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   Anita Bora

In 1989, when most of us hadn't even heard of the words Internet and the World Wide Web, Bangalore-based consultant, Atul Chitnis, frustrated by the lack of suitable inter-office communication tools, was developing India's first private bulletin board system (BBS) software.

This resulting CiX (Cyberinfo Exchange), writes Chitnis, was probably India's first and most popular BBS, and went live in December that year. It became the first publicly available online service in the Indian sub-continent. By December 1995, there was an average of 150 messages a day with over 500 people frequenting the exchange.

Around the same time, somewhere in a university in Australia, a young computer engineering student Madhu Menon stumbled upon some free classes offered by the Internet Services department, one of them being 'Using email'.

A year later, S Anand, in his third year of engineering at IIT Madras, discovered 'green teletype terminals' at the computer centre. He knew nothing about the Internet than what was in Clifford Stoll's book The Cuckoo's Egg. "And that was not much," he admits. Anand picked up the book Internet for Dummies to find out how to use these terminals.

In April 1996, Radhika Nair, a trainee sub-editor for Express Computers admitted in her job interview that her knowledge about 'information technology' was limited to the spelling of c-o-m-p-u-t-e-r-s.

She got the job and also discovered that the special 'box' could connect to other machines anywhere on the planet. She began using it with "a horribly confusing black screen-no-images-programme called Shell".

The CiX, writes Chitnis was shut down in 1999, after running successfully for 10 years. Cause of death: the Internet - the biggest BBS in known space. Today he's connected at the office with an always-on, broadband connection and says the Internet is a part of his life wherever he goes, "office, home, on the road".

Menon, a user experience consultant also based in the garden city, is actively involved online, being one of the administrators of Evolt.org, a community of Web development professionals.

Anand works for the Boston Consulting Group and still doesn't understand how people "cannot be passionate about cyberspace".

For Nair, who has since moved to London, the Internet is her lifeline to stay connected to friends, family and the world. "I use it for everything," she admits. A far cry from the days where she didn't take the trouble to find out how Internet Relay Chat worked because she never felt she'd need it.

These four individuals talk to Rediff Guide to the Net about their early days, experiences and share with us the role of the World Wide Web and the Internet in their lives today.

Name: Atul Chitnis
Location: Bangalore, India
Occupation: Director and CTO of
Exocore Consulting

Online Since: Early 1990s

The Early Days:
-- Compuserve member since 1990
-- Brought up India's first BBS, in 1989. Shutdown, in 1999
-- Had 1200 bps modem using terminal emulation software like Telix and Procomm -- Used Mosaic browser, early version of Netscape

-- Always-on broadband connection
-- Mozilla, Galeon browsers

Personal Site: http://atulchitnis.net

Quote Unquote: Too much is being read into the Internet. This world is about people, and their interaction. The Internet provides a means of interaction.

Name: Radhika Nair
Location: London, England
Occupation: Homemaker
Online Since: April 1996

The Early Days:
-- Used Shell and Pine
-- Win(dows) Pop-ups for messaging
-- Uploaded and downloaded emails with commands like '-lz' and 'cz'
-- Graduated to Internet enabled Mac computer

-- Reads newspapers, India related news
-- Emails friends, chats with parents
-- Researches for journal entries
-- Looks for book, movie reviews, recipes

Personal Site: http://www.entelechy.ws

Quote Unquote: Though I (still) wouldn't consider myself a geek, I love technology and how it makes life easier and the world smaller for all of us.

Name: Madhu Menon
Location: Bangalore, India
Occupation: User Experience Consultant

Online Since: February, 1994

The Early Days:
-- Took classes to use Eudora
-- Bought a PC with a 14.4 K modem
-- Used email as an instant messager
-- Frequent Usenet user

-- Participates on several Internet discussion groups
-- Member of evolt.org, a community for Web professionals
-- Considers the Net to be an invaluabe research tool

Personal Site: http://madman.weblogs.com

Quote Unquote: I'm amazed that the Internet, despite its apparent commercialisation, still remains a place for people to interact, share, and help each other selflessly. I hope it stays that way.
Name: S Anand
Location: Mumbai, India
Occupation: Consultant, Boston Consulting Group
Online Since: 1995

The Early Days:
-- Bought Internet for Dummies
-- Read books (Project Gutenberg)
-- Compiled software (Perl)
-- Played text-based games (Moria)
-- Browsed many FTP sites, few Web sites and fewer newsgroups

-- Shifted from UNIX to Windows
-- Lynx to Netscape
-- Emails friends
-- Pine to Lotus Notes

Personal Site: http://www.s-anand.net

Quote Unquote: I didn't ever wonder how much it would rule our lives. The first instant I connected, I was hooked, and knew it would be for the rest of my life.

Also Read:
-- Indian prodigies setting the Web alive
-- Losing friends made difficult
-- Way back in time
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