Online Memories #1: 1AM

"Pssst..." whispered my dad shaking my arm, "Hey wake up..."

I open my eyes and see the moon shinning bright through the window, drawing the silhouette of the Avila against the dark clear sky.

"What time is it?" I ask groggy.

"It's 1:00am" He answers back

I rub my eyes and grin. "Let's go!" I whisper excited.

We slowly sneak into the computer room, being careful not to wake up my Mom, who is sleeping in the next room. We close the door very softly, a technique that by this point in time I had down to a Tee. We turn around and tiptoe over to the old trusty Compaq desktop computer.

Clicking the power button unleashed a symphony of noises; whirlwinds from the fans, spinning from the hard drives, clacking from the floppy disks, and that good ol' 60Hz hum from the monitor. Suddenly the screen turns bright, and for a moment we stare blindly at the Windows logo. Anticipation grows. After what seems like a decade, the computer loads! Driven by what is now muscle memory, I quickly click on the modem icon, double click on connect, and we are greeted with random beeps and distorted screeches. Then silence. That's it. We are now connected to the Internet.

I was barely starting middle school when we first subscribed to an internet service and, in retrospective, I have no idea how my dad found this subscription. I knew of no-one else that had access to the Internet, and so I felt like an astronaut venturing into uncharted territory. To add to the adventurous feeling, the service my Dad had gotten provided FREE internet if, and only if, we connected between 1am and 6am. So it was when the world was fast asleep and the stars were out, that we would suit up and travel into this new "Digital World".

Once I knew about the existance of the internet, I felt like there was this intangible parallel world that would leave hints of its existance in our daytime reality. These clues would sometimes appear on small letters on the side of billboards, behind fruit juice boxes, or perhaps as hidden messages on the TV. While the location of these clues seemed unpredictable, they all followed the same pattern; They all started with a www. and ended usually in a .com. Finding one of these was rather challenging, and when I did manage to find a new one, I would immediately find myself wondering what this particular parallel site contained and why it existed. During the day, I kept a notepad at all times, in the hopes that I would find these, and thus keep track of them. Slowly the list grew longer and longer.

I don't recall using any particular search engine (although some definitely existed already), instead I would visit these websites that I found hidden in any given day. I also recall the excitement of finding websites by purely attempting randomly chosen sites. A particular one that I found randomly was Nickelodeon.com, which I assume existed because Fox Kids and Cartoon Network had websites too. Some sites, were pretty simple with no room to move, others had alternate doors/links to other sites or sub-sites. I would spend hours splunking through these caves, until I left no stone unturned.

To better regulate our Internet usage, my Dad and I would set up timers. During his turn, he would mostly read the news or look up stock market information. I on the other hand, would resume my conquest of the internet, one website at a time; That is unless I had decided to spend my turn downloading cartoon/videogame wallpapers.

After spending hours lost in front of the computer, we would hear the birds chirp, and that was our signal that our mission for that day was over. I would put a small check mark in front of all the new websites I had visisted; marked any special last notes; and we would disconnect. Once the computer was turned off, we would slowly tip toe to our respective beds and catch a few hours of sleep, before the day broke and we returned to our normal reality.

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