I can’t remember how my dad described the thing he wanted to show me at his lab. I was 10, and my experience with computers was limited to playing Monkey Island. How did he explain to me what the internet was and why I should be excited to try it? Whatever he said, it worked, and I turned on his computer at the University of Illinois with great anticipation as he stood over my shoulder.

We got unlucky. Something had gone haywire with the network, and the Internet was down. The only thing we could access was the university’s own website, presumably because it lived on the same server as my dad’s computer.

I clicked around the site, looking at the campus calendar and the faculty directory. My dad told me I was not experiencing the fullness of what he had been telling me about, but I was enchanted enough by the small amount of internet I could see that I wanted to print it out. I went home holding an inkjet color photo of Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley. When I taped it up on my wall, my dad gently suggested that visitors might think it strange for a child to have a portrait of the mayor in his bedroom. I kept it up.

Leon Neyfakh is a writer in New York.