It's 2014. The bedside clock indicates that you should be off to work in a couple of hours or you'll be late. You grab your phone to check your email and Facebook and Twitter feeds. There's a lot to go through—mostly cute cat videos—so it takes you half an hour to get out of bed and head for the shower. Ten minutes in and you're done. Now comes the tedious task of picking what to wear; you refer to #OOTDs on Instagram.
While eating breakfast, you hurriedly scan through the latest technology stories and celebrity gossip on the Web. The next 60 minutes or so sees you inside a tricycle, jeepney, bus, or car, streaming a curated playlist of '90s songs to keep you awake on the commute to the cubicle you call home five days a week. Upon arriving at the office, your boss tells you that there's a video conference scheduled for noon.
It's easy to imagine life in the Internet age with what we have now, but 20 years ago, the World Wide Web wasn't available in the Philippines. Email was all the rage in those days. Never mind that it was limited and expensive, not to mention it required a lot more computer-savvy to use than today's email clients.
But on March 29, 1994, the free and open Web first opened its doors to Filipinos. To celebrate Philippine Internet's 20th year, we've put together a timeline leading up to the day that would forever change how we communicate, consume media, do commerce, and access information—essentially, how we live our lives.
August 1986: The first Philippine-based, public-access BBS [bulletin board system], First-Fil RBBS went online with an annual subscription fee of P1,000. A precursor to the local online forum, it ran an open-source BBS software on an IBM XT Clone PC with a 1200bps modem and was operated by Dan Angeles and Ed Castañeda.
1987: The Philippine FidoNet Exchange, a local network for communication between several BBSes in Metro Manila, was formed.
1990: A committee helmed by Arnie del Rosario of the Ateneo Computer Technology Center was tasked with exploring the possibility of creating an academic network comprised of universities and government institutions by the National Computer Center under Dr. William Torres. Recommendations were made but not implemented.
1991-1993: Emergence of email gateways and services in the Philippines, including some from multinational companies like Intel, Motorola, and Texas Instruments, which used a direct Internet connection, X.25, or UCCP protocol. Local firms ETPI, Philcom, and PLDT also operated commercial X.25 networks. Another milestone: Local and international email to FidoNet users was introduced.
June 1993: With the support of the Department of Science and Technology and the Industrial Research Foundation, the Philnet project (now PHNET) was born. The Philnet technical committee, composed of computer buffs working at the DOST and representatives from the Ateneo de Manila University (Richie Lozada and Arnie del Rosario), De La Salle University (Kelsey Hartigan-Go), University of the Philippines Diliman (Rodel Atanacio and Rommel Feria), and University of the Philippines Los Baños, would eventually play a significant role in connecting the Philippines to the World Wide Web.
July 1993: Phase one of the Philnet project shifted into full gear after receiving funding from the DOST. It proved to be successful, as students from partner universities were able to send emails to the Internet by routing them through Philnet's gateway at the Ateneo, which was connected to another gateway at the Victoria University of Technology in Australia.
November 1993: An additional P12.5-million grant for the first year's running cost was awarded by the DOST to buy equipment and lease communication lines needed to kickstart the second phase of Philnet, now led by Dr. Rudy Villarica.
March 29, 1994, 1:15 a.m.: Benjie Tan, who was working for ComNet, a company that supplied Cisco routers to the Philnet project, established the Philippine's first connection to the Internet at a PLDT network center in Makati City. Shortly thereafter, he posted a short message to the Usenet newsgroup soc.culture.filipino to alert Filipinos overseas that a link had been made. His message read:
"As of March 29,1994 at 1:15 am Philippine time, unfortunately 2 days late due to slight technical difficulties, the Philippines was FINALLY connected to the Internet via SprintLink. The Philippine router, a Cisco 7000 router was attached via the services of PLDT and Sprint communications to SprintLink's router at Stockton Ca. The gateway to the world for the Philippines will be via NASA Ames Research Center. For now, a 64K serial link is the information highway to the rest of the Internet world."
March 29, 1994, 10:18 a.m.: "We're in," Dr. John Brule, a Professor Emeritus in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Syracuse University, announced at The First International E-Mail Conference at the University of San Carlos in Talamban, Cebu, signifying that Philnet's 64 kbit/s connection was live.
So how has the Internet changed your life? What's your earliest recollection of the Internet? Tweet us using the hashtag #20phnet, drop us a note on Facebook, or email us at yphtech[at]yahoo[dot]com. For a more detailed timeline, visit the sites of Jim Ayson and MSC.
Smart DevNet, LG Philippines, the Information Technology Journalists' Association of the Philippines (CyberPress), and the Department of Science and Technology Information Technology Office will each hold events to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Philippine Internet. More on the pocket activities later.
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