Before Minecraft or Snapchat, there was MicroMUSE [aeon.co]
When I was 14, I spent a huge amount of time on the internet, but not the internet we know today. It was 1994, so while the world wide web existed, it wasn’t generally accessible. Prodigy and CompuServe were popular, and AOL was on the rise, but I didn’t have access to the web, and no one I knew had access to the web. Every connection to this ancient internet began with the wail and screech of a modem. It was a new world that still needed metaphors: an information superhighway characterised by cryptic commands and strange subcultures. It was a realm apart.
My primary on-ramp to this internet was Gopher, a branching system of menus that I reached through a dial-up connection to a distant library. Gopher’s internet offered no URLs – no way to say take me here. Instead, a resource’s address was, practically speaking, the sequence of menu items you chose to reach it. Like a path through a labyrinth: first item, third item, fifth, the one that says ‘CaseWesternReserveUniversity’, the one that says ‘MicroMUSE’.