Don’t look before you leap #2
It was sometime in 1998. India had still not entered the Internet like we see today, or rather the Internet had not entered India like we see it today. There was still no public or private enterprise giving access to the Internet. The communication infrastructure was in an unbelievably pathetic state. Not every house had a phone connection. We were still living in a world of fixed landline phones and snail mail technology.
IEEE started activities vigorously in Hyderabad, at about the same epoch. It was necessary to reach out to as many people as possible. The w-w-web was found to be an inexpensive but effective option. I proposed voluntarily to create a presence for IEEE (India Council) and IEEE Hyderabad Section on the w-w-web. As usual, I did not look or hesitate before I decided to take the leap. There were of course many unseen and unknown hurdles which could have ruined my dream.
I recall some of the major obstacles which came my way:
0. I knew I was developing a high-visibility, long-lasting product for an audience of highly competent professionals. So I had to be extra careful at ever step. All the work had to be done by myself, single-handed, without any help from anybody. Web technology itself was not known to many people at that time.
1. Internet access was through remote terminals connected to the server via shell access. Familiarity with command line tools was a very helpful skill. Dial-up modems using slow, unreliable phone lines were the only choice we had.
2. Web technology itself was in HTML 3.x age. The browser I had to use was a purely text-oriented one : Lynx. The browser had many limitations, it could not even parse tables (or frames). No graphics, no colours and none of the fancy features commonly used today by everyone.
3. We had to be contended with dial up modems (over pulse-based telephone lines using ATDP commands). The mail client available was only mutt. Only serial-line protocols e.g. kermit were available (at least to me) for downloads/uploads.
4. Very little scope for browsing and obtaining online help. No way to Google for answers you didnt know.
5. Content for populating the website had to be collected and organised from scratch, almost all alone.
In spite of all the above obstacles, I managed to create fairly exhaustive websites for IEEE India Council and IEEE Hyderabad Section. This achievement received appreciation from all users, and also recognition by IEEE Headquarters in the form of an international award presented at Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). The citation said “for providing excellent websites for IEEE India Council and other Indian Sections”. I am proud to note that IEEE Hyderabad led IEEE India to find a place on the web. This was further confirmed by another award from IEEE for outstanding achievements and contributions
The seed I sowed on 1998, has grown to be a lovely tree and is now helping many activities of IEEE in India.
This is one more evidence of the power of positive thinking, and taking the leap without hesitation.
Anti-climax :: I had to discontinue my 35 year old relationship with IEEE, because of a humiliating/insulting gesture by the Chairman of IEEE Hyderabad Section. They say “the axe may forget, but the tree cannot”.