Listening to the Internet History Podcast last night got me trying to remember when I first got online. As the years went by 'online' meant different things with the first being BBS's.
When I started connecting in 1996 I soon settled on a favourite - ProgTest (Programmers Test). The sysop, Robert Moody, had an awesome setup where we'd get real Internet email (firstname.lastname@example.org) using the BlueWave Offline Mail Reader and my trusty 2400 baud modem. Oh what fun the mid 90's were. Unfortunately the BBS closed down for a good few months and during that time all email was being rejected. ProgTest did rise from the ashes as a dial-up PPP service but by that stage I'd outgrown what was on offer.
By early 1997 I'd signed up to iAfrica and was finally on the full-blown Internet. Initially this was via the same 2400-baud modem but that was upgraded over the years until I finally had a blazing fast 56k connection. This, combined with the R7 weekend deal that Telkom introduced in January 1999, had me online from Friday 7PM to Monday 7AM downloading as much as I could. We had to ensure that the dial-up call wasn't terminated which, much to the chagrin of my family, meant no phone access for them over the weekend. I soon learnt that Windows '95 wasn't up to remaining connected for 48 hours and migrated my PC over to Windows NT 4.0 Server. As I wasn't (and still aren't) much of a gamer I didn't encounter too many issues.
It wasn't until moving to the UK in 2003 that I first experienced ADSL via FreeServe and then Cable Internet via Telewest in 2004.
I can vividly recall how excited I'd get for 7PM on Friday nights to roll on by so I could get online. Strange to compare that to today where we're constantly connected at home and on the go.