Olu Online


Immediately after setting up the dial-up, I made another core, formative, internet memory. Setting up the internet was a two-step process that felt simple despite the fact I had no frame of reference at the time beyond music CDs for installing software from disc, and I remember even at the time (and the age, to be honest) being surprised how simple it was. I was in! And I was going to play games.

It can't have been immediate, in retrospect, and I don't know which of the fledgling 90s search engines I would have typed "games" into to find Cartoon Network's series of Summer Resort flash games. I had already started playing games on Game Boy Colour around that time, so maybe it didn't feel like a big deal at all.

Either way, those games are now gone from the internet; Flash was necessary to play them, and its demise has meant that projects like Flashpoint do the work of archiving and preserving games and animations made in this way.

Archiving the old internet is a monumental task, and so much has already been lost. Archiving the world in general in some ways intuitively feels like it should be a completed task (at least to me!) despite the huge holes in our records even of the last few decades.

I've been reading the book Lurking by Joanne McNeil, and in it, she described her own experience of something being lost:

Among my earliest memories is an unknown commercial, some weird, solemn vignette that I watched on TV. I was four years old when I saw it, or not much older. The name of the state where I grew up was tricky to say and it always captured my attention. “Come to Massachusetts,” said the woman in the commercial. A little girl repeated the sentence after her. “Now that spring is here,” the woman continued. “Now that spring is here,” the child echoed again. “Help us celebrate the New Year,” the child said alone, with no guidance. The words were inviting, but the voices were chilling and still. The woman and child never appeared on-screen. They were spectral voiceovers layered over footage of a gray river … I think. Who were they to each other: Teacher and student? Mother and daughter? Who were they to me? This memory has been corrupted over time and I could be misremembering any or all of it. Each time I revisit it is another laundry cycle with bleach.

Come to Massachusetts … for what? I was already there. Now I remember those words and haunting voices when I drive around the state’s south shore in the spring. They have been ricocheting around in my head for more than thirty years. That little jingle-like memory comes to mind, like “Up in the air, Junior Birdman” or “Miss Mary Mack” or “Do you like butter?” at the sight of buttercups. I remember that little rhyme to myself, while I have no confidence in it. Maybe I dreamed it up. I have no evidence of it.

She tries searching on Google to no avail. This is a familiar but terrible feeling for me. I have poems and quotes and ads and posters I am sure I have seen in my life, but without the steadying hand of a webpage to prove it, I feel like I must be mistaken. I have friends I am sure existed who I've lost track of; forgotten their last names, slowly but surely first names and, eventually, even the way they made me feel. I have people i'd like to keep tabs on who have disappeared off the face of the digital earth.

A friend said recently that this period of history will mostly be a dead spot in terms of records in the distant future, as so much of our records are encased within company servers or enmeshed in the small chance that these companies survive millennia. The Internet Archive gives me hope there'll be a chunk of the internet as it is now (and was before) to see in the distant future.

This piece is part of my attempt at Alphabet Superset, a 6-month creative challenge. Other posts so far: abolition, bump, boost, culture, discussion, english, and formulaic.