Ah, the 90s—that glorious decade that started with the premiere of The Simpsons and ended with apocalyptic fears due to a system clock error. It was the decade in which we saw the promises of technology begin to change the world. Personal computers and mobile phones proliferated, music got industrial, and the Internet was born. It was an exciting time when everything seemed possible…no, that’s not quite right: everything seemed eventual.
We dreamed of the days of portable handheld devices where everything was connected and all the world’s information was at our fingertips. We also dreamed of hoverboards. These things happened, and it’s spectacular! But while there was so much to marvel at, there were plenty of things we were all happy to leave behind as time marched on. Let’s look at a few.
“BE-OOO-WE-OOOO-IP! Chshhhhhh…..” If you’ve ever heard it, you remember it forever. The literal sound of your computer data going through your telephone line, the modem sound let you know that 1. Your connection was working, and 2. Your ears could, in fact, bleed. Your modem had this distinct signature rhythm that was unmistakable, and if you owned one, I’m sure you’re thinking of it right now. While we heard it daily from our computers, hearing it when trying to make a phone call spelled certain doom for whoever was trying to access the Internet in the other room. Some people got second phone lines installed to get around this dilemma, but most of us had to live with the anxiety that your download of the Star Wars: Episode I trailer would be disconnected because someone had a call coming in, and you’d have to start anew. This is one of the grand reasons why we were all paging each other!
1. That Modem Sound
Do you remember Compuserve? If you did, consider yourself an Internet pioneer. One of the first Internet Service Providers ever, CompuServe offered users access to email, bulletin board systems, and newspapers, and even a very rudimentary Internet browser. It was great! Until it wasn’t. Eventually, we got sick of the boring number IDs and the restrictive walled garden approach and wanted to take to the high seas of the Internet with Netscape Navigator 1.0. That is, until flashier walled gardens like Prodigy and America Online lured us back.
image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/everdaniel/239793715
3. CRT Monitors
Not so long ago, televisions were radically different. We called them “sets,” they had small square screens with convex glass in front, and oh yeah THEY WERE FREAKISHLY HUGE AND WEIGHED A TON. Naturally, when it was decided that computers needed a visual component to interact with, they weren’t all too different. Computer monitors were big, bulky, heavy, and seemed to take up all the space in your house. You lived around your monitor, not the other way around. (And what is degauss, anyway?!)
image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belinea
4. Dot Matrix Printers
Ok, let’s be honest—these may have been primitive in comparison to modern printers, but they were awesome. Noisy but reliable, you can still find these out in the wild here and there, and if you do, enjoy the ride. Rip off the perforated sides of the paper where the guide holes are situated, enjoy the two tone paper and forget, for just a moment, about the concept of typography. Dot-matrix printers, I salute you.
image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dot_matrix_printing
Where did he come from? Where did he go? Like a mystery wrapped inside of an enigma, Clippy emerged from the depths of Microsoft Office to mock us with his friendly questions bereft of any true help. He’d arrive just in time to watch us fail at creating a table, or smile gleefully when we couldn’t find the menu option for clip art. Clippy wasn’t the antithesis of the “User-Friendly” movement; he was the twisted monster of our technological nightmares. If artificial intelligence one day emerges to conquer mankind, Terminator style, it will take the form of Clippy, and we’ll know the face of our enemy.
Let’s face it, while we may complain, perhaps even exaggerate a little, we loved 90s tech, and wouldn’t trade for a second the experience of being at the forefront of so many emerging concepts. It’s a badge of honor, so wear it with pride! I know I do.
image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bsimser/
What other 90s tech can you remember? Leave your comments below!
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By Gretchen Hoffman