I remember the very earliest “bulletin boards” which were the first attempt at an Internet network. Every group had its own telephone number (usually long-distance, before there were 800 numbers) that you had to dial on your dial-up modem, and log in to before you could post a message and have a conversation. A person on the other end had to be online at the same moment to see your message and answer. There were literally thousands of phone numbers across the country, usually based at a corporation or hospital or college which had a large server and a group of users who could access it.
I once received a phone bill for nearly $100 which I hid from my husband. I quit the BBs for a very long time, and paid the bill myself out of my grocery budget, a few dollars a month. (That's 1980s dollars! Like, saying $500 today!)
The local computer stores would provide meeting space for user groups and post the phone numbers and provide swaps for our software disks. Everybody helped each other – but in person, as there really wasn’t an Internet to work with. This was before AOL, before Netscape, etc. When those tools arrived we thought we’d died and gone to heaven!!
The first word processing program commercially available that I remember was PFS Write. It was exciting because it eliminated a lot of the extra formatting you had to know when writing your own programs. We had a Racal modem, quite state-of-the-art at the time, and one of those huge dot-matrix printers that used paper on a continuous roll, that you had to tear apart at the perforations. It made a ton of noise and shook the printer stand when it was running.
My kids learned a great deal with that early Apple set-up, which was replaced later with one of the first Macintosh desktops, and there've been many others since then, including several PCs.
No one even has to know HTML much anymore to create brilliant websites, post their photos, make wonderful art, music and games.
We take so much for granted and change occurs so rapidly, that it's amazing to believe that nearly 30 years have passed since those first heady days as a "computer geek". I almost want to say, "What Hath God Wrought?"...