Our multidisciplinary team of Internet anthropologists, archaeologists and linguists has uncovered a cache of ancient README files and Usenet logs dating from 1996 that sheds new light on the hardships faced by paleosilicate man (Homo Altavistas) in his hunt for pornography and highlights the differences between him and modern man (Homo Googlus) as pertains to the consumption of Internet pornography.
We now know that paleosilicate web-assisted masturbatory sessions were vastly different than the modern practice. While some practices have survived, passed through generations of oral tradition, most of the ancient ways were thought to be lost to antiquity.
As a baseline for comparison we must consider modern web-assisted masturbatory sessions, which follow a predictable order of operations. This practice has been observed with a high degree of repeatability in subjects both wild and captive over the last five years. The subject will enter “private mode” on the browser, preventing the storage of history or cookies. The subject will then navigate to his preferred pornography website, skipping an Internet search as he has memorized his options with the help of clever URLs such as “youporn” and “porntube”.
The subject will then click on the first video that interests him, which is delivered instantly by his high-speed digital connection, and watch an average of 46 seconds of said video before reaching climax and closing the private browser window in shame. The mean time from masturbatory impulse to completion for Homo Googlus is 134 seconds.
In contrast, a typical session for Homo Altavistas would have to start when his elders or, in the rare case of a fully mature Homo Altavistas subject, his pair-bond, were away from the domicile for some time. Homo Altavistas did not have access to permanent high-speed connections and would have to dial a local telephone landline with a modem. Tying up the residential phone line for extended periods would put the hunter at risk of being discovered, prematurely ending his hunt and leading to him being grounded, or sleeping on the couch with a severe case of Testiculus Cyanosis.
Unlike the evolved modems of modern times which serve as a high-speed bridge to the Internet, the modems used by Homo Altavistas were tiny devices only capable of establishing a slow, single-device connection which it negotiated through a series of high-pitched shrieks. We have not yet determined the true nature of the shrieking, but we believe it to be a mating call of sorts, with a female modem presenting herself for any male modem that was available to make a temporary connection.
Once the connection was established, Homo Altavistas began the search for pornography. Evidence suggests that he was a persistence hunter, often searching for hours for his prey. Most pornography in this time was clustered in locations known as FTP servers or Usenet groups. A search for pornography on an FTP server was a tedious affair. Many were identified only by their IP address and were only available at certain times of the day (usually when the operator’s elders or mate were away for extended hours). An advanced knowledge of command-line tools was required to navigate the directory structure of such a server.
Once a cache of images was located, the hunter was at the mercy of the organizational skills of the operator. Since there were no image previews available, the hunter would have to fully download an image to know if it was the prey he sought. The luxury of descriptive labeling such as “Horny MILF Interracial Bukkake” is a modern invention, dating back only a few years.
During his hunt, Homo Altavistas would have to navigate directories full of images labeled only “DSC000123.jpg”. The hunter would have no choice but to download an image, often waiting three to five minutes for a single image to fully load. If the image did not satiate the hunter’s lust, he would be forced to download more images at random, hoping for something more scintillating than Photoshopped celebrity nudes. On rare occasions the hunter would come across an oasis of well-cultivated pornography, but these locations invariably grew too popular and were shut down because of the high cost of bandwidth.
Usenet was another popular destination for Homo Altavistas on the pornography hunt. A precursor to both modern web forums and RSS feeds, Usenet comprised an unregulated worldwide conglomerate of servers that stored discussion messages as threaded conversations organized by a set of taxonomic guidelines. For instance, a computer scientist interested in the Java programming language might be active on the group comp.lang.java while a Roman history enthusiast might spend his time on humanities.classics.rome. Those on the hunt for pornography spent their time combing through the vast wasteland of the alt.binaries.pictures.erotica hierarchy and the deeper, darker recesses within it, such as alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.blondes, alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.groupsex and alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.startrek, where our hunter was likely to find more pictures of Captain Janeway than of Deanna Troi.
Usenet hunting required more advanced skills than FTP hunting, which would yield one’s prey through mere persistence. Due to storage restrictions imposed on individual messages an image file would often be split into multiple parts. On a good day the hunter would find three consecutive messages in his newsreader, parts 1/3, 2/3, and 3/3 of “Naughty Cheerleader Takes On the Football Team”, and he could save the three parts and concatenate them into one file at the command line. More often than not, however, the hunter would be able to locate only some of the fragments of a file, and would have to make the decision to narrow the hunt to just the rest of that file or continue searching for other prey.
Additionally, Usenet binaries were often in formats not understandable by a hunter’s computer or operating system. Hunters of the Windows sect were at a distinct disadvantage on Usenet, and had to develop cunning ways of capturing their prey using improvised tools. Many files were encoded and compressed with Unix-based tools that were unavailable to Windows.
Once thought to be on the verge of extinction, pornography hunters of the Windows sect showed rapid advancement of tool-making capabilities and were able to compete effectively with other hunter sects over prey that was camouflaged in unencoded, gzipped tarballs. Data culled from server logs suggests that Windows-based societies flourished in the time between 1995 and 1999 despite ostracism by other sects of Homo Altavistas, and there is speculation among a growing number of Internet historians that many of the advances enjoyed by Homo Googlus, such as standard video encoding, have origins in this era of growth in Windows-based pornographic consumption.
Contrast the rigors of pursuing pornography in paleosilicate times with the ease of access enjoyed by Homo Googlus today. In the paleosilicate era it was uncommon for hunters to engage in trade beyond the regional subnet, but as infrastructure improved trade routes were established that were more far-reaching. Pornographic stimulation has advanced on parallel tracks with agriculture and commerce, and indeed finding even the most obscure and exotic forms of pornography today is as simple as entering a specific set of search terms into the browser and choosing from a menu of readily-available options. The spice traders of old have been replaced by www.spicexxx.com, where all the treasures of the orient are available, instantly, at the press of a button. No longer forced to hunt for hours on end for his sustenance, Homo Googlus has the option to consume pornography in any quantity whenever the desire strikes him.
Homo Altavistas also differed from Homo Googlus in that he was not a mere consumer of pornography, but in fact practiced sustainable hunting practices by introducing new pornography into the ecosystem. In the following excerpt taken from a partial README file we can see that ancient Internet pornography was a communal trade commodity rather than a mere consumable as it is today:
2:1 D/U :: all ups to /pub/dump
This fragment was recovered from an old Intel-based 386 computer found in a landfill. While no usable image files were recovered from the permanent storage, we can conclude that the operator of this machine oversaw a type of barter mercantile for pornography. Linguists specializing in the technology slang of the mid 1990s have concluded that the inscription “2:1 D/U” means that traders wishing to acquire pornographic imagery from this marketplace could exchange one “upload” file for two “download” files. The upload file was an offering of sorts, or a token of mutual respect.
Once these offerings (or “ups”) were placed in the appropriate directory, the person seeking new pornography could then browse the market for any two files that interested him. This practice was common on both public FTP exchanges and IRC. Usenet groups did not enforce contribution ratios, but the sense of community among early consumers of internet pornography led to a share-and-share-alike attitude that is lacking among Homo Googlus.
The process of connecting to the Internet and searching for pornography was tedious and often eschewed in favor of a locally-preserved cache of pornographic images. Homo Altavistas learned to store pornography on his personal computer for long periods of time. While fresh pornography was preferred, this stash would sustain him through drought periods when the elders or mate would not be absent long enough for him to perform the usual hunting rituals.
Methods of preserving a stockpile of pornography differed, but typically involved concealing them in a seemingly innocuous and uninteresting location on the computer with a label such as “1993 Taxes” or “System Files”. Advanced practitioners protected their reserves with the use of hidden folders and encryption. This tradition has largely been lost as the advent of a fast, always-on connection precludes the need for local storage of pornography.
There is speculation that Homo Altavistas had a more highly developed occipital lobe than Homo Googlus as a result of the demands of pornographic stimulation at the time. Because the technological restrictions of the time required Homo Altavistas to delay gratification, he often had to supplement electronic imagery with visual stimulation originating in his own imagination, a skill not prevalent among modern Internet surfers. More study is needed in this area, particularly of transitional evolutionary species such as Homo Yahoois, before any conclusions can be drawn.