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25 Years of Internet: Remembering India's Cyber Cafes, Where We First 'Surfed' the Web

25 Years of Internet: Remembering India's Cyber Cafes, Where We First 'Surfed' the Web

Cyber cafes were the portal to internet back at a time when most households did not own PCs, and today form relics of memories of a time gone by.

For most of us growing up in the ’90s, the first experience of the internet came from cyber cafes. While the concept would seem alien in today’s world, cyber cafes were practically the only way to access internet, for those who did not have the limited range of dial-up broadband internet connectivity at home. From gaming to occasional video chats and ‘surfing’ the internet for educational projects, cyber cafes were impromptu community hubs that offered a unique influx of people. The story of India’s internet really took off in these computer and internet hubs, which kept expanding beyond metropolitan regions, until recent times when it still remained in business.

The latest rise in mobile connectivity, coupled with super affordable prices of data connectivity, means that today most users already have internet right at their fingertips at all time. While the younger generation will find cyber cafes to be an alien concept, we still remember very clearly the bulging CRT monitors and pixelated webpages loading in the thinly partitioned cyber cafe bays. Here’s a neat glimpse at how life was, before the internet connectivity boom spread all across the country.

A waiter serves coffee to college students surfing the internet at a cafe in Bangalore in this April 6, 2000 file photo.

A man sends a text message from his mobile phone inside an Internet cafe in Kolkata, August 23, 2005.

Sangeeta Dutta and small daughter Anushna sit at a high-speed broadband internet cafe by run by Reliance Infocomm in Kolkata, May 11, 2004.

Children play computer games at a high-speed broadband internet cafe by run by Reliance Infocomm in Kolkata.

Editor’s note: This article is part of News18’s 25 Years of Internet In India series, where we capture how the state of mobile services, home broadband, internet services and content have evolved, particularly in the past few years. We try to understand what the internet means for us, be it for the new reality of work from home, for entertainment of the habit of ‘binge watching’, music streaming, online gaming and more.