Cybercitizen — Circa 1993

By R. E. Barksdale

1993 was an interesting year.

In 1993 Marc Andreessen introduced the Mosaic web browser to the world.  Later that same year, I was sitting in a graphics service bureau with a group of graphic artists and engineers in the wee hours of the morning.  We all had our eyes glued to a large CRT monitor accessing a web site that had been erected somewhere Europe.  Is there really anybody out there?   Bam!  “Wow!” we said in unison.

Within minutes we were transferring graphic files across the Internet over a 2400-baud modem.  This would change the way that we worked.  There would no longer be a need to setup a dedicated connection between two modems to transfer data or wait for a package to be delivered with the required files.  A web server could be stood up and configured and within a few hours data could be shared.  Of course, with speeds of 2400 baud — 300 bytes per minute versus 750,000 bytes per minute that is common today — there would be a lot of waiting… This was the beginning of my journey into cyberspace.

 A Digression:

The web browsers that we use today, Safari, Firefox and Google Chrome use technologies that date back to the early nineties.   The Mosaic Web browser and the following year, Netscape laid the solid foundation that today’s browsers stand on.  Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of the World Wide Web came to monitors across cyberspace once Mosaic was deployed.  Those were indeed exciting days.  I have been able to watch the development of the various browsers over the past seventeen years.  The advances since 1993 have been significant.

 End of digression.

Since that day back in 1993, my journey has been much like John Crichton’s, a character from the Sci Fi Channel’s hit show, Farscape.

 My name is John Crichton… I’m lost … An astronaut…

Shot through a wormhole… In some distant part of the universe…

I’m trying to stay ALIVE… Aboard this ship … This living ship…

Of escaped prisoners … My friends… If you can hear me … Beware…

If I make it back … Will they follow? … If I open the door … Are you ready? …

Earth is unprepared … Helpless…For the nightmares … I have seen…

Or should I stay? … Protect my home…Not show them … You exist…

But then you’ll never know… The wonders I have seen.

 Opening Narration of Farscape Episodes – Seasons 1-3

My seventeen-year journey through cyberspace has been surreal and yet so concrete.  Maintaining my reality during this journey has been difficult at times.   Has there ever been a need to invent a cyber-self?  I have not really pondered that question until now.

In cyber-life are we called to be someone that we are not?   If so, why?  Are aliases really required?  In the early days of the World Wide Web there was no need.  One wanted to know whom they were interacting with.  It was critical.  Those that shared information were for the most part academics or members of government institutions and businesses.  Credibility and integrity were essential back then.

The question is, does the need for credibility and integrity carry over to today? I believe it does.  Both are critical now due to the magnitude of the sites and information in cyberspace.   Lurking behind many corners of the WWW are scams and ploys triggered to trap an unsuspecting surfer.

Content is alive and well, but often suspect.
Definitely an information overload.
Weblogs, Twitter, Facebook,
Content created and delivered lickety-split.
Behind the scenes lurk flamers, black hats,
script kiddies, hacktivist and phreakers,
All waiting to pounce their prey.
White Hat hackers, network warriors,
Firewalls, anti-virus shots, strong passwords,
and smart surfing all help to keep you safe.
Why is it this way?
Why can’t we be friends?

 reb

 When it comes to the web in this modern era we are not able to take for granted that people are who they say they are.  Yet, there are those that share more information than they should with the Black Hat masses that are connected across the tendrils that span the globe.

 “Humpty-Dumpty sat on the wall…  And all the King’s horses and all the King’s men…

Hey, Zhaan. How do we take it all back?” – Commander John Crichton

 Is this the reason for the drive to anonymity?   Is that the reason so many feel the need for an alias?

There are better ways for us to address these types of issues.  However, like anything worthwhile it takes time and effort.   There are better ways for me to secure my being and remain true to whom I really am than through the creation of a dichotomous cyberself.  Therefore, it is essential that I clear the mechanism and keep my focus on the important things in life.   When I do, I will continue to be safe on my journey through cyberspace and will continue to be amazed by the wonders I encounter along the way.