World Wide Great White North

computeroldtimeOriginal: Sunday, August 22, 2004
‘There Was an Internet in the 1980s?’

Canada, as a country, is online. A larger percent of Canadians are computer owners than almost any other country in the world. If one were to take an ‘online census’, the number of Canadians counted would be among the top three nationalities.

Also, Canadians were the first country online. Many people do not know this. Our neighbors to the north originally began to fiddle with this wondrous tool and toy in the late 1970s. Originally email was called ‘cmail’ (‘see-mail’; ‘C’ for ‘computer’) and this nearly fumbled the entire project irreparably.

The Canadian government began shipping computers to people and issuing them cmail addresses. Mine would be something to the effect of ‘robertemmett@cmail.c’ as the Canadians, a much simpler people, hadn’t thought of the now indispensable ‘dot-com’. If they had succeeded, we would all be saying ‘such-and-such dot-see’ today; strangely this little phrase was nearly their downfall.

After a couple years the Canadian government began to wonder why the internet had not taken off; the amount of cmail being sent and received was extremely meager compared to the number of people who had computers and c-mail addresses.

As the ’80s rolled over into the 90’s the rest of the world began to catch on to the world wide web, and even surpass the Canadians numbers wise.

Years of research finally resulted in the knowledge that even though most Canadians are highly intelligent and very capable of learning and mastering computer skills, they were fundamentally incapable of communicating their c-mail address to each other or to anyone else.

The solution, it turned out, was quite simple. They changed the ‘.c’ to ‘.ca’ which still stands as a very popular internet affix today. Instead of trying to change the way people talk, they adapted to it. A lesson here to be learned for all.

Thanks to this, any Canadian can tell you, “my email address is such and such at dot see, eh,” and you will very likely be able to contact them…

(many apologies to my Canadian friends)
©Robert Emmett McWhorter

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