My recent experiences in Second Life − so nearly comparable with actual lived experiences − have had me thinking about those other times when the future has manifested itself in my life on specific, very memorable occasions.
1980 or thereabouts: My father's company moved to Neal's Yard in Covent Garden and got themselves a TELEX machine. One evening one of the secretaries took me down for a demo and we 'chatted' to someone in the Middle East.
Winter 1992: Installed MS Mail (DOS) at home. The possibilities of email immediately revealed themselves, but this was still a private network requiring a local 'post office'.
New Year's Eve 1992: Drunken first exploration of Compuserve. Had a look around the message boards and searched for airline ticket prices. Even allowing for my state of inebriation this was all very astounding. It was still a proprietary system though.
Summer 1994: my first private Internet account. Before this my experiences had been limited to watching others use it and flicking through the remarkably thin 'Internet Yellow Pages'.
One of my first experiments with this new medium was to ask a question in the Usenet group sci.archaeology.mesoamerican: How did the Mexica (Aztecs) make their famed chocolate drink? Within 24 hours I'd had several replies from fairly senior academics in the field.
It all came thick and fast after that. The one other landmark that stands out is the morning in 1997 when I noticed a little green flower in my system tray - ICQ.