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Vikram Somaya is  a quiet, educated member of startupia. He makes his way through the nooks and crannies of Silicon Alley with charm, verve and some small order of wit and resides in the UWS with the wife, the dog and the Turkindian peanut-boy.

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Wednesday
Apr222009

Wayback through the Interwebs

The other day, as part of a strategy exercise, I was playing around on waybackmachine. This is a fabulously interesting site that has taken snapshots of seminal web sites from their veritable infancy all the way to the here and now. They've done it on a fairly regular basis and in the course of my meanderings, there emerged quite a few little nuggets.

However, gentle reader, most of these nuggets have already been converted from raw ore into finely crafted faux tribal jewelry and sold to the local tribes. So I'll stay away from talking about why this site showed such epic prognostication while that one failed to see the le graphique modern before it slapped it in the face and instead will talk a little about my personal journey through the wayback.

My first exposure to the internets was in the glowing green screens of a PC-AT in fair Mumbai while putting together college applications. I fear it is a mark of my growing age that I preceded the internet and perhaps that shall be written of us born in 1976, year of the dragon and incidentally the last year of Generation X before it puddled into the insouciant Gen Y - They were born before the Internet!


That quickly evolved into my trek off to New Haven for freshman year, a fabulous new Apple 520 (the black and white laptop not the super awesome, shortly after released 520c) which had a ..gasp...640x480 screen and the first TRACKPAD !!!!and ...built in ethernet!!! That having been said, I found out much later, our freshman class, the class of 1998, was the first class at Yale that didn't need to put in a floppy to access email. This led to a statistic that I often quote, though I can't for the life of me remember the source, that while 98% of freshmen were on email, only 2% of seniors in 1994 were the same - unreal.

 

I still remember tumbling through the glory of a unix command line to access pine. There were no whizz-bang GUI's for email back then, just the clean access of pine and elm and mail. Then I discovered..and only our generation can truely appreciate this - the unix command finger - FINGER !!!! and with this command once could dance through the cyberwaves and find oneself eyeing people in distant oberlin or cornell or any other school system whose finger address one could figure out - hallelujah !! THEN !!! ntalk/ytalk/gtalk suddenly we had instant messaging before there was instant messaing and I could talk to friends in Warwick, UK as easy as pie. I think about having to describe this to my 6 month old son Karan when he's a little older and I chuckle because even now it seems to absolutely prehistoric as to absolutely boggle the mind.

 

My next clear memory apart from the fog of NCSA mosaic and the glories of going color was buying somaya.com in 1996 (I think) and building this fabulously silly site that had a massive image of Wright's Falling Water in the middle with scads of fabulous links that went absolutely nowhere really. In thinking back, it was one of my better designs for somaya.com - the site that one day my child will inherit and treasure beyond gems or glowing tapestry.

 

I started writing a blog when I graduated in 1998 when blogs still weren't quite the thing to be doing. I was young and in my first job in New York and had a little time to kill as yet and writing about my days on the as yet wild and untamed internet seemed like a fine fun way to spend some time. I remember finding out one day that folk I absolutely had no time for in Bombay had found the thing and circulated the link - to this day I'm not sure how it happened - and I had to take it down in a hurry. The reason being that I had rather bared my soul on it in a most silly departure from common sense and so had to extinguish any trace of it for a while.

 

Whilst working at Cliff Freeman, I helped with evaluating and helping to put into perspective many of these young internet plays for the group I worked for and they became more interesting to me than the brand work I was focused on, that led to Primary Knowledge and my first startup.

 

That's when the interwebs became all encompassing and the story becomes rather too hectic for one blog post. What a wonderful ride. Internets - you are fabulous.

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