Pasty.Net founder recalls internet’s early days

Photo provided by Pasty.Net The Hut Inn restaurant in Kearsarge is home of Pasty Central, headquarters of Pasty.Net.

HANCOCK — The founder of Pasty.Net remembers a time when the only internet connection was via dial-up, in the days before there was a worldwide web.

“Actually, if you mark it,” Charlie Hopper, founder and general manager of Pasty.Net said, “it was September of 1994. That was the first month that there was any such thing as the www. It didn’t exist before that. The internet did exist, because it was military and educational.”

Hopper said when he and his family moved to the Copper County in 1988, internet connection in the region was primitive.

“I used to connect to the dial-up modems at Michigan Tech,” he said, “leapfrog to dial-out modems at the University of Michigan, which is where I got my education. I would dial out, and in those days there was Genie, and CompuServe, and this new thing came out, it was called Prodigy. It was a joint venture between IBM and Sears, and it was the first visual graphical interface for browsing. The original browser was Prodigy.”

AOL debuted shortly after the release of Prodigy, Hopper said, and AOL mass-mailed installation CDs.

“It was a big joke back then that AOL would mail CDs,” he recalled, “and people would use them for coffee coasters, because they collected the things from AOL.”

Hopper said those were days when people were lucky if they got 26K dial-up. The number 26K refers to a measurement of internet speed.

“When we actually started our service, our back-haul for dial-up was a satellite,” Hopper said. “We had a satellite, and so people would dial into us. Of course, we got our bandwidth from AT&T, which, of course, was very expensive to get channels.”

Hopper said feeding with a satellite resulted in terrible dial-up service. In spite of that, he said Pasty.Net received a couple of hundred subscribers almost immediately. Before Pasty.Net got started, the only internet service provider was

“We started as an ISP at exactly the same time that one of the original dial-up in the U.P. started, which was,” he said, “Portup sold out. We didn’t know that. All we knew was that we were continually trying to get on, and we couldn’t.”