Internet, My Life & My Country ,
I am a Turkish Cypriot, from the small island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea. When I
came here as a freshman in 1993, the only thing I knew about the Internet was the
existence of something called electronic mail which allowed people to send and receive
messages via their computer. It sounded like something that emerged from a science fiction
movie. I thought it was something like the fax machine; I would be able to talk to my
parents and friends in Cyprus through it. That was the first time I confronted a concept
that would change my life, and hopefully help my country.
Cyprus has been going through wars and troubles since at least the 1950s. Only 20-30 years ago, people lived together and enjoyed the whole island. However, right now there is an ongoing division of my country. Being the son of a politician and a lawyer, I grew up aware of the situation and I had always been an active participant of various activities trying to achieve a reunification of my country.
I chose to be a physics major, and I am quite happy with that. I can also be considered a peace activist by many people. It all started with the Internet again. I believe I am an example of the hundreds of people who are using, or beginning to use the Internet as their primary information and communication source in the place of phones and faxes. (Surely snail mail is long ago forgotten.) I was always interested in computers and their applications to various areas. As a freshman at University of Pennsylvania, I ended up living on the Science and Technology Wing (STWing.) This gave me a great opportunity to be introduced to the extensive computer resources at Penn. First I learned how use PCs and Macs. (We used some weird British computer system back at home.) Then came e-mail, newsgroups, and gopher. The World Wide Web was still a baby at that time.
Two and half years is a long time in Internet history, believe it or not. I was beginning to
get excited about this information source. I bought a computer for myself, and began
logging on dozens of times a day. In the meantime I figured out that I did not need to spend
money calling my friends anymore; we could talk over the Internet or exchange e-mail. This
was great. Now I was able to "be" with my friends from back home almost all the time, at
virtually no expense.
I received an e-mail address of the first mailing list I joined soon afterward: Cyprus-l, where Turkish and Greek Cypriots talked about issues regarding the conflict in Cyprus. At that time Cyprus-l was the only real source of information about Cyprus, so I joined immediately. At first I did not realize what kind of resources were waiting for me on Cyprus-l. It turned out to be my first extensive confrontation with Greek Cypriots, my fellow countrymen that I am not allowed to see, call, write to or communicate with in any way in our own country. It took me only a couple of weeks to become one of the most active members of Cyprus-l, and I began building friendships over the Internet. My life was beginning to change. I was being more and more active over issues in Cyprus, and I was getting more and more experienced with the Internet. I learned how to use Internet Relay Chat (IRC), and my friends and I created the first Turkish Cypriot channel on IRC.
This was a new concept, Cypriots writing all over the Internet, discussing things with Greeks, Turks, British and many other people who are interested in this small island and its world-famous conflict. STWing was a part of heaven for computers, and I made use of that a lot and increased my knowledge. By the Spring semester, STWing had its own UNIX server, force.stwing.upenn.edu. I was one of the first people who signed up for a project on that server, my own mailing list. Things were not that easy, but I ended up having two mailing lists, not on the STWing computer, but on another server at Penn. I founded the first Turkish Cypriot mailing list on the Internet. In