People say that Pakistan is at-least 5 years behind in technology but I think we are now keeping up. I mainly wanted to talk about my first internet experience. I remember my grandfather having an IBM 386 computer which my uncle brought from the US. Back then even having a computer use to be , like now a day’s someone has Lexus. He bought a fax modem and got an email account from UNDP in Karachi. They use to charge per KB of data transfer. All of us tried to make an email under one KB.
Here is how it worked.
- You have an email address something like Yourname@pakistan.undp.com
- You dial UNDP number in Karachi using a dos based application as I remember it was a plain blue screen.
- You press send and wait for confirmation and get disconnected.
- Once you send it then they will again dial a New York number to further send the emails to the desired recipients. This process only took place once or twice a day. Because of the high calling charges. This means you need to schedule your mails so that they get sent when you want them to.
- This is how emails were sent and received. Costing more than any postal, fax or any other form of communication.
- Fax Modems were 1.4 Kbps of speed which we thought were amazing. If I remember correctly I was in grade 3 back then.
My next experience was when we got our very first internet connection.
We had a 486 computer which we got when we were asked if we want a computer or a vacation, so we decided to go for a computer. My Mother arranged an external US robotics 14.4 kbps Fax Modem black color with serial connectivity. That is also when I learned that what is an ISP and how does a modem talk to an ISP. Any ways me and my brothers got dressed up looking nice and formal to go and get an internet account.
We lived in Hyderabad and a new ISP just opened, they were giving free trial accounts and we got our extended two days trial account from them. The internet packages were measured in hours and one hours use to cost anything from Rs 60 to Rs 150 depending on the ISP and speeds offered.
Any ways we installed the modem and after about 5 phone calls to the ISP we were able to connect to the internet. I still remember the happiness of seeing Yahoo in middle of the web browser in red, we were jumping up and down the internet speed and page loading speeds were superb like any newly launched ISPs have. After that I opened an account with geocities which was later acquired by yahoo. I had my website on the web with just one page or so.
I was in grade 7 or 8 by then and like all kids we wanted to show off so I printed my ICQ number my email address and my home phone number on a business card and gave out to friends who ever asked for them. Most of the kids did not understand what it was. All they knew that it is something cool.
Using internet in a place where all the phone lines are non digital and you get your phone bill in units and not showing where and how many phone calls are made. Each call means a unit and outside city, calls were metered separately.
We took the risk of buying and testing internet connectivity on our non digital phone line, our modem was set to pulse dial, each number was dialed like bep beep beppp… beep very old technology. Guess what IT worked and we made history as the first people to go online from Tandojam and every one use to come to us asking can you please setup my internet connection.
We used to talk to my brother on ICQ at night because making a call was totally out of question.
Rs 60 per hour was better than Rs 250 per minute. I remember of having connection times of only 5 to 10 minutes long but we still use to connect.
My fathers always use to say each call is charged separately!!!!. We always won because he had no ways to show that on the phone bill. For digital phones PTCL introduced 131XXXXXX numbers so that only one phone call is charged when someone connects to the internet otherwise after every 5-10 minutes a separate phone call was charged. Those who had non digital phones were only charged once because the technology did not support multi metering. That is why non digital numbers were held with people for so long without actually complaining about them.
It was exciting to sit and wait for a download to complete. Back then MP3 format of music was not even close to existence. I remember getting my first MP3 CD with WIN Amp’s first version. I remember i was in grade 9 back then.
The internet stayed like that for at least 5 years after which we got our first true cable internet when we came to Karachi for our education. World Call really rocked us with their 64kbps connection and the internet was a totally different world for us then. I thought that nothing can be better but within months we had 128 KBPS/ 256kbps/ 512 kbps etc. soon after focus started shifting to mobility of internet. Go CDMS started with their GO CDMA FWT(Fixed wireless terminal) soon after ptcl came up with Vfone. My father still carries these huge CDMA phone sets with him along with his laptop because he has no other option.
Now we have small USB internet devices like PTCL EVO and World Call Wireless with true broad band experience.
However i am not a big fan of the Pakistani services industry specially PTCL, I am still proud to see that lot is happening in my country.
Moving from 1.4 kbps to 3.1mbps was a long time but I remember each and every thing.
I shall write in more detail about all this later on.