The good old days of dial-up !!

Ever since my father got me a computer, I’ve been nagging him to get me an internet connection. Back then, the internet was considered a ‘luxury item’ rather than a need. The only internet service available was dial-up. This entailed paying for internet and phone bills, which were not insignificant expenses for a middle-class Indian family in 1999. But I managed to relate the internet access to my studies and persuade my parents to get it for me.

It was the 1999 monsoon season. I was in my first year of junior college at the time (11th grade). I recall my father and I riding on our scooter to Thane to get a modem. We had opted for an external model, simply because it had more LEDs, looked cooler and was easy to play around with. We went to a shop and bought the Dlink’s DFM-560E modem. I was so delighted and happy that I wanted to start browsing right away. But there were two critical actions I needed to do before I could use the modem:

  • Run a telephone cable from the hall to the room where my PC was kept.
  • Purchase an internet plan/dial-up kit.

I suppose it took a week to obtain the kit and complete the wiring. I was up till 2 a.m. getting everything set up. My uncle, who used to live next door, had also shown up for assistance. As things were being set up, there was a lot of excitement in our home. VSNL (now known as Tata Communications) was our Internet Service Provider . After many trials and errors, we were able to see the ‘connected’ status on our monitor. I believe the first website I viewed was There was a sense of accomplishment and joy all around. Our family had finally entered the ‘Internet Age’.

The next stage was for my parents to develop a ‘Internet Access Policy.’ Back then the internet was notorious among parents for reasons such as:

  • You can catch viruses through the internet
  • The risk of children getting engaged with bad company.
  • Horror stories about people receiving absurdly high landline bills.
  • Hackers breaking into your system
  • ..and many more

After a lot of debate and discussion, our ‘Internet Access Policy’ was formulated. This is how it looked like:

  • I was only permitted to use the internet for 1-2 hours on Fridays.
  • If my use surpassed our monthly budget, I had to stop using the internet.
  • I could only use the internet after 10 p.m.
  • No interaction with strangers or creating online friends was allowed.

I used to build a list of fascinating websites I wanted to visit each week. On Fridays, I used to spend one hour downloading these sites for offline reading. Disabling photos and media helped webpages load much faster, which was great for many sites. Emails were something I had to read for 10-15 minutes because they were not available offline. The two most popular browsers at the time were Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. It was still amazing how much data you could download with a 56Kbps connection. After Friday’s session, I had enough material to read for the rest of the week. Apart from educational purposes, there wasn’t much you could do with the internet back then. If I needed to talk to a buddy, I would call them on my landline because it was the cheaper and faster method to connect. Back then, social networking was only a developing concept.

For me, the internet was a knowledge multiplier. Finally, I didn’t have to restrict my extracurricular learnings to expensive books and magazines. There always was more stuff than I could read !