It can seem hard to fathom now, but there was a time before computers were a central part of our everyday lives, and there are even a few of us dinosaurs left who remember that time well. In reality, it wasn't that long ago, but reflecting upon the weird things people did before Wi-Fi, it seems in many ways like a completely different world. Dial-up connections made logging onto the Internet time-consuming and frustrating. The scarcity of computers in general - schools, libraries, and a few privileged households - made them rare, exciting, and thrillingly new. What we now view as outdated technology from before Wi-Fi was once considered the fast lane on the "information superhighway" (a phrase both archaic and quaint in its throwback to another era). In short, computers were a delicacy, the notion of speed was in the eye of the beholder, and the idea of walking around with a portable, handheld phone/radio/television seemed like something straight out of science fiction.
Let's remember what the Internet used to be like…
Once a pre-Wi-Fi computer user got home from school or work, the first thing they wanted to do was jump online. But jumping required a lot more hoops back then than it does today. In most homes, you had to plug your landline phone cord into the back of your computer, click a few things on your desktop, and… wait. Wait to hear the dial tone, wait for the touch-tone dialing, wait for the telltale song of the modem making contact with the World Wide Web. It was both thrilling anticipation and maddening frustration rolled into one.
It's true. TV shows were not once-yearly events in which all episodes were dropped at one time, allowing viewers the luxury of binge-watching or moving through the show at their own pace. Back before Wi-Fi let us watch our favorite shows any time of the day or night, we had to wait with bated breath for a new episode to air each week. Then, agonizingly, we had to wait until the next week to see how things resolved. But all in all, there was something satisfying about sticking with a show, having the week to mull it over, getting to know the characters over the long haul. Also, there have been studies showing that binge-watching makes television less enjoyable. Just sayin'.
Folks in the pre-Wi-Fi world had to depend on dial-up modems connecting their computers to the Internet. And once you got logged on, you wanted to stay logged on. You couldn't risk someone else in the house picking up and dialing out on the landline, which was your computer's mainline to the internet. If they did, the connection would be lost, and you would have to start the dial-up process all over again. This was especially frustrating for those playing MUD games or chatting on AOL Instant Messenger (RIP). A lost connection meant a lost game or a lost conversation. Grr. The solution? Unplug all the landline phones to avoid anyone calling out.
With slow dial-up speeds came slow page-loading. This was simply a fact of pre-Wi-Fi life, something you accepted if you wanted to visit all those AOL chat rooms and porn sites. And speaking of porn sites, didn't it always seem like the connection was worse when you were looking at dirty pictures? TThe images - loading line by excruciating line -took forever with saucy stuff.