Of dial-up & baud rates

Do you recall what you were doing 20 years ago today? I was almost 5 years into my freelance writing career. In fact, I had regular copy-editing and writing assignments from Gale Research in Detroit as well as article assignments from exciting trade journals, such as Cleaner Times (about the pressure-washing industry) and FMData Monthly (about construction renovations and site management). I was also beginning to explore a modem to purchase. Today is the 20th anniversary of the advent of the world-wide web, and I thought it would be fun to recall how the internet changed my writing life.

That’s right. Twenty years ago, I was using a computer to type  my assignments, but I was still using a typewriter for envelopes and letters, so I could keep a carbon copy and have a more professional looking letter. (Shortly afterward, I purchased a Panasonic 32-pin printer which had impressive print quality without the cost of laser and also allowed sheet-fed printing on my writing letterhead.) Though I was still mailing manuscripts to magazines, I was allowed to use a fax machine for the trade journals. In fact, owning one was a requirement to write for them. I often returned home from my part-time job in the office of a construction company to find scrolled sheets in the fax machine with a marked up article to revise and return. (These editors often assumed I wrote from my home all day since I was able to use the time zone differences to my advantage in interviewing companies for these articles.)

In late April 1993, I was ready to bump up my game and outfit my office with the latest technology.  According to old journal entries, I was eager to find a good modem so I could connect to the library of my Alma Mater and save time in searching the computerized card catalog from home before making the trip out to Ypsilanti to use my Eastern Michigan University alumni library card. I already had a personal copy machine in my home “office area,” so I could copy research pages from textbooks, magazines, and newspapers in completing research for book and magazine work. I was comparing models and saving for a 9600 baud modem, though I needed one so much that I was considering the slower 2400 baud. Wow! The patience I must have had! Of course, that typewriter I was still using had been state-of-the-art when I invested in it during college more than 10 years earlier and it had a whopping 14K memory! Whoohoo!

I am so glad times have changed. Want to hear that lovely sound of the dial-up that was “dream” of convenience for this young writer? Listen here.

Though I didn’t hunt through old journals to verify this fact, it seems to me that within the year I not only had a modem and had saved myself the 25-minute drive to the EMU library, but I had also signed up for AOL and was using their “groups” of selected websites for further “online” research. By 1997 I had left AOL behind for a local internet provider that allowed me to comb the world-wide web on my own to find whatever I needed and allowed unlimited e-mail use. (No more worrying about how many minutes I spent online composing messages or researching.) I can tell you with confidence that rapid changes in computers, modems, and the internet allowed me to make a great income writing for websites in the mid- to late-1990s.  I doubt that would have happened if I had not invested in that dial-up modem in early May 1993.

Happy Birthday Internet! You’re an amazing creature that has evolved tremendously and made life for this writer much easier. Thank heaven!