Lost in Cyberspace

“Lost in Cyberspace” is the name I gave my first website, where I posted columns I wrote for a Los Angeles weekly between 1997 and 2001. The newspaper wanted me to review advertisers’ websites, but I turned the columns into ruminations on cyberspace, pop culture and current events. Today, many of the websites I reviewed don’t exist, along with the people, companies, technologies, hardware, software, and jargon I wrote about. Outdated as many of my observations are, the columns chronicle a moment in time, before Google, Amazon, Facebook, smartphones and broadband, when the internet was new and a Wild West ethos prevailed.

To retain that ethos, I have tried not to tweak my original columns too much except to correct errors, explain anachronisms, and spare the author further embarrassment. I’ve updated links where possible and removed old ones that lead to websites that no longer exist or have very different content, like porn. Where helpful, I have added new links with relevant content and updated information. I have “borrowed” graphics from a variety of sources, but I give “click credit,” meaning if you click on the graphic, it will link to the website where the graphic was borrowed from. I will also be posting some of my other writings, in hopes they inspire a reader or two to buy my books. Enjoy.

© 1997-2021 by H.B. Koplowitz, all rights reserved.

1. Cybersex and America Online 8/14/97
When America Online began offering a flat fee for unlimited use a year ago, it seemed like a win-win-win situation. Subscribers would pay less for unlimited service, advertisers would gain millions more online customers, and AOL would reap the profits. But there was one factor the company overlooked: Cybersex.

2. The Beat Goes Online 8/21/1997
Poet Allen Ginsberg and writer William S. Burroughs were seminal figures of the beat generation. Both died of heart attacks earlier this year. But their legacy lives online in the Web pages of beatnik aficionados.

3. Elvis Online 8/28/1997
He may have sold a billion records and starred in 33 movies. His musical blending of blues, gospel and hillbilly may have popularized, if not created, rock and roll. And his swiveling hips may have done as much to usher in a social and sexual revolution as pot and the pill. But on the 20th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, cyberspace commemorated the King of Rock and Roll mostly with Elvis sightings, Elvis impersonators, and, of course, Elvis merchandising.

4. Instant Messaging 9/4/1997
Denizens of America Online’s chat rooms are already familiar with Instant Messages and Buddy Lists. What is new is that AOL and other companies are making IM technology available to everyone on the Internet. What is amazing is that the preferred mode of communication for cybersex is now being touted as The Next Big Thing in business communications.

5. Princess Di Online 9/11/1997
The mainstream media consensus is that the whole world is mourning the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. But on the unfiltered Internet, emotions amongst the cyber commoners are decidedly mixed. Equal venom is being spewed at the “stalkarazzi” and the “people’s princess,” and, as always, at each other.

6. alt.sex 9/18/1997
Once upon a time there was a place on the Internet where people with unusual and sometimes unspeakable fetishes could find each other. Where personal ads were placed for sex with animals, or stuffed animals, and others indulged their secret obsessions with spanking, chloroform, even robots.

7. Guerilla Filmmaking Online 9/25/1997
Taking guerrilla filmmaking onto the Internet, Ken Tipton was one of the first to use a personal Web page to finance an independent film… “In this business you have to make your own breaks,” Tipton said. “The only thing worse than failure is never knowing what could have been if only you had tried.”

8. Star Dreck 10/2/1997
I try to avoid reviewing “official” Web sites. But how can I expect trade-outs, comps and other perks unless I suck up to promoters? So here’s some Web sites I have been “encouraged” to review. Warning: Some of the following may have been taken verbatim from press releases.

9. Cyber Bar 10/9/1997
Billboard Live aspires to be a watering hole for music moguls and a launch pad for upcoming bands. It’s got all the right amenities — bar, restaurant, entertainment, dance floor, and a members only club in the basement. It’s also got enough high tech gadgetry to give new meaning to “cyber bar.”

10. Streaming Video 10/16/1997
While typing these words into my computer, I’m watching astronauts aboard the Russian spacecraft Mir give a press conference. The image on my computer screen is tiny, blurred and jerky, and the sound fades in and out. Still, without being an Internet wiz, I’m able to see and hear a live feed from outer space on my modest home computer. What makes this possible is a new technology called “streaming” audio and video, and NASA TV is but one of the kewl ways pioneers have been using this new medium.

11. Cyber Concerts 10/23/1997
The Cal Ripkens of Rock, The Rolling Stones, are touring again. They are also letting netizens help determine their play list. At the official “Rolling Stones Web site” you can cast your cyber vote for which song you would like the band to play at its next concert, and then hear it cybercast.

12. BMI’s MusicBot the RoboCop of Cyberspace 10/30/1997
The music cop, BMI, has unleashed a new Web robot that monitors music in cyberspace. MusicBot is an automated tracking and database technology. It tracks the use of BMI-licensed music 24 hours a day, seven days a week, doing the work of 20 full-time employees for a fraction of the cost. Preliminary returns from MusicBot suggest that about 2 percent, or 26,000 of the 1.3 million sites on the Web, use audio files.

13. Doomed Startups 11/13/1997
For a unique gift for many an occasion, imagine creating a customized personalized music CD to send to a friend or loved one. Imagine picking and choosing from your favorite records to create your own CD. That’s the nifty concept behind www.musicmaker.com, a new Web site created by the [music-trade magazine] Music Connection, one of the established CD retailers on the Web.

14. Colleges Online 11/20/1997
Applying to college keeps getting easier, as higher education takes the competition for students into cyberspace. The websites take a lot of the drudgery out of applying for college, enabling students to edit applications without the use of white-out, and apply to multiple schools without filling out multiple forms. Online applications also benefit the schools, saving data input time and storage space, not to mention trees.

15. Cyber Thanksgiving 11/27/1997
For most Americans, Thanksgiving means turkey, football, family, God and country, and children acting out skits dressed as Pilgrims and Indians. I don’t mean to sneeze in anyone’s candied yams, but for Native Americans, Thanksgiving is kind of like Woodstock, i.e., the last time they experienced three days of peace and love with whitey.

16. El Niño El Schniño 12/4/1997
As the 1997-98 version of El Niño threatens to become the Comet Kohoutek of global weather phenomenons, it’s having a similar impact in cyberspace. There are more than 800 El Niño websites. But so far they aren’t making many waves either.