It was 1994. Big hair was out; grunge was in. O.J. Simpson was accused of murder. President Bill Clinton was welcoming his interns. Somewhere in Canada, a tow-headed child named Justin Bieber was born. His parents immediately uploaded the boy to YouTube, which hadn’t been invented.

Meanwhile, in Hartford, Conn., I was attending a newspaper conference along with thousands of other journalists. The trip was mostly about bar-hopping and chasing skirts, but there was some actual information about newspapers there, too.

In an auditorium packed with some of the world’s brightest and most self-important journalists, a veteran of the business was on the stage delivering a wild prognostication.

“Someday soon,” said this old but vibrant man, “news will be read on home computers. People will stop relying on their daily papers and seek information from a variety of sources across the World Wide Web.”

Deep in the crowd, sitting in an aisle seat in case I had to pee, a rookie reporter snorted. He made drinky-drinky motions and nudged the pretty young lady seated next to him.

“World Wide Web! Get a load of Geriatric Spider-Man!”


The young lady smiled politely. Seriously. She was really pretty.

“Look out everybody!” said the rookie reporter. “Computers are going to steal the news!”

Another weak smile from the pretty girl. At the soonest opportunity, she would slip away and disappear into the crowd, never to be seen again, in spite of the rookie reporter’s stalkish attempts to find her.

Who needs her? God, she was pretty, though.

In 1994, an old man predicted that newspapers would fall as this World Wide Web rose to ubiquity. While others nodded grimly, I completely scoffed at the idea. Didn’t give it another thought, in fact, for about a year. That’s when the the Sun Journal switched over to a Windows system and rumors started to float across the newsroom that we had one computer actually connected to the net.

My first experience with this profound technology involved a sick dog. Parvovirus, nasty stuff. I was writing a story about it (it’s hard to recall those dark days when I still was expected to write about things like sick dogs and snowstorms) but ran into a wall for lack of information.


“Library’s closed,” I lamented to one of the staff geeks. “Nobody around in the vet hospitals. How am I supposed to write about this obscure canine affliction with no information about it?”

The staff geek (his name is Joe; he works for Stars & Stripes now. Hi, Joe!) went to the back of the newsroom. He clicked and clacked on his computer for half-a-minute and then directed me to the printer. There, I found pages and pages of information on parvovirus — cause, treatment, correct pronunciation, you name it. It was as though Joe has summoned the spirit of the library and plucked data right out of the air. That and an ad for Enzyte, which also worked out quite well.

The discovery that the Internet was real was profound, as powerful and life-changing as the time I met the guy who played Arnold Horshack at Lakewood Theater. All of that knowledge at my fingertips. The opportunity for such grand exploration. Such great learning to be done.

I next discovered a place called The Hot Tub and met some groovy people. That very day, I went out and bought my own computer and locked myself inside my tiny apartment above Sam’s on Main Street for about a month.

I think about the power of the Internet every time I Google something, be it the latest breakthroughs at the Large Hadron Collider or that funny YouTube video where one cat appears to be scolding another cat for licentious behavior. Hilarity!

I’ve been writing a lot about technology lately. No idea why, really. It just dazzles me. It leaves me waiting for the next big thing. It reminds me that parvoviruses tend to be specific about the taxon of animal they will infect, but this is a somewhat flexible characteristic.

Before 1994, I had no idea.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. You can ask what taxon of animal he is at

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