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The hippest internet cafe of 1995

One of New York City’s first internet cafes says a lot about how the early internet felt. Here’s its story, told by one of the founders.

Phil Edwards is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

The @ Cafe was one of New York City’s first internet cafes, and though it didn’t last long, its story shows what it felt like when the internet was first bubbling into the public consciousness. Started in 1995 (and shuttered in 1996), it was as electrifying and frustrating an experience as the internet itself.

Glenn McGinnis knows that better than anybody — he was one of the co-founders of the cafe. Today, he runs a company that provides IT services for small businesses, but in 1995, he was recently out of college and excited about a dream to bring the internet to the masses.

It was an auspicious time to be online. Just 14 percent of Americans used the internet, which lent @ Cafe an air of excitement and mystery. The cafe earned copious free press and became, in its own way, a flashpoint for how people thought about the web.

At some points, McGinnis felt like he was just along for the ride. But as the above video shows, he knew one thing from the beginning: "How fast it was going to hit."


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