But none of our friends had Internet connections yet, and so we had no idea this new, virtual thing was.
But back to the question. How do you show your little kids the potential of the Web? My father being my father, he opened the website of CNN. Look, he said. You enter an address here by typing it, and it takes you to a website.
As the website rendered (it took 15 minutes), a button clicked in my head. The magazines I read had recently started including a little string of characters starting with “http://” every now and then, and I knew they were related to the Internet. But I had never seen the Internet, and I didn’t understand how it functioned or what you could possibly do with a string of characters starting with “http://”. I ran to my room and pulled out one of the magazines, and insisted that we all visit the website of the Spice Girls.
It was much less entertaining than my CD of Encarta 1995.
That’s when my father had a genius idea. He called his cousin, who also had an Internet connection, and asked him to log on to Yahoo! Games. There, they played a game of cards simultaneously together, while we watched with amazement.
This was 1997, and IT WAS THE MOST MAGICAL THING I HAD EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. There couldn’t have been a better way for my dad to make us all fall in love with the Web. Again, it was 1997, and that shit was straight out of science fiction. I instantly fell in love, and I knew that the Web was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Today, it’s the web’s 25th birthday, and 17 years since that fateful day when we hovered around my dad as he played cards with his cousin online. A long 17 years.
Happy birthday, Web. You were the first love of my life.
And you will always be the love of my life.