Guest Commentary

Stephen & Donna Forrester

Birthplace Of The Internet

(Editor’s note: in 1994 developers planned the first subdivision in Canada to be wired for “high-speed” internet. Sixty-four homeowners in a subdivision called Stonehaven West near Newmarket, Ont. enrolled in the pilot project. Computers were expensive at the time, an average $3200, and researchers found most Stonehaven residents used the “information superhighway” to look up weather forecasts and exchange social notes. Among the 64 internet pioneers were Stephen and Donna Forrester. The couple recalled the experiment in an October 22, 2012 interview with Blacklock’s publisher Holly Doan. Following is a transcription of their remarks)

We were one of the first residents to move in. There were about five of us here in a big open field. Part of the attraction of Stonehaven was this internet thing. At the time we didn’t own a computer.

The attraction was if you bought the house you got a computer, plus the ability to connect with your neighbours. It was a selling point, like a bonus. The computer was very exciting. It had a “cool” factor. We volunteered right away.

You would go to work and tell people you’re part of a “wired community,” and they would ask: What’s that? It was a great conversation piece.

Dial-up speed? Slow. It was excruciatingly slow. Plus there wasn’t much of a selection of things to look at or music to listen to, and we weren’t that educated about computers anyway.

It was a whole new learning experience. We’d send out emails and get responses from some guy called “mailer daemon.” I’m thinking, who the hell is Mailer Daemon and why does he keep telling me my emails aren’t getting through? We were that green at the time.

There were five network ports in the house: the family room, the spare bedroom, the kitchen. We thought a lot about where to put the computer.

The interesting part was reaching out to the 63 other households in the community. First you had to know them to feel comfortable emailing them. They were strangers. You start by saying hello on the sidewalk.

Later the emails started coming. Someone’s cat went missing, lost cat, the name of the cat. Then people started sharing complaints about the builder, the deficiencies, problems with the house: Did you get this? Did they fix that? It was like an early version of Twitter.

Later some people came from York University. They asked us to log onto the computer and explain what we did with it.

Looking back, it’s been a huge influence in our lives. I can’t imagine not having the internet now.

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