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August 7, 2015

Porn on the Early Internet

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

I’ve read statistics that say up to 36 percent of all Internet traffic is consumed by pornography. Curiously up to 40 percent of evening Internet traffic is used by Netflix. Therefore, I calculate that the remaining 24 percent is used by people reading this blog.

I might be mistaken.

Given Wednesday’s blog post about virtual reality porn, I must repeat that all media delivery systems generally descend to pornography at some point in time. Today, obtaining porn free on the Internet isn’t a problem for anyone seeking it. But what about in the early 1990s?

Yes, porn was on the Internet back before the web. A lot of it was written porn — stories. That’s because the ancient Internet was all text. You could read dirty or, let me be nice, erotic stories online as easily as you can browse for picture and video porn today.

Pictures were available back then as well, but not displayed a such. Again, the Internet was all text. Images had to be encoded as text files. The text files had to be assembled (because pictures are worth 1,000 words and many, many more characters of text) and decoded before a protogeek could see a nekkid lady.

Some porn sites probably existed back then. I don’t have a time machine, so I can’t go back and hunt for them. Also, my Internet access was limited in the early 1990s as was everyone’s. I did, however, peruse the old NNTP newsgroups.

Many of the newsgroups carried binary content. As the NNTP servers were all about text, the binary content had to be encoded for transmission. The common method used UU encoding. It would take binary data and convert it into strings of text. Users would post the strings of text in a binary newsgroup to share programs, pictures, and other binary data. So it all wasn’t porn, but porn was to be found.

When the protogeek wanted to see a scanned centerfold, the process worked like this:

  1. Browse the specific binary newsgroup.
  2. Read a description and hope that it accurately reflects the encoded content. (Remember: No thumbnails)
  3. Save the encoded content.
  4. Run the content through the UU decoder.
  5. View the image.

This process took time and patience, and often the result wasn’t what was expected. Also, in some cases, the content was split across several posts, requiring some assembly in a text editor before decoding and viewing. If anything was amiss, the final image rendered unviewable.

Eventually the newsgroup reader programs became more sophisticated. The newsgroup reader that was included with early versions of Windows would decode binary content in the program itself, which was an improvement.

Of course, the web soon gained popularity. Images appeared in the web browser window in all their glorious graphical goodness. At that point, finding and looking for porn was no longer the ordeal it once was. Historically speaking, however, porn was available in the old days, just not as quickly accessible or in-your-face obnoxious as it is today.

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