YouTube Videos from the 90's about Computers
February 17, 2015 9:43 AM   Subscribe

"How People Described the Internet in the 1990s Is Hilarious" A surprisingly rich listicle of some surprisingly deep (so much zeitgeist) revealing 90's videos and cliches pertaining to computers and the internet. Previously

Get started with Don't Copy that Floppy and America Online's groundbreaking commercial revealing the coming of "e-commerce", and Learn Windows 95 with some of the Friends cast, where topics from clicking on stuff to upgrade paths between versions of Windows are explored.
posted by aydeejones (63 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
Background: I come from a position of nostaglia and love and like this list a lot despite the typical linkbait mocking headline...born in 1980, and not ashamed to say I watched "Friends" but didn't tell my friends and thought AOL was awesome for many years despite being a BBS Geek, until I got my first UNIX shell account.

Staying at home sick from my own "tech job" and this is some Chicken Soup for the...ack, can't finish dorky metaphor...
posted by aydeejones at 9:45 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


You read my mind. Was just pondering a blogpost on "My 20th year on the interwebz" and 10th on metafilter, how symmetrical


on preview: the only time I had to use AOL was for my first job in Pittsburgh, don't even ask, I fixed that in a jiffy...
posted by infini at 9:45 AM on February 17, 2015


That Time cover with the line of images going straight into someone's goddamn pupil isn't cheesy so much as terrifying. It's like Un Chien Andalou meets a Best Buy catalog.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:50 AM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


Also possibly relevant (SLTWonderella)
posted by surazal at 9:51 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like how nearly every promotional video for "the Internet" and related services at the time included people listening to the I Have A Dream speech.

Ever. Single. One.
posted by The Whelk at 9:52 AM on February 17, 2015 [9 favorites]


I love this classic CBC clip: Peter Mansbridge introduces "Internet" in 1993. The "the" hadn't been invented yet.
posted by oulipian at 9:53 AM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


Metafilter:
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:54 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think I noticed at the time, but that lass advertising Windows 95 had quite a nice haircut.
posted by sobarel at 9:54 AM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


For me AOL was cool for a brief couple of years largely because my dad had it at the time while I was stuck with the local 1-line BBS's for the most part, and I couldn't sneak onto his account for very long without being obvious (10 hours a month), he had the DOS version that made your dinky DOS computer suddenly a GUI EXPERIENCE (still remember him explaining the acronym), and we were on the cusp of the graphical web being somewhat pleasant to use (PPP, SLIP, Mosaic, etc) but not quite. Once I bumped up from "UNIX shell account" to "UNIX shell account with PPP access and a Windows 95 box with a Pentium" around 1995, AOL was decidedly in "only for olds who are afraid of the real internet" territory.

What I remember most about AOL: the keyword searches, the debut of webcrawler, and chat rooms. It wasn't long before I was on DejaNews complaining about the onslaught of AOLers (as more crusty denizens complained about the onslaught of DejaNews users)
posted by aydeejones at 9:55 AM on February 17, 2015


Makes me want to surf over to the AltaVista search engine to look for more weblinks like these.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:56 AM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


Ugh. The only time I used AOL was when I needed CD-Roms to launch at people.

Thanks, office max.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:03 AM on February 17, 2015


Ugh. The only time I used AOL was when I needed CD-Roms to launch at people.

Two words: Beer coasters
posted by surazal at 10:11 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Now that I've gone on the internet, I prefer being on my computer... to pretty much anything!" Little did they know.
posted by yoHighness at 10:11 AM on February 17, 2015 [9 favorites]


Don't Copy That Floppy is cringeworthy and epic. No, seriously. Epic. It stretches what should be a 30 second corporate-wishful-thinking PSA into almost ten minutes. I didn't watch the whole thing and I don't think anyone else has, ever.
posted by double block and bleed at 10:18 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


For several years my main Internet access was the text-only Freenet using Lynx and Pine, but my computer was underpowered for Windows so my favored browser was Arachne, which I'd use by dialing in on my employer's dialup.
posted by localroger at 10:22 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


the media's concept of the internet and my experience on newgrounds and rotten.com were the first sign to my baby self that people on TV had no idea what they were talking about
posted by saucy_knave at 10:24 AM on February 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


Haha! People were so dumb back then!
posted by Ratio at 10:27 AM on February 17, 2015 [9 favorites]


Mercifully, the segment my local PBS TV station did on the Internet in 1994 that featured yours truly does not seem to be on said Internet.

I have it on Beta tape, of course. It will be cremated with me when I croak.
posted by tommasz at 10:27 AM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


In 1996, some friends and I went to a double feature -- Spy Hard and Mission: Impossible.

We laughed our asses off. Not at Spy Hard -- that was terrible -- but at MI's depiction of the Internet, which was so ridiculously presented that I was amazed that Atari 2600 Donkey Kong noises weren't piped in.
posted by delfin at 10:32 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


You can smell the flop sweat, fresh even after all these years: here is a new thing,and we urgently need to describe it in cutesy and down-home metaphors. Otherwise, people will be completely overwhelmed by it. Without being reassured that a TCP/IP "stack" is just like a stack of pancakes, they may lose their reason entirely and become like beasts.
posted by thelonius at 10:33 AM on February 17, 2015 [14 favorites]


Just wait 20 years and try to explain this to your kids.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:34 AM on February 17, 2015 [12 favorites]


infini: "...My 20th year on the interwebz..."

I just now realized that the first time I used the intertubes was 20 years ago, too. They had installed computers on the foundry floor in 1995 that were networked and just happened to have have Netscape installed. When I wasn't reading my management's unsecured email, I was surfing the World Wide Web.

It was a turning point where I decided that I was going to work with computers and not with molten aluminum. It wasn't that huge of a turning point, though. I already knew that working with hot metal sucks. I had one more bad job after that before I was able to BS my way into making technology pay my way.
posted by double block and bleed at 10:38 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yo, MSDOS raps!
posted by MartinWisse at 10:42 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Previously: The Today Show in 1994 tackles the burning question: "Alison, can you explain what internet is?"
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:43 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Compuserve. $200 a month or more. Arguments with the ex-wife. Ahhhh... the nostalgia.
posted by Splunge at 10:44 AM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]




It must have been from 1988 or 89, but any list like this has to start with the windows w-windows windows 386 video.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:19 AM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


"It's a world in which you're judged on what you say or think, not on what you look like" says the white girl bullying the black one to give up her hacker story...
posted by MartinWisse at 11:19 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just wait 20 years and try to explain this yt to your kids.

"Hahaha, grandpa, what are you saying? The internet used to be a thing outside of your body?"
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:21 AM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


OMG remember when Dejanews got redesigned ?

never mind the remember whenz, we're living dinosaurs, those of us with enough experience on both sides of the digital divide
posted by infini at 11:22 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Makes me want to surf over to the AltaVista search engine to look for more weblinks like these.

I made some joke to the eighteen-year-old of the house this weekend about having to use AltaVista in the era before Google, and she looked at me as though I were speaking Basque.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:35 AM on February 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


Social media will look just as stupid in 20 years.
posted by benzenedream at 11:39 AM on February 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


I made some joke to the eighteen-year-old of the house this weekend about having to use AltaVista in the era before Google, and she looked at me as though I were speaking Basque.
That's a digital native for you.
posted by MtDewd at 11:49 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


And they'll all be using their authentic names and wondering who all these cars parked under the stars was
posted by infini at 12:02 PM on February 17, 2015


so...

I found this at the bottom of the Related Posts thingie at the bottom of the page:

InfoBots are coming.
April 25, 2001 3:06 PM Subscribe

InfoBots are coming. I believe we've touched on this before, but now it seems to be moving from concept to reality: Instant Messenger "buddies" that are actually bots. You send them an IM with a question, such as "Hey pal, what's the weather in Thunder Bay, Ontario?" And it IMs you back with the answer, almost instantaneously. No waiting for messy web sites to load, no funky searches to run. ActiveBuddy has been the most, um, active in developing the technology, but they've been working on it forever without anything to show to the public. Now, it's out there, somewhere. CNET is reporting today that an ActiveBuddy beta bot has been live for a few months; you can play with it right now if you know its name. (And if you do know its name, a tip would be appreciated. I've been jonesing for this for a good while.) A more public version is supposed to be out in a few weeks. Here buddy buddy buddy...

posted by infini at 12:05 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


The "the" hadn't been invented yet.

This was a fussy issue in the beginning. My impression is that some entities wanted it sort of branded, like ARPANet, so it was a Named Thing. The usage of the article, I suspect, came largely from people within the academic and government culture where the term "internet" had been used more generically, e.g. "We need to build an internet between the two campuses." Folks who were just on it tended to use it as more of an abstraction. Problematically, this was enforced by style guides, which failed to wholly keep up with popular usage, and I believe it was only a few years ago, for example, that AP abandoned the instruction to capitalize "Internet".

AOL was decidedly in "only for olds who are afraid of the real internet" territory.

One of the reasons I used it well after it was, uh, cool (it was never cool among power users) was that it was one of the few ISPs that was both affordable and portable. (Also, I gave my original account to my dad and just used it as a secondary login. Once, perhaps a decade ago, I managed to absolutely floor a customer service representative who was helping get my dad back online when she saw how old the account was.)

Anyhoo, I go back to the BBS era, and then the USENIX local Unix box era, and bang path emails were still necessary in some cases. I was working in IT when one of the first WIRED issues described the web, and I spent the next month building a TCP/IP stack that would work on a Novell network from bits and pieces, because you had to (later they offered bespoke support). My first browser was Cello.

(And for those of you who don't know, I'm coming up on my MeFi fifteenth.)
posted by dhartung at 12:14 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Listening to the AOL dial-up connecting -- remember how often it WOULDN'T connect? -- honestly still makes my heart beat a little faster. It's going to work this time!
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:38 PM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


I got as far as the Windows 95 stuff and had to turn it off.

Too many bad memories. . .
posted by Danf at 1:02 PM on February 17, 2015


Two years ago, I was helping my parents' friends get a wireless printer working. I wanted to look something up online, and couldn't find a browser icon. Turns out, they were still using an AOL client to get online - basically as the launcher for opening IE. I installed Chrome for them and they haven't looked back. But having ditched AOL so long ago, it was a completely weird mix of nostalgia and loathing to see the log in screen again...
posted by gemmy at 2:12 PM on February 17, 2015


MetaFilter: a completely weird mix of nostalgia and loathing
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:58 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


The usage of the article, I suspect, came largely from people within the academic and government culture where the term "internet" had been used more generically, e.g. "We need to build an internet between the two campuses."

"Internet" was in use by the late 1970s as a shortened form of "internetwork" (itself a contraction of "interconnected network"). The terminology was hashed out in early RFCs and the "Internet Experiment Notes" See e.g. the usage in RFC 791 (1981):
The Internet Protocol is designed for use in interconnected systems of packet-switched computer communication networks. Such a system has been called a "catenet"... The internet protocol is specifically limited in scope to provide the functions necessary to deliver a package of bits (an internet datagram) from a source to a destination over an interconnected system of networks.
"Catenet" is from "[con]catenated network".
posted by junco at 3:00 PM on February 17, 2015


Nothing to do with the real reason all this glorious shining internets exist of course?
posted by infini at 3:08 PM on February 17, 2015


"Catenet" is from "[con]catenated network".

Wait, internet could have been called catnet? Can we retcon this into common parlance?
posted by oulipian at 3:25 PM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


My two and a half year old daughter, who is more than familiar with the P-ad (ipad) and 'netfix', today told me to 'fix it, Daddy' when she ran her finger across my laptop's screen and nothing happened. I'm already a dinosaur.
posted by Elmore at 3:57 PM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


What, no Warriors Of The Net?
posted by dglynn at 4:08 PM on February 17, 2015


Listening to the AOL dial-up connecting -- remember how often it WOULDN'T connect? -- honestly still makes my heart beat a little faster. It's going to work this time!

I did not remember that until this very moment and suddenly I feel ancient. I was about to feel smug that we don't have to deal with that any more, but then I realized that mysterious router problems and WiFi signals suddenly dropping are the new version of dial-up failing to connect. Time is a flat circle.
posted by yasaman at 5:28 PM on February 17, 2015


Why not go ALL the way back?
posted by Muddler at 6:05 PM on February 17, 2015


>Wait, internet could have been called catnet? Can we retcon this into common parlance?

OK, I've retconned this into common parlance. Now if you tell someone you were browsing catnet, they will know what you mean.
posted by Phssthpok at 6:25 PM on February 17, 2015


The "the" hadn't been invented yet.

There was a time in the 1990s when URLs had become common enough that they often needed to be given on NPR and BBC radio shows, and so they were of course read (slowly and carefully, often twice) in their entirety: "haitch haitch tee pee colon slash slash doubleyou...." all the way to the final string of characters.

That, obviously, led to discussions in articles (I can recall this in both New Scientist and the Economist) of a better way to pronounce "http://". My favorite was the decidedly non-phonetic "happytap," but I don't recall anyone suggesting just leaving off that redundant part -- that came a few years later, along with URL shorteners instead of the painfully long URLs that attend personal websites on university servers and everything connected to geocities. There was something charming about listening to some nervous researcher stumbling over a terribly long URL on live radio, though, that has been lost to progress.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:26 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dip Flash: "but I don't recall anyone suggesting just leaving off that redundant part -- that came a few years later"

It wasn't initially redundant and it is still merely a default rather than unnecessary. You can still for example get to ftp servers in your browser by using ftp:// and of course https:// is something you may want to specify even on Metafilter.
posted by Mitheral at 7:02 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


It wasn't initially redundant and it is still merely a default rather than unnecessary.

Yes, definitely. In retrospect that is what is interesting -- that the default wasn't clear, so it was no more obvious that browsers would fill in the missing http:// (as well as even the missing www) instead of needing a better way for announcers to say http://.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:37 PM on February 17, 2015


We never had AOL, but I do remember buying Netscape at Software+.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:02 PM on February 17, 2015


... a better way for announcers to say http://.

And they nearly always said "backslash" for some stupid reason. I guess because Internet is on computers and so is DOS and DOS uses backslashes.

Occasionally I notice people still doing it, and, it's like, come on! Those aren't backslashes! They're the regular playing-a-guitar-solo-on-the-edge-of-a-cliff-while-enjoying-a-cigarette kind!
posted by Sys Rq at 9:13 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]




that Mazda ad, the horror
posted by thelonius at 2:05 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


infini: "
InfoBots are coming.
April 25, 2001 3:06 PM Subscribe

[...] You send them an IM with a question, such as "Hey pal, what's the weather in Thunder Bay, Ontario?" And it IMs you back with the answer, almost instantaneously. No waiting for messy web sites to load, no funky searches to run.
"

You're telling me people used SmarterChild for... information? And not just as a punching bag for juvenile insults?
(Or maybe that was just me and my cohort of AIM friends)
posted by Gordafarin at 2:08 PM on February 18, 2015


Holy shit, "I'd rather be on my computer than doing just about anything!"
posted by aydeejones at 7:45 PM on February 18, 2015


(reads thread, hides)
posted by aydeejones at 7:48 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, the portability of AOL, that is, lots of access numbers across the country in a time where long distance was expensive and computers communicated over phone lines was a damn fine feature now that I think about it.

I didn't notice much at the time because we didn't travel with our honkin' desktops but basically when you were in a different area code it could quickly dial into a 1-800 number to grab a list of numbers in your area code, bang away from one to the next through the possible busy signals eventually landing you on a hit throughout the country. I helped a lot of people migrate away from MSN (read: cajoled, prodded random people who wanted my help and happened to use THE BUTTERFLY NOOOO) in the early 2000's and one of them actually was briefly inconvenienced by giving it up because he only had a phone line at his resort time share (the horror, but I did feel bad and by the next year the expensive-ass place with a multiple-part-latin-name had public WiFi).
posted by aydeejones at 7:55 PM on February 18, 2015


Haha! People were so dumb back then!

OP: I grew up in this era and that's not how I enjoy it, though certainly it's the spirit of the listicle. So what.
posted by aydeejones at 7:59 PM on February 18, 2015


On the other hand, remember those "...you will." commercials from AT&T narrated by Tom Sellick back in 1993-94? A LOT of their predictions came true, and often not without too much interpretation needed.

You Will
posted by ShutterBun at 11:26 PM on February 18, 2015


The only time I used AOL was when I needed CD-Roms to launch at people.

CD-roms?

Luxury.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:40 PM on February 18, 2015


Facebook is the new AOL. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or bad thing.
posted by infini at 12:41 AM on February 19, 2015


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