Metro 120

Richard Herring: Early porn was a devil to download

Wednesday 25 Jun 2014 
I was an early adopter of the internet, getting online in 1995. Back then it wasn’t the (shaven) haven of pornography that it has now become. It used to take ten minutes to download a single photograph (so my friends told me). You never quite knew what might be revealed as the picture slowly appeared from top to bottom. Lots of anticipation but also room for disappointment.
In those days, the internet was mainly used to get in touch with 20 bearded nerds to discuss the two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which the Bussard Ramscoop was employed for a different purpose than its intended function of gathering hydrogen molecules.
Even so, my erstwhile comedy partner Stewart Lee and I decided it was worth having our own website (a version of it still exists at for the few people who had computers, even though you couldn’t use the internet if you were on the phone. It’s only 19 years ago but it sounds like something from the Victorian era, doesn’t it?
Recently, someone on Twitter sent me a Lee and Herring interview from 1996 from a magazine called .net. In it, I make some bold predictions about the future of ‘the Net’, as we seemed to call it back then. ‘In the future,’ I say, with my tongue a little in my cheek, ‘there will be no television or films or books or anything. It’ll just be the Net.’ We haven’t quite entered the Matrix yet (though would we know if we had?) but that’s not a bad bit of crystal ball gazing.
The article ends by saying: ‘You can email Lee & Herring at’ I had totally forgotten that there was a time when email addresses were numerical. That makes the 1990s seem positively medieval. Surely even Queen Victoria’s email address was
It seems so archaic that I wondered if I were to send an email to that address whether it might actually go back through time to the 29-year-old me. It was worth a go.But what should I write? ‘Kill Stewart Lee, he will betray you’? Or ‘Here are the lottery numbers for every week until 2014’? Or ‘Warn the world about 9/11’? Should I be selfish, petty or try to save the world?
I was finding it hard to decide (and taking it surprisingly seriously, fearful that it might actually work). The information I gave could have repercussions. If I did convince the young me to kill Stewart Lee, then I would have done a great service to the world but I would probably be just being released from prison about now. And if I won the lottery every single week, then I reckon other people would get annoyed and stop playing. Even if I could stop 9/11, think how different the world would be. There’s not a person on the planet whose life has not been affected by that day. Stop it happening and everything would play out differently. Good and bad. I wouldn’t have met my wife. Worse, my cats would probably never have been born. I couldn’t risk it. What I am saying is that if I could prevent 9/11 I wouldn’t do it, for fear I might have different pets.
I realised I didn’t want to change anything about my life. There have been lots of bad things but they needed to be there to get me where I am. I am happy with what I have.So I just put: ‘Things aren’t going to turn out like you think,’ and clicked send.