Remembering my first look at the Internet

Twenty-five years ago this month I had my first encounter with something that would change the lives of virtually every person in the world. I found an old email today noting the occasion — May 14, 1996, from me to Keith Stanford, acting executive director of Illinois Baptist State Association.

“Yesterday I got my first look at the Internet — via Cecil Renshaw’s computer. As you know, I’ve been using CompuServe for some time now. The Internet is a whole other ballgame. After my brief exposure yesterday, I better understand what all the hype is about. The ease of access to vast storehouses of information is almost mind-boggling. I guarantee the Internet is going to impact how we do comrnunications at IBSA, and we’re way behind right now.”

Cecil was a pastor in Rochester, Illinois, and he had been telling me about this Internet thing. I was acting director of communications for IBSA at the time. CompuServe was a major online service provider, but it was a self-contained service, if I remember right.

I major tip of the hat to Cecil these many years later. He was an early adopter who helped bring me along. Here’s the rest of the email:

“Cecil is going to help us go ahead and set up a home page on the Net. I’ve already given Brad [Reno] an assignment to develop the initial graphics. But for us to have a truly effective presence on the Net, the entire staff is going to have to begin to see the potential.

“Therefore, I’m suggesting you consider a “field trip” to Rochester for the Management Staff [MS]. Cecil said he would be willing to give the MS an on-line tour as he did for me yesterday. Then, if the MS thought it helpful, we could arrange

for Cecil to give a demonstration to the entire staff. Cecil can help us see the Internet from a pastor’s perspective. If you like the idea of a presentation to the MS, I’ll contact Cecil (or you can) about a date.

“The Communications Department can establish a presence on the Net, but to really utilize it effectively is going to require better understanding by the entire staff. Obviously, only a limited number of Illinois Baptists (including pastors) are on the Net right now. I believe we need to pursue this to get closer to the cutting edge of communications. Our younger pastors and members are already there or will be there soon. It is important that early in their ministry they see IBSA as being effective and relevant. The Net is one way to communicate that message to them.

“Personally, I believe training conferences are going to become a thing of the past. So much information and feedback is going to be available via the Net, that conferences will be terribly inefficient uses of time. I think the future of conferences will lie in motivation and encouragement, not training. The Net will be the training p1ace. (That’s an editorial opinion.)

“I have some impressions about where we are headed in the future, but I must admit to more confusion than certainty. Things are changing so rapidly regarding communicaLions that iL is hard to project the future. I think it’s more a matter of recognizing future potential and staying up to speed with today’s challenges. And I believe Internet communication is a challenge already on our doorstep.”

Copyright © 2021 Ferrell Foster

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