Many years ago (circa 1995), I was coming back from the daily routine in Ecuador: whitewater rafting in the Rio Blanco. A beautiful class III river that ran through the Andes mountains into the Pacific Coast. Almost every night after the trip I would go with my friends to the internet cafe — one of a few in Quito. We would go there not to use the internet but to drink coffee. I knew coffee.
At that time, the internet cafes would only let you use hotmail. I did not know what hotmail was but I was happy with the coffee. In my mind and while drinking my good South American brew, I thought to myself, is hotmail a secret tool used by the US to communicate?
After a few seconds of pondering this question and without a clear idea of what Hotmail was, I decided to ask my Australian friend, in my newly acquired Australian accent. He looked completely puzzled. Luckily for me, Australians go with the flow. He laughed and moved on. However, I still did not know what hotmail was. Truly, there was no reason for me to know. My life, after all was in the rivers not in the internet.
A few coffees (and beers) later, Xman asked me for my email address. What’s that, I asked in a rather solemn way. That’s what hotmail is, he responded. Now I was intrigued to say the least. I truly wanted a hotmail.
The next day we went to the internet cafe to help me setup my email address. He said, forget the borg (aka. Microsoft) , go with Yahoo!. At that time (circa 1995) I had no idea why he would refer to Microsoft as the borg. Yahoo! sounded fun plus I did not want to be part of the borg, whatever that meant.
I needed a nickname I could use. We tried antonio but the internet was so old and by then that someone had taken that already. After trying for several minutes we gave up. No nickname was good enough. I wanted my own name and my own piece of the internet. I did not want to be antonio123 or altamirano2098.
The next day we met somewhere around the city. He looked happy. He had been able to get me a cool nickname (handle). The chosen name had been antoniocapo. I was like, WTF mate! But then he explained the reasoning behind it. Capo, it turned out, meant boss in Italian and at the time I was pretty good at helping people stay out of trouble in the river. He’d nicknamed me capo. And so, my nickname was born and I went on without using it for years. I had no reason to use it as I didn’t know anyone else with an email address except for my friend who had just created it one for me.
Today, if you look for me on Google you will see that all of the results are mine. I’ve become quite the internet citizen and have left the rivers behind.