The World's First Internet Bench - a Suffolk idea ahead of its time
The idea of being able to access the internet whilst out and about was a new one in 2001. There were Internet Cafes, of course, but what if you wanted to go online whilst enjoying the great outdoors? Enter Bury St Edmunds innovative internet park bench.
The world's first internet bench, also known as the "cyber seat", can be found on the grounds of the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. It was installed on 6th August 2001 - and was a joint initiative between MSN.co.uk and the Borough Council.
It was customised to allow seating for four people at a time who could plug their laptops into dial-up internet for free, accessed via the arms of the bench, using two covered USB ports.
The bench became popular as a picture-taking location and was also covered by international television crews.
The first user was Brian Bagnall, mayor of Bury St. Edmunds.
During its first days, the bench was vandalised when someone tried to block one of the modem plugs.
BBC News reported that on first few days of the launch, two teenagers discovered that the bench could be used to make free international calls, so they phoned the local council to tell them about the problem, which was very public-spirited of them, and also tried to reach Bill Gates but were only able to reach his secretary. After that, engineers disabled the ability to make long-distance calls.
The bench was regularly patrolled and the garden where the bench was located was locked at night to prevent vandalism.
With the advent of Wi-Fi, the bench was deactivated. It holds a Guinness World Record for being the "oldest internet bench", and can still be seen in the park, with an explanatory plaque attached.
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