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What was going on with the Internet when the first issue of THE CONCRETE PRODUCER came out in January 1997? It was still in the early stages of its existence and there were few signs of an Internet presence yet in the concrete industry.

Its predecessor, the ARPANET, originally commissioned by the Department of Defense in 1969, had already been retired for seven years. Numerous other networks, such as the National Science Foundation's NSFNet and the commercial Telnet, had been established to fill specific needs.

The Internet itself, which ultimately evolved into the network of networks we use today, had grown from having four hosts (computers with registered IP addresses) in 1969, to 159,000 hosts linking 837 networks 20 years later.

Then Tim Berners-Lee's 1989 invention of the World Wide Web, “an Internet-based hypermedia initiative for global information sharing,” went public in 1990. Suddenly, there were more than 800,000 registered domain names and more than 20 million linked hosts. Today there are about half a billion hosts, with more than 100 million Web sites floating around out there.

E-commerce began in 1995, just two years before the launch of TCP. That year I signed up for my first e-mail account with America Online, paying $10 a month for up to five hours of time.

Enthralled with the possibilities and anxious to see if it really would work, that fall I also made my first online purchase. One evening, without any apparent human interaction, I splurged, gingerly entering my credit card data and ordering a Digital Equipment Company 14-inch VGA color monitor from NECX Direct for just $249. Several days later, it arrived on my front porch.

In 1996, when TCP was still Concrete Journal, we publish Concrete Sourcebook, dubbed “The World of Concrete Exposition in Print.” It was 508 pages in length. The manufacturers' catalog pages section took up 480 pages and included exactly one Web site address. It was www.fibermesh.com.

Here come the Web sites

The following year, 1997, saw the integration of masonry products, manufacturers, and associations into the rechristened Concrete & Masonry Source-book. Its 1200 pages listed 550 product categories and 2300 companies, including 1020 catalog pages. A new three-page section listed 215 company and association Web site addresses. The movement had begun. The next edition listed 520 Web sites on seven pages. Today, the company without a Web site is a rarity.

That was also the year we began pushing the Construction Super-Network. This was first offered as a dial-up connection that went straight into our computers; it later evolved into a Web site. The SuperNetwork was touted as “a place where information will be shared and problems solved within seconds.” Unfortunately, the concept was ahead of its time and the SuperNetwork struggled for visitors and advertisers.

Also in 1997, Construction Marketing Today expanded its annual Abby Awards program to include Web sites. The winning entry was from Komatsu America International Co., which “took advantage of the Internet's multimedia capabilities.” Visitors to www.komatsuamerica.com were invited to download a QuickTime movie about the company's Ultimate Excavator.

Later that year, an article in Construction Marketing Today, “Marketers give Web searcher the slip,” chronicled an engineer's attempt to research buying a slipform paver using only the Internet. He spent hours just finding potential suppliers, as search engines were in their infancy. In the end, only six surfaced and they had sketchy information. But that was then.

Today, technologies and standards developed by a lot of bright people have enabled this network of networks, the Internet, to become so integral to our ways of doing business and of living life. And I wouldn't have it any other way. What a difference a decade makes.