This story starts in December 1993.
The web, as we know it, was invented only three years earlier, in 1989/1990. At that time I was a student of electrical engineering at the Polytechnic of Milan, working on my final essay with a couple of colleagues. We selected Robotics as a topic. Specifically, our research was about mobile robots – programmable robots with wheels. Every day for six months we spent our afternoon hours at the Robotics lab, working on our programmable mobile robot (“Moro“: Mobile Robot).
Soon we discovered that one of the mainframes at the lab was connected to Usenet. We didn’t really know what “to be connected” really meant. We were told that it was possible to contact students and teams of other universities through a digital network. Usenet.
At that time we were stuck with our project. In fact, we had a problem with some specific curves, called clothoids. Clothoids are elements of the math theory behind mobile robot studies. We were not good with programming Moro’s wheels to follow a clothoidal path. We spent months trying to figure out what was wrong with it. No luck.
So we had an issue with the f***** clothoids and there was no literature to study or review. No internet. No wikipedia. No google. We wrote a few lines looking for help, and we sent that request along Usenet.
We didn’t know at that time, but it was our first email. It was December 1992. When did you sent your first email? I did 25 years ago.
Oh, and by the way: we got no answers. Few weeks later we found some answers to our problem in a public (analog) library. And yes. Eventually we got our degree, a few months later.
Also published on Medium.