I found it long, long ago, 1997 or 98 I think, but my memory fails me as to exacly when it happened.
I was into the virtual airlines thing, back then I wanted to start a virtual airline by the name of UTW, Utah Trans West, and on various sites I found links to airliners.net but I ignored it for a while.
I finally decided to check it out when I was at Rocky Aspen Northern Virtual Airline's website. they are now defunct (Yep a virtual airline went under)
Anyways the link broght me to A.net. The first link I clicked on was "The Lighter Side".
The first photo I searched for was for a 747. No airline, just a 747. I think I was using A.net for well over a year before I ventured into the forums.
To tell ya the truth, I was scared to death of the forum! It took me a while to build up enough courage to make my first post: "Douglas to Boeing?"
At that time, there was only General Aviation and Aviation Photography, that's it. There was no user profiles, no passwords, in fact, here is what you would to to post a post:
You type your username
You type your e-mail
You type your message and hit post.
There was no preview, once you hit post, it was in the forum. Granite was not an Admin at that time.
Johan was more talkative at that time. That's right, you could carry on a conversation with Johan back then.
Man have things changed, I was 14 I believe, and I still look back on those low-tech days as the "Golden Age of Airliners.net"
Interesting people I knew back then-
British Airways 747
Ice Cream Man
Very basic usernames, eh? Can you gues what mine was??
My first username= "Brandon" Hehehe....boy have I come a long way.
Seriously those were the best days. I was scared to death of non_av when it started, only recently (Previous incarnation: SOUTHPACIFIC), have I joined non_av. I was VERY opposed to Aviation hobby when it first started, and Tech_ops, and all the rest. I loved the old layout. However, back then you could use someone else's username and get away with it!!
(Both MD-11 and L-1011 had that problem, I believe his name was someone Bradley, from Richmod Virginia)
Ah the nostalgia