in the early days of the internet, i remember sitting in the lab at night. it was the block of time where the morning brainstorm sessions shotgun blast of ideas, was refined and focused through the afternoon, to have one or maybe two ideas that had potential and were worth taking to WYSIWIG concept form. i could not do any audio testing, lest the neighborhood call the police about noise pollution, so nights had me sitting from about 9:30 to 3-4 am in front of the 3d modeling and animation computers. there was simply the hum of all the various fans cooling the computers to provide a sort of white noise for the peace to work uninterrupted, while most of the area was sleeping.
at the time, i could not afford a 300,000 usd silicon graphics multi chip computer, so i had to work on a few computers and play a game where i would swirl around in a space that was four desks and try to time renders between changes and modification of each change in the model designs. since i loved raytracing and raydiosity the most...well, they just sucked processing time, but the results were so much nicer than phong renderings.
many times, all of the computers were chugging pixels and all there was left was the one computer that was not hooked up to the network. i called it the internet computer. the one that had access to the world. i don't think we had started up the video conferencing company at the time, but i remember having two sites up in the late night to keep me company. one was called the internet weather report. it was simply the map of the globe and it tracked the bandwith usage, outages, and how the networks would re-route themselves to accomidate issues via redundancy with location across the planet. while it was pitch black outside in northern virginia, i would watch asia and the europe awake and marvel at the patterns man had with how he lived his life. i must sound like a nerd, but that was the closest i figured i would ever get to a ride in space to see what the planet looked like from space.
the other channel that kept me company was the live nasa feed off the space station. there were so few people on the internet at that time, maybe 3-4 million? that they just left the camera on and you could see what the astronauts would see. there was such a peace and beauty to watching the planet spinning beneath you. today you see the new high resolution images of the amazing details from space, yet, it was the grainy original compression images from space that hold the most personal charm for me. the one vivid image i have is of me sitting and marveling watching a russian supply rocket loading new material to the space station. i found the idea of weightlessness really sinking in as one astronaut would just push the packages through the hatch and everything would fly to to the other astronaut - it made the concept of moving large heavy items seem like fun.
i still didn't get to talk about how i followed trends in people and humanity with the internet. it was going to be my observations about craigslist, the videoconferencing company and the various experiments i did on myself with people vs space vs technology....but that will wait for anther day.
right now, i will take a swig of coffee, close my eyes to see the memory of those two astronauts pushing boxes of material with ease in weightlessness and wish you all a great day.