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"The Net as we know it will be history in two years" - Atul Chitnis, CEO and director, Exocore Consulting, Bangalore
Chitnis, a user of communications technologies since the 1980s, has been a Compuserve member since 1990 using ERnet as well (which has been part of the Internet since 1988).
Nothing much has changed over the years. Says Chitnis, "In 1985, my primary form of entertainment was my guitar and my friends. This is 2002 and (Internet or not) my primary forms of entertainment are still my guitar and my friends."
Atul Chitnis on his journey to the present.
What were your first impressions? Did you guess the extent to which the Internet would rule our lives?
The thing that struck me about the Net was the "wet wool effect" - it shrunk the planet. Being a communications guy, this was a major thing for me.
By the time the Web came along, it was clear that Internet technologies would always be part of our lives, just like electricity and television. That the three could possibly converge some day, was a thought that came along later.
However, even today, the Net does not appear to rule our lives. While I spend a considerable amount of time connected to the Net (like 24 hours a day), it does not imply that someone who is connected this way is 'ruled' by the Net or is a cyber-junkie.
What activities did you get involved in during the initial days?
The online world (in the form of BBSs and Compuserve) was part and parcel of my life by the time I got on the Internet, and I was writing in PCQuest about my experiences before most people even heard about the Net.
Naturally, email dominated my online usage and still does. I was never into chat and stuff like that. For me, email (and its extensions - newsgroups and mailing lists) continues to be the killer application.
Did anything change two or three years later?
By 1998, BBS became redundant due to the Net. Though they continue to exist online, their form and functionality has changed. However, none of the original activities got shelved. The Internet continued to provide us a way to reach out. Methods and means changed, but in the end, it's about real people staying in touch.
The 'new' thing I discovered was roles. Once the Web became popular, the urge to 'be someone else' seemed to dominate. It's entirely possible to live separate lives online and offline (with several identities online) without having to go see a shrink!
When did you start atulchitnis.net?
In 2000, after years of having my own Web pages on other systems. Older efforts are located here and here.
Atulchitnis.net is a Web site, not my life, and is by and about me. I have a lot of stuff stashed away there - articles, photos, writings and my diary (which is not comments-oriented, unlike most blogs).
What do you primarily use the Internet for today?
Today, it's part of my life wherever I go - office, home, on the road, and is very much a work-related tool. I still use email, though the Web has added a dimension that didn't exist when I first got online.
What has changed is that newspapers and the TV are meaningless to me as sources of news. The combination of being online and using a PDA for on-the-road reading has taken away the joy of reading the newspaper - everything on paper seems kind of stale (This does not apply to my comic-strip addiction!).
Many things have changed since the early days. But what has remained the same?
Too much is being read into the Internet. This world is about people. While the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) may think the world is coming to an end because people are downloading MP3s, they should really be more worried about the fact that I enjoy sitting with friends and playing my guitar and singing the songs they are so keen on selling me. This is how the Internet contributes to this 'real life' interaction.
Eventually, TV and the Internet will merge. I already have a TV card in my machine, and at this point, it doesn't make much difference whether the signals come from one cable source or two.
How do you see the Internet evolving in the next five years?
I do not. The Internet as we know it will be history in another year or two. Five years from now, the next big thing in data convergence will have replaced the Internet completely. I foresee massive attempts to control, using a concept called 'data starvation' -- data being available via a controlled channel, similar to the concept of pay-channels.
I foresee anarchy-based Nets that are anything but the terrorist-networks that governments like to call things they have no control over. I think that as physical borders become meaningless, the Internet (and its successors) will increasingly create the concept of 'one people'.
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