CALDWELL COUNTY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Long before Twitter and Facebook, there were dial-up internet and homepages. The days of “surfing the web” are being preserved along with the desktop PCs many people used to connect to the World Wide Web.
Computers that used the original floppy disks are still around, sometimes stuffed away in a closet or attic. To most people, the old technology is no longer useful. A Caldwell County nonprofit is working to save the old machines, in hopes of soon opening an interactive museum.
“We have the power of all the knowledge of mankind usually in our pocket, but it had to start somewhere,” said Brandon Price, a member of the “Save the Machine” non-profit.
Where technology started, is generational and different for everyone. For some, their first time on a computer was an Apple PC in the 1980s or a “mobile” computer that weighed more than 20 pounds.
Instead of using Microsoft Windows, people used MSDOS.
“You can click and point on these. Everything else is command lines,” said Price.
For Price computers without an operating system like Windows or MAC-OS are worth saving.
“To me, it’s a time capsule. Most people dig into the ground to look for those time capsules, where for us, it’s in these machines,” said Price.
Dozens of computers are in his garage, with hundreds more in a storage unit. They are all property of the non-profit organization “Save the Machine”, which is based in Granite Falls.
Every computer the organization keeps has its own story or memory.
“There is a Dell machine here to my left that is the exact machine I used when I graduated high school,” said Price.
Old computers are known for classic games like Frogger and Oregon Trail. Saving the relics is for more than just playing games, but to keep technology out of landfills.
Eventually, the goal of “Save the Machine” is to open a museum, allowing all generations to interact and tinker with the classic machines.
“If you can fix one of these you can eventually graduate into moving into smaller things like your Macbooks and cell phones and that sort of thing,” said Price.
Before cell phones and smartphones, people actually had to connect to the internet with a phone line. America Online was among the most popular way to surf the World Wide Web.
Everyone seems to remember the first time they logged on to the internet.
“Went to some random chatroom talking with other kids on AOL. That was the first time I went on the internet,” said Price.
“The first time I used the internet was at my grade school. We had one computer. I think we went on an encyclopedia site or something,” said Rich Bettridge.
Bettridge is bringing back the “original” internet through a website he created in his spare time. TheOldNet.Com is a trip down memory lane. Bettridge lives in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, but gets visitors to his “homepage” from people all over the world.
The webpage goes back to the days before Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.
“It was in some ways more fun. In some ways, it was a bit more personal. I think homepages speak to that. Nowadays, everyone expresses themself on social media.”
Expression during the dial-up internet days is interesting to say the least. Thousands of original homepages can be explored through TheOldNet.Com.
People started archiving the web in 1996, mostly for research purposes. 25 years later people are taking advantage and taking a look back in time.
“When I realized all these old homepages were still in there I decided to write a little tool so I could access them on all my computers here,” said Bettridge.
Bettridge now shares the archive tool with thousands of others through his website. He says archiving the internet is an important step in preserving history.
“All of our culture is not digital. If we don’t back this stuff up when people look back 80 years from now there is going to be a giant gap in our culture,” said Bettridge.
TheOldNet.Com uses technology from The Internet Archive.
You can find more information about Save The Machine by visiting them on the World Wide Web, here. They are always looking for old computer donations.