Only 15 years ago, internet was still a new phenomenon. People were not familiar with even the expression `on-line`, let alone the drastic consequences the internet would have on their daily lives only a decade later. Internet was introduced to the big public well after the 1989 revolution in Eastern Europe, which means that it could develop simultaneously all over Europe. Differences in the quality of infrastructure have put Eastern Europe behind on Western Europe, but countries like Estonia show that initial delay can also serve as an advantage. And what about Hungary?
Most Hungarians had their first internet experience roughly at the same time as their fellow Europeans, but they have not yet adopted the technology to the same extent. Tomas (26, photo) remembers being one of the first people to use a dial-up connection and Internet Relay Chat. `I have always been interested in computer technology, so whenever there is something new, I want to try it and work with it. I work as a network engineer in an international company, so I spending much of my time behind a computer. More than an average Hungarian, I would say.`
`Hungarian Facebook-users are often young people who have lived abroad for a while`
Tomas uses the internet to listen to music, to watch videos, to read the news and sometimes for making on-line purchases: `That`s one of the areas that Hungarians have not got too much used to yet. They don`t like the idea of prepaying for something and hope that it will arrive. That`s why Hungarian websites offer payment on delivery, but even then, buying and selling on the internet is not very well-developed. I myself only use it to book flights. In the past, I also used it to buy computer equipment, because that`s so much cheaper online. Everything else, I prefer to buy from shops. I don`t order groceries online.`
`Profile websites and blogs only enjoy marginal popularity`, says Tomas. `The biggest profile website is www.iwiw.hu while people who have been abroad might also use Facebook. Whenever I am online, I mostly read the news via the standard news websites www.index.hu and www.origo.hu. The most popular messenger service is MSN, probably because of the dominance of Windows as an operating system.`
Most Hungarians use the internet in their own language. Google is available in Hungarian, and only people who play videogames are likely to be exposed to be English. Dora (27) has most recently used the internet to find strategies to solve a 4x4x4 Rubik cube, the inventor of which is by the way a Hungarian. `I usually use the internet to check times for public transportation or to buy flight tickets. I also had a blog, but I only updated it when I was living in The Netherlands for a few months. After that, I sort of gave up.` Dora does not remember when exactly she used the internet for the first time `but it must have been in secondary school, during the computer courses. That`s also when I registered my first e-mail address. Hotmail.com and Freemail.hu are probably the most popular free-of-charge options in Hungary.`
Beneder (19) checks his e-mail about six times a week and spends most of his on-line moments looking for music of his favourite bands, `but I use the computer a lot for work, so when I get home, I am a bit tired of it and prefer to other things first.` Beside reading the news on-line, he is a frequent visitor of total99.com and stevelukather.net. `I am a musician myself and I like to stay updated on what`s happening in the world of music. I don`t download music, because I prefer to buy physical CDs in a shop.` Beneder was introduced to the world of internet when his father brought home a computer from his job: `He was working at the national bank, and I believe it was a Commodore 64 he took home. Anyway, it was something that we would now consider very old and we needed lots of technical support to get anything out of it. The first thing I remember about seeing internet used in practice was my father`s Outlook Express. Everything chanded so rapidly after that. I don`t think I have any friends who do not have internet at home nowadays.`
Nora (21) uses the internet to order pizza`s and DVDs, before telling me that even her grandparents are using the internet: `They are a little bit scared of it and they often call for help, but they do try to take advantage of new technology.`
Istvan (26) is preparing a PhD in informatics after initially studying economics: `I use internet for almost everything that relates to my studies: to find information, to communicate with colleagues, to download books.. Information technology is always changing so whenever you buy a book, you already know that is outdated. And it takes time for the books to be translated into Hungarian, which probably explains why computer engineers are usually very good at English, while most other Hungarians are not. We just need to use that language to get anything done.`
Istvan explains that most Hungarian websites have websites and internet access for their employees. `Some trust their workers a little more than others`, Istvan says. `They may configure servers in such a way that certain websites become inaccessible, and some disable the possibility to download applications like MSN.`
Istvan`s first internet dates back to 1994 when an internet caf? opened in his city. `I had prepared a whole list of websites that I wanted to visit. I copied them from magazines and the list also included the Playboy website. But it was subscription-based, that was a bit of a disappointment. Most of what I remembered of the visit was that the site had a black background. My first on-line nickname was Olinka, which is just a diminutive of my first name. When I first used it, I did not need to put a number behind it, but I think that would be different if I tried to register that same nickname somewhere now.`
Istvan expects that more and more real-life services will start to have on-line equivalents. `I started using e-banking a few years ago, because it`s so much more convenient than having to go to a bank and wait for your turn, then wait for the transaction to be executed..
Daniel (28) works as a lawyer and uses the internet to play games, to translate documents and to see which programs will be on TV in the evening. I learn that www.mtasztaki.hu is the best website for English-Hungarian translations and vice versa.
Although Daniel is happy to see many new services appearing online, he is scared of the effect it will have on the books and records industry. As I find out along the interviews, quite some people shared his fears. Hungarians may want to fool the government by failing to declare their full incomes, but tricking artists - as they see it - is another story. The disappearance of libraries, bookshops and music stores would be a national tragedy hard to overcome.
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