Before the internet there was… DECnet.
DECnet was a private company run network by a large American corporation that linked all of its sites worldwide, some 50,000 machines. It wasn’t TCP/IP, it was something else that was proprietary to Digital.
I was on that network, and it was text based. It let us send text emails to each other and had something called VAXnotes (later DECnotes). This is like Reddit in some ways but designed for work purposes and some social sites. As it was text based, there were no images.
Another server was called FRIENDS and was a public server. I went on there just before a trip to the States and asked if anyone wanted to meet up for a meal. On the day, I got picked up at a Digital office in the States and went to a pizza place for a meal. I met people I only knew from their node names, like XCELR8::JONES (DECnet was six characters for the node).
The lady running FRIENDS met me and gave me a bear hug - she ‘woobied’ me, as she called it. Now, being a typical Brit, hugging in public is somewhat awkward for me, but it was OK.
For one of my projects, I had access to the STAR cluster in the States. This is where VAX/VMS was being developed. I came into work one day to find my access had been terminated… because of the Chaos Computer Club had attacked our network and stole the source code for VAX/VMS. Early days of hackers. My project got canned as I lost access, not being in the States.
Another time we came to work to find our machines infected with a bogus print process. It was replicating itself across our network of interconnected machines. The guys in the States released an anti-virus to track down and kill the bogus print processes. Digital started installing something called INSPECT - a virus checker - only machines running INSPECT could be connected to their network.
Just before I left Digital TCP/IP had arrived and was making inroads. We had AltaVista, a massive search engine that got dwarfed by Google. Google was known as Deja News back then, and was a USENET site but renamed itself and moved onto search.
I very nearly transferred to the States, to sit in AltaVista HQ but Digital were collapsing, as they couldn’t make the transition from mainframe computing to PC’s - not without over engineering machines and charging a premium for it.
The group I worked for were sold to another company. A lot of us left, I remember the day I said goodbye to the head of the group. He was seriously pissed off, but wished me well.
There is an archive of the VAXnotes from Digital here: List of notesfiles (conferences) that were indexed
The FRIENDS one is Information about NOTESfile vaxcat::friends