Old Computer Challenge - Day 2

Jul 11, 2023

OldComputerChallenge RetroTech SmolNet

Reading time: 3 minutes

Day 2 is coming to a close. Today I was at work all day and so didn’t spend a whole lot of time on my slow computer.

However, A thought occurred to me recently, because since I subscribed to mastodon a couple of weeks ago and especially since I started following some retro computing related postings (where I discoved the OCC in the first place), I discovered that there’s a thing called

The SmolNet

So what is it? Well, according to the link above

The “smol” net is the “small” net. It’s small because it is build for friends and friends of friends. It doesn’t have to scale to millions of people because those millions should build their own local small nets.

Does this help explaining it? No?

Well, if you’re in or approaching middle age right now, you probably remember the internet of the 90s.

If you’re too young for that, this might sound like grandpa telling stories about the war, but there was a time when the internet was young and it wasn’t yet entirely run by a handful of gigantic evil megacorporations (Amazon, Google, Facebook…). Back then, people used to meet and chat on forums or IRC or BBSes (bulletin boards, but that was even before my time), and they would code their own personal websites and build communities and exchange their thoughts and ideas in this way.

Then came the web 2.0 with Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram etc., which opened the web up to the masses, but it also ushered in an era where everyone was on the same few platforms and where everyone’s profile looks like everyone elses because that was what the platform dictated.

And then The Algorithm was introduced and turned the internet into a miserable and dystopian hellscape filled with online bullying and hatred and outrage because that’s what gets peoples attention and is good for the bank accounts of the Zuckerbergs and Dorseys and Musks of the world, but bad for essentially the rest of us.

And that’s where we’re still at today.


In between the cracks of this modern, corporatized, enshittified internet where everything looks the same and everyone is out to get your data and track you and bombard you with ads there is a small world where the internet of old still (or again?) exists. Where people build small websites, talk on IRC or BBSes, and use old protocols like gopher (or modernized versions like gemini) and exchange information in this way, far away from the walled gardens of Facebook, Twitter and such.

Just like it was when the internet was new.

The internet of old is still alive today. You just have to look in the right places.

And I think this is beautiful, and it makes me happy, and I’m glad I discovered it.

Let’s explore it some more on day 3 :)