Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A good day

I got a bit of a shock the other day when I thought about how long I've been connected to the internet. When I was at university in the 80s, the internet was there, but it was something the science guys got to play with (I was studying arts). A few years later I remember one of my CompSci housemates telling me about this new thing called the "world wide web", which I had a hard time visualising at the time.

In 1991, when I first started working as a programmer, the internet still didn't mean much outside of universities and I guess the military. In 1991 I had a dial up modem that I used to connect to the office and to a few local bulletin boards, but it was really just for file transfers and limited message exchanges. I can't remember any of the BBSs allowing more than a couple of connections at once. When I went into the office there was a twisted pair network connecting some of the computers, but again it was really just to facilitate file transfers.

A couple of years after that, everything changed when a friend who was running one of the first (maybe the first?) public access internet nodes in Australia offered me an account so I could stay in touch with my girlfriend of the time, who was doing her PhD at a university in Sydney. I recall a frustrating time wrestling with PPP (or was it SLiP?) configuration before I got my aging modem to connect to his server, and then suddenly I had email, and access to a still relatively-young World Wide Web. Pretty much all the content was static back then, but I found it fascinating to just wander around, following hyperlinks from page to page and site to site and see what sort of things people were posting. To my shame I didn't see where the 'net and the 'web would take us. Really it just seemed like a grown up bulletin board, but with apparently infinite connections instead of a handful of 'phone lines. I didn't see, while I was reading bad poetry posted by some teenager on the other side of the world, that it was the infinite connectivity that would provide the magic.

All of which I thought about last week when, browsing the web on my 'phone whilst on the tram to work, I received a Twitter message from the original owner of my Ricciardi. He had seen this blog, recognised the car, and figured out how to get in touch with me via Twitter. I take the internet pretty much for granted these days, but that message really brought home to me what this kind of connectivity means.

Robert Marsh has been keeping an eye out for the car for years. Without the internet he might have bumped into me at a car show or club event, but in the 12 years I've owned the car it hasn't happened. Yet within a couple of months of me starting this blog, Robert came across it through an idle Google search and was able to get in touch.

After that first message we exchanged a few emails, and last Sunday I drove the Riciardi around to Rob's house. We spent the afternoon talking about the car and going through his archive of documents and photographs, and then for the first time in twelve years Rob took the Ricciardi for a drive. He certainly hadn't forgotten how - most people find the car a bit tricky at first, but Rob was confident and as smooth as silk. It was a real blast to sit in the passenger seat as we zoomed around the suburbs.

Ricciardi and original owner reunited

I had a delightful afternoon, and Rob and his family were very friendly and gracious with their hospitality and time. It was fascinating to see photos of all the stages of the build process, and of Rob pushing the car hard at various events (including the 1996 Grand Prix Rally, where he won the under 2 litre open class).

Now that I know more about the early history of the car (and have Rob's permission to post his story and some of his photographs) I'll be putting together some posts on the subject, but first I needed to capture my thoughts on the day I met the man who built the Ricciardi and owned it for so many years. A really good day.


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