The early Internet was a sound, or a series of sounds—the digital chirps and stutters of a 56k dialup modem trying to make contact with the world; the modulated white-noise of affirmation once it had. Often it was a sound interrupted by my parents or siblings picking up the phone. Sometimes I daydreamed about learning to produce these sounds with my mouth, so that I could do away with the computer altogether and speak directly to the web.
These noises of the Internet were sampled by mid-90s hip-hop producers, I recall, though I can’t remember the names of any of the tracks on which they appeared. Sounds which once signified the future now feel so obscure. Almost quaint.
The first wave of hackers and phreakers I revered also used sound, playing their Captain Crunch whistles (which mimicked precisely the tones of international dialling codes) down the phone to get free long distance phone calls.
By night, my friend Johan and I browsed the bulletin boards and chatrooms dedicated to sex. We called bored housewives and laughed at them. He was more brazen than I: I rarely stayed on the line once someone answered. I felt bad for the women we’d called, their sadness I imagined. I wondered if they knew they were speaking to boys.