I had to do a little research in the files of past issues of the Faribault County Register and happened upon a rather startling article from March 6, 1995.
A technology fair was held at the Blue Earth Area media department for the local citizens of the area.
Roughly 100 people showed up.
The highlight of the fair was the introduction of something called "Internet" to the Blue Earth public.
The article says "Internet" is a service which hooks area citizens to the rest of the computer world within minutes.
All you need is a computer with four megabytes of RAM and a 14.4 Modem.
The story goes on to say that one of the more popular features in "Internet" service is something called electronic mail or e-mail.
The article states "instead of writing a letter, putting it into an envelope, putting a stamp on it and taking it to the post office, now you can type a letter on the computer and send it to another Internet user anywhere at no extra cost and the information is also delivered in minutes."
For some of us, 1995 doesn't seem that long ago. We remember the days there wasn't e-mail, Internet, cell phones or websites.
But, 1995 was 16 years ago, and for many teenagers who are ordering back to school supplies 'online,' there has always been "Internet."
Internet, of course, is short for "inter-networking." And, the truth be told, the Internet has actually been around for a long time.
No, Al Gore didn't invent it in the 1970s, as he once suggested. He did pave the way for it to become the public used, non-government regulated phenomenon that is.
Actually, the Internet has been around since the 1950s and 1960s in some way, shape or form, with computers sharing networks.
So, actually it has been around for most of my life as well. We just were not aware that it was.
It was a guy named J.C.K. Licklider of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who first envisioned a global network of computers in 1962.
And a network called ARPANET, the first real worldwide Internet, came along in 1969.
Of course, the first time they tried to use it, it crashed when they got to typing in the 'G' in 'LOGIN.'
I recall my computer crashing, locking up, or moving so slow when I first tried to login to the Internet as well. Sometimes you could leave the room, grab a bite to eat, hit the bathroom, come back and the site was still loading. It was a pretty frustrating time.
Now we get excited if we have to wait more than five seconds.
That first Internet was mainly used by computer experts, scientists, engineers and universities.
Email, by the way, came along in 1972 and one of the creators just stuck in the @ sign as a break between the name and server because he thought it was a funny sign.
Commercialization of the Internet started in the 1980s, but it wasn't until around 1992 that it finally was opened up for general public use.
So, for Blue Earth to have a Tech Fair in 1995 to tout the use of "Internet" for everyone was very cutting edge, especially for a small town in southern Minnesota. That had a lot to do with having a forward looking school (with Dave Sparks) and a progressive local telephone company (with Neil Eckles).
I remember getting my first e-mail address. It was with a company called CompuServe (we didn't have a local Internet provider). At that time, CompuServe gave you your e-mail address name (you didn't have a choice) and it was your membership number.
So, I was something like 9565026@CompuServe.com.
The only other person I knew with e-mail (or e-mail as it was spelled back then) was my friend Larry who had his office a block from mine. We e-mailed back and forth a lot because we didn't have any other people in our address book.
Our e-mails more closely resembled today's texting, such as "are you going to the chamber meeting tonight?"
Now days, I would be hard-pressed to find a friend who does not have e-mail. Although there are few folks out there who just don't want to bother with it, or who don't have a computer.
So, the answer to the question in the headline is, yes, we have come a long way since 1995.
Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, is still up for debate. Because, someone went and invented 'spam.'