Australian Net Guide, Issue 1, March 1996 - Cybersex, Indigenous Internet Rights & LGBT Resources

I wrote lovingly about Atomic the other day, but the other magazine that I used to devour whenever I had the chance was Australian Net Guide. As a poor kid out in the western suburbs of Melbourne, the local library was the only way I got to read this. The newsagent stocked it, but would kick me out almost exactly 5 minutes after I entered unless I had cash in my hand.

Australian Net Guide was a little A5 sized booklet of the latest trends and websites on this thing we called “the internet”. It kicked off in the mid-90s and I read it religiously thanks to the decision of a librarian at St. Albans library to keep subscribing to it. Thanks to that legend!

I was fortunate enough to be given the very first issue of Australian Net Guide, hidden in a pile of other magazines and I was so excited to scan it in and paw through the pages. Lets look back at the very first issue, published 28 years ago thanks to the magic that is the Internet Archive.

The cover is pretty basic considering the art style at the time. But look at the headlines:

  • 21 hours free internet!
  • HotDog!
  • How to speed up Netscape Navigator!

How awesome is it that the very first issue goes direct to sex? I assume back in 1996 people had heard about cybersex or whatnot and were utterly confused at the concept of computers and sex. Were people fucking their PCs? Sticking their dick in the floppy drive? Rubbing their mice in places it shouldn’t be rubbed?? Lucky for us, we have Australian Net Guide to explain it all to us.

I love that they listed their favourite music they listened to while creating this first issue. I still do this now with The Sizzle :sunglasses:

Web Wombat! An little Aussie battler that “only registers Australian home pages”. Bring that back imho, too many USA Americans on my internet.

The Cyberspace Expo deserves its own blog post (the vibes it gives out are so pure), but still exists as it did back then. Have fun browsing around.

“Netscape Buys VRML Company” - that’s the most 90s sentence I’ve ever heard.

That time when Australia made graphics cards?? And we exported them??

NRMA reckons their “new internet site is probably Australia’s largest” and they’d really like you to send them an email so they can respond to all your questions!

Reading Dr. Feelgood describe IRC concepts like a “nick” and “channels” is hilarious. It is polite to go into a “private channel for cyber sex”. Well yes, rooting in public is kinda frowned upon.

The feature article is pretty dated now, but it’s a fascinating look at how sex on the internet isn’t as taboo as it is now.

Australian Net Guide was placed into newsagents, super markets and all kinds of places and here they are featuring online sex shops, CD-ROMs of porn, sexual education websites and newsgroups for adult content. I cannot imagine a mainstream publication in 2024 doing the same thing and that’s sad.

This interview with an op of #sex on Undernet (one of the biggest IRC networks back in the day) is a fun read. 30-70 people are online at the same time! Apparently the op knows of two marriages as a result of meetings in #sex. I wonder if they’re still married?

The second feature store is about indigenous people, their displacement and what they’re doing online. Can I just say how fucken beautifully woke this first issue is? A magazine with a feature story about online sex and another about indigenous rights would be mocked and trolled on the mainstream internet in 2024.

Next up is a bland story about Sausage Software and HotDog, one of the first Aussie internet darlings (despite the CEO being a Kiwi) and one of the first ever HTML editors that let you make a website like you were using a word processor. Looks like Steve is now a cryptocurrency booster going by his LinkedIn profile.

What a nice little ad for what I think is a small NSW based ISP. Cute.

IRC is mentioned just as much as the WWW in this issue. I think we forget how damn popular it was. IRC was like, real people, you can talk to! It was so cool.

Keep this list of smileys handy and freak out the kids that know nothing but colourful high resolution emojis.

The official AFL website looks better then than it does now I reckon. That URL though, lol.

Internet sex, indigenous rights and now a list of homosexual websites - what a time to be alive. It goes for 5 pages!

Toyota’s website is superior back then too. Toyota - Tarago - image of car - specs & features. What more do you want?

Nutters on the Net. Conspiracy theories have always been a thing, but now they’re taken seriously instead of laughed at like they are here.

That’s it! Issue one of Australian Net Guide from 1996. I did not expect it to be so leftist and cover topics that would now be considered controversial. That’s a really bold move for your first issue, particularly for a publication by ACP, which was owned by Kerry Packer at the time. Pretty mainstream stuff. I figure they knew the type of person that would be into the internet is also into those kinda topics, so play to the crowd.

There’s only two other issues of Australian Net Guide on the Internet Archive, so if you have any, please scan and upload them! If you need help, please get in touch as I would love to read more of them.