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 What we now view as outdated technology from before Wi-Fi was once considered the fast lane on the "information superhighway" (a phrase both archaic and quaint in its throwback to another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…
They Unplugged The Landline To Avoid Getting Disconnected
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.
They Believed In Y2K
Once upon a time, computer timestamps were coded with a two-digit year instead of a four-digit year. This raised concerns about computers developing bugs and glitches come the year 2000, when the timestamp would recognize the year as "00," making 2000 essentially indistinguishable from 1900 and thereby causing our computers to go haywire. There were all sorts of what-if horror stories, nightmare scenarios, and premillennial hand-wringing as the year 2000 approached. Would nuclear bombs spontaneously detonate? Would the world's banking system collapse? Would all modes of mass communication suddenly shut down? These were all very real fears, producing very real paranoia over what would happen come midnight on January 1; a 1999 cover of TIME read, "The End of the World!?!."
They Initiated IM Conversations With A/S/L
Instant messaging conversations always started out with one greeting: A/S/L. No, not American Sign Language. A/S/L stood for Age/Sex/Location. This was usually in lieu of a hello and was presumably intended to see if the person with whom you were chatting was a good fit. Regarding the A/S/L phenomenon, Lifewire recommended the following: "Using full word spellings shows professionalism and courtesy. It is much easier to err on the side of being too professional and then relax your communications over time than doing the inverse." WTF?
They Spent Hours In Chat Rooms
Back in the 1990s, there was no better way to wile away the hours than popping into an internet chatroom and engaging in conversation with total, anonymous strangers. Chat rooms were often arranged by subject, and those subjects ran the gamut from the general (teen chat, music fans, book lovers) to the incredibly specific (Toyota Corolla drivers! Icelandic hip-hop! Any bizarre sexual fetish you can imagine!). It was shockingly easy to get sucked in and spend whole days chatting with people you'd never met. AOL was considered the cream of the chat room crop, and many a computer user wasted good portions of their young lives lost in aimless interwebs conversation. Incidentally, chat rooms are still around today, populated mostly by old people and trolls.