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Throwback: Growing up Online

Growing up as a 90’s kid

Having just finished reading Emma Gannon’s Ctl, Alt, Delete (I know I’m a bit late to the party here), I found myself with an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia. Whilst the World Wide Web was born back in 1989, it really didn’t catch on and become part of our everyday lives until the late 90’s. So as a kid growing up in the 90’s I too got to grow up alongside the Internet. The Internet was different back then. Life was very different back then. Life was very innocent. So I thought it would be a bit of a laugh to take a trip down memory lane to see what I remember about life back then.



Taking it in turns to use the house phone AND the Internet


First of all I have to address this one because it sounds so ridiculous now, but yes, there was a time when you couldn’t use the Internet and the house phone at the same time. And yes, there was a time when we had a house phone. Life was really that ridiculous. The Internet wasn’t always wireless and way back when it wasn’t, you connected to the Internet via your landline. There were countless times when my mum tried to make a call on the house phone and wondered why she couldn’t dial out, only to yell at me for once it dawned on her that I was connected to the online world. Either that or my mum would already be on the phone, unknowingly to me, so I would innocently connect to the Internet and end up cutting her off. Needless to say, this inconvenience was the cause of most of the arguments in my family growing up.



But First came Dial up


Before super-fast broadband, there was dial up. It took an absolute age to connect, we’re talking minutes, all while sounding like a cross between someone about to die in a horror movie and a ghost taking over your radio.  The noise was completely unbearable, it was the most awful screeching sound. If you want to listen for yourself, of course it’s now on YouTube for you all to have a giggle at. Yet now, we live in an age where there is the assumption that we are “always on.” Even the idea of having to connect just isn’t even a thought in our minds anymore because we expect all of our devices to already be online. Same goes for apps, we want to be logged in now 24/7. Could you imagine having to sign into Twitter or Instagram every time you wanted to scroll, on top of having to press a connect to the internet button?! We just don’t have the time for that. We expect so much more from technology these days.



If you had a question, just Ask Jeeves


And let me tell you that Jeeves just wasn’t good at his job at all. Google didn’t come along until 2005, so before that, the Internet didn’t contain even a fraction of the information it does now, meaning that Jeeves had very few answers. With pretty much any piece of information just a click away now, it’s so easy to take this for granted.



Emails were not only a novelty, but very useful


You wouldn’t say that nowadays, but back then they really were useful. But, once upon a time I had a pen pal. We were on the same plane, travelling to the same hotel for a family holiday and we became friends. We stayed in touch after our holiday but before the convenience of emails, we used to write to one another with pen and paper. YES. PEN AND PAPER. Hence the name, Pen Pal. Oh the struggles of keeping in touch via letters as you waited for your friend to write you back. It was a daily struggle. Will she ever write me back? There was no way of being sure. But it was all worth it when you got home from school that one day to find a letter waiting there for you with your name on it. The excitement levels were through the roof. Eventually moving with the times, we moved onto emails and now stay in touch via Facebook. Although having said that, Facebook is no longer my go-to for obvious reasons. It’s crazy how quickly the times change and whilst someone may be far, far away geographically IRL, they are only a few clicks away online.



Life was all about your ‘Top 8’ and ‘Skin’


If you remember Myspace, then you’ll know it didn’t set out to become a social networking site. It quickly became the place that we all rushed home from school to, to chat to our friends that we had just spent all day with. Back in those days it was all about who was in your Top 8 friends on your profile and your friendship was definitely cemented if you were top of each others lists. Then there was Bebo – think of it as Facebook meets WordPress – it was all about branding your profile with a new “skin” every 5 mins to stand out from your friends. You were definitely judged on this.