Thursday, September 30, 2010

Life Before the Internet

As I'm now 36 years old, I didn't grow up with the Internet.  We had an Apple IIe that we played around with, that had a black screen with green characters and a floppy disk drive, but that was about it.  When I was in undergrad, no one I knew had a laptop.  If we needed to use a computer, we went to one of the computer labs on campus.  E-mails were sent from those computers, but not in frequent use at all.  We used the phone back then or made plans when we saw people in person.  (No one had cell phones back then either.)  Since I was an engineering major, I didn't have to write many papers.  When I did, I went to the computer lab to type them in.  I learned how to use Microsoft Word on my own this way.

And the Internet?  A non-entity.  I remember for one of my computer programming classes (it was either the Fortran or the C class), our professor made each of us create a personal web page.  We used Mosaic to view the completed page, and everyone's were pretty much static text with a few pictures.  This was around 1993 or 1994, I think.  I don't recall ever surfing the Internet while I was in undergrad.

I got my first laptop in 1996, when I started working in management consulting.  We were all given laptops.  This is how I learned to use the Internet, but I still didn't use it very much initially.  It probably wasn't until around 1998 or 1999 that I really got into it.  Looking back, I don't know how I lived without the Internet, but somehow I did.  I think now about all the things I use the Internet to find out or do, and I can't remember how I did it before.  So, I'm going to try:

1.  To get the news, I had to either watch the news or read a newspaper or magazine.  Unless on television, there were no real time updates.  I had no idea what was going on in the world when I was in college, because I never did any of these things.

2.  To make plans with friends or keep in touch with friends, I used a landline phone or made plans with them when I saw them in person.  There was no texting or e-mails if someone was running late, since no one had cell phones.  We just waited for them to arrive.

3.  To find out how to get to a restaurant or anywhere else, or to find out their hours, I looked up the phone number in a phone book and called to ask for directions or hours.  Sometimes I also asked for directions at the gas station.

4.  To find out what was going on at campus or in my city, I read the local paper or the school paper, or relied upon signs on campus or word of mouth.

5.  To find out what was playing at the movies and at what time, I checked the newspaper.

6.  To find out about any topic that struck my fancy, I either went to the library and checked out a book, or went to the bookstore and bought a book.  Sometimes I actually looked up the topic in my mom's set of Encyclopedias.

7.  To listen to music, I bought a tape or CD, or just listened to the radio.  Sometimes when I wanted to hear a particular song, I called in to the radio to request it, and waited for hours for it to be played.  I'd then record the song off the radio onto a tape in my jambox so I could listen to it whenever I wanted.  If I didn't know the name or artist of a song, I had to call the radio station, sing it, and ask them to identify it.  When buying a CD or tape, I prayed that I would like more than just the one song for which I was buying the CD or tape. 

8.  To find out what celebrities were doing or wearing, I bought Bop, Tiger Beat, US, or People magazines.

9.  To find out what the latest fashions were, I bought Seventeen, YM, Teen, Vogue, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, or Mademoiselle magazines.  The "back to school" issues were the best.

10.  To find out what was on television each evening, I checked the TV Guide or a newspaper.

11.  To find the best price on a product, I went to each store where the product was carried to find out the price.  Then, I went back to whichever store had the best price and bought the product.

12.  To find out about new or good restaurants, I relied on the Food section of the Sunday paper or word of mouth.

13.  To find out about how certain stocks were doing, I relied upon the newspaper.

14.  To watch a movie at home, I went to Blockbuster or relied on HBO, Showtime, The Movie Channel, or Cinemax.  I also bought VCR tapes.

15.  To get anywhere, I wrote out directions on a piece of paper.  Sometimes I still do this, but usually I just print out Mapquest directions or use my Garmin Nuvi.

16.  To find out sports scores and stats, I either watched television or read the newspaper.

17.  To figure out a solution to any problem or how to do things I didn't know how to do, I had to ask people I knew or ask my mom.     

18.  To figure out how to spell a word, I checked a dictionary.

19.  To buy things, I actually went to the store. 

20.  To find out how other people felt about things, I relied on the Opinion section of the newspaper or what my friends or coworkers thought. 

21.  To find out about sales at stores, I relied on the newspaper ads.

22.  If I wanted to play Scrabble or Monopoly, I had to find another person to play with me.

23.  If I had a party, I had to send invitations by mail or call people on the phone.  Landline.

24.  To pay my bills, I wrote checks each month.

25.  To get a quote on anything or make an appointment, I had to call on the phone.  Landline.

I feel like I'm missing something huge, but that's about all I can think of at the moment.  But jeez, is it any wonder that the newspapers and magazines are having a tough time these days?  Look at how much people (i.e., me) relied upon them back before the Internet.  Now they are arguably becoming obsolete.             


  1. This is great! The only thing I still do regularly is look at map books and write down directions. I was my mom's co-pilot when I went along with her for real estate and home inspection stuff.

    I didn't get online until about 96... same year we got our first computer with a Pentium 1 processor, dial-up with the screechy noise and AOL!

  2. I rely so much on the Internet now that it's ridiculous. Last year the Internet went down (AT&T) at my office for like two days (so this included our e-mail) and we were all looking around at each other going "what do we do? We can't get any communications from the outside world!" It's sad how reliant we all are on this now, but yet I love it so much.

  3. Oh, I would completely lose it if I couldn't get online. I have no idea how I coped with long lines and killing time without my Blackberry either.