Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Remember the Time: WebTV

ahhh the dawn of the internet. I remember taking a sociology class at Mt. Sac when our professor was talking about the internet and what it was capable of doing. Now remember it is like 1995/1996 the internet was still relatively unknown. He was talking about professors recording their lectures and how students could just watch from their home. At the time it sounded impossible, now...common place almost.

My parents really didn't want the internet, but I did. So I was very interested when I saw this thing called WebTV. So I picked it up and got home and set it up. When I hit connect I was introduced to this screen that would become second nature to me for the next 5 years or so.

Now the video is 6 minutes and you know sometimes it took 6 minutes to connect. I remember starting it, walking out to do something, coming back and it still not connected. Remember the speed of this guy was a 33.6 kb/sec modem. A couple years later they put in the classic 56k modem which was standard for dial up. I had both in fact I only had the 33.6 one for a year or so before I got the 56 K. There was no hard drive so you never had to worry about getting a virus. But there was only 2MB of RAM...I can't believe I actually wrote that. The 56K version upped the RAM to 8 MB. They had a wireless keyboard which was nice and wireless at the time wasn't that widespread so it was kind of cool. At the same time they released the 56 K version they released the WebTV Plus.

Are you kidding me? This thing was definitely ahead of its time. Watch tv and get information about what you are watching at the same time? This is what companies are trying to do right now. What killed WebTV? It had grand expectations, but because of the 56 K speeds they couldn't do what they needed to do. I never got the WebTV Plus, probably because it was $100 more dollars than the regular classic.

Microsoft bought WebTV and I actually expected it to get better, but it didn't. It got put on the back burner and never really developed into anything more. Then actually released a new WebTV called MSN TV 2. It had broadband connections for streaming videos and some other things. But it looks dead to me now. My grandma has this version and the thing is good for email and MSN TV pages only. Why? The browser is basically IE 5...yeah 5.0. Internet Explorer is now on 8.0. Another reason is that the memory is only 256 MB.

WebTV will always have a special place in my heart. I never really noticed the slow 56 K speeds until I moved out of my parents house, they had cable internet by then. I still have my 2 old WebTVs and I have no idea what I am doing with them. I gave my grandparents the WebTV classic with the 56K modem to let them experience the internet. It was towards the end of my grandpa's life, but I will never forget him when we hooked it up..."so you mean I'm online now?" I don't think he saw a big deal for it, but my grandma still uses the newer MSN TV 2 for email and weather.

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