When I was 13, I was completely enthralled with the X-Files. Since this was still pre-internet time for most of us, the only way to get information about the show was through magazines. So, on the way home from school, I’d stop at the newsstand and trawl through magazines, looking for tidbits.
One day (it was late 93 or early 94) I picked up a techy magazine I hadn’t seen before, and saw this ad. I promptly purchased what turned out to be my first of many, many issues of WIRED.
I pored over the magazine on train home. I had to get online.
I convinced my mum to bring her massive grey Toshiba laptop home from work, and I plugged it in to the phone line in the kitchen, on the countertop right next to the toaster. After a bunch of tries and first hearing those crazy modem sounds that would soon become part of my life, I got online for the first time. It was all through command line interface so you could only do one thing at a time, and everything took forever — even a small, low resolution photo.
As a shy, nerdy kid, it opened up a new world for me. I spent hours talking to people from all over the world, and experienced the new phenomenon of online friendship — many of whom I went on to meet IRL (which I think is becoming a rare thing again these days, thanks to “real names” policies and Facebook demanding that we only friend people we “really know”).
The internet was my safe place, where kindred spirits existed, where it was okay to be weird and to do things differently. It helped me to build my confidence, social skills and sense of self.
I feel blessed to have come of age on the 90s internet, rather than the internet of today, which I think offers few of these things to teens.
Ultimately, this ad was what started my fascination with online communities and internet culture which became a key part of my career. And, getting online so early and experience the internet’s own coming of age gave me unique insights that have informed much of my work, including my internet studies PhD (which I also have to thank… or perhaps blame… this ad for inspiring).
I had no idea at the time, but picking up that copy of WIRED in search of pictures of Mulder was probably the most transformative experiences of my life.
Delphi Internet lives on as Delphi Forums, which now hosts the unofficial X-Files forum.