Nostalgia About the Early Days of the Internet

Filed under i used to be so cool, super furry animals

Remember how much more important the Internet seemed in its youth? How we didn’t rely on it for everything and didn’t entirely take it for granted?

I don’t remember how I knew what it was exactly, but I do remember the first time I ever used it. My best friend Tracey and I were going to a Men’s Glee Club concert at THE Ohio State University one day in our early years of high school, and we stopped by her older brother’s campus apartment beforehand to waste time and use his computer, which included what must have been the slowest modem ever made.

As I remember, it turned out that we’d left our tickets to the concert in her parents’ car, so we spent the entire afternoon looking up song lyrics and pictures of our favourite bands of the time: silverchair, Megadeth, Bush, and Nirvana. Recently, we had spent an entire Friday night at her house watching, pausing, watching, and pausing Bush’s performance of “Insect Kin” on “Saturday Night Live” that my mom had taped for us so we could figure out all of the lyrics. Which took hours. So yeah, the Internet and all of its tricks seemed AMAZING to us at the time.

I bring this up because my co-worker Nik was hovering over my desk this morning, swinging the laces on the hood of his hoodie back and forth over my monitor like windshield wipers, and somehow, it reminded me of the eSheep I had back in high school.

This little Sheepy would hang out above the taskbar at the bottom of your screen, walking, running, sleeping, and occasionally getting bug-eyed and dying. You could pick him up with your pointer and drop him, causing him to bounce, but that’s literally all he did. AND I THOUGHT IT WAS AWESOME.

Still do, to be honest. And thankfully, there’s a 4-minute+ video on YouTube to help me relive its glory.

So tell me: what did you love about Web 1.0?


  1. I remember being one of the first people to have ICQ, and then everyone jumped on the bandwagon.

    …and then I went to College 4 years later and everyone was up on AOL’s nuts like it was the best thing ever. I still think, if people would have actually taken the time to figure out all the badass features ICQ had, it would be around today.

    Speaking of which, does anyone even use Instant Mssgr anymore or have we moved into “Generation Voyeur” with Facebook and Twitter, etc. ?

    • I was going to mention ICQ, too! I think Trillian pretty much covers today everything ICQ did back then, but boy, do I miss those uh-oh sounds it used to make every time you got a message.

      I use AIM alllllll day long to chat with Kamran, and my entire office uses it to converse, but we’re a software company, so it makes sense.

    • Tracey says:

      I’m beating Katie to this comment, but we both LOVED ICQ. In fact, I have a right mind to immediately change all of my computer’s function sounds to the ICQ “uh-oh”.

      Oh, and my favorite thing about Web 1.0 was the total lack of advertising. Anywhere.

      • Everything about ICQ was great except for the way it looked, right? All grey with that red/green flower. But the offline messages! And the way you could change your screenname at will, because you were just a number!

        I kinda forgot there was ever a time before advertising. But now I remember the day I upgraded my AIM and found there was an ad square at the top in the new version. So sad.

        • Son of A Bisque says:

          I use Digsby instead of Trillian b/c is lets me keep up with all my social networking sites at the bottom too. For nostalgia’s sake, I’ve also found the ICQ sound–with your help if I remember correctly–and now use it as my default sound when someone IMs me for the first time…. which is, sadly, few and far between now thanks to Facebook and Twitter.

          While we’re on the topic of things no one else has matched re: ICQ’s brilliance, I had totally forgotten about Offline messages. There was an AOL add-on (or new version?) that let you do that, but it was glitchy at best. My favorite part (and one I wish ALL IM/SocNet sites would adopt) is selective invisible lists. My sociopathic/attention whorish nature NEEDS the ability to hide from people without the stigmata that comes from blocking them outright. CanIGetanAmenOnThatOne??

          P.S. — One of my chefs is going to write me a letter of recommendation for some restaurant below that Brooklyn Bridge. I just smiled, nodded, and said thank you… Do you know what she’s talking about??

          • It IS sort of annoying to have to be invisible to everyone at once, because of course there are people (i.e. Tracey) who I’m going to want to talk to all of the time. My boss pretty much flips out if I’m not online every moment of the work day, though, so invisibility isn’t something I ever get to enjoy.

            I haven’t heard of Digsby, but I’ll check it out so I can further ignore everyone who tries to add me as a friend on anything.

  2. Michelle says:

    Ahh…I loved when chatrooms weren’t dirty. Dude, Geocities was this major community and it was so cutting edge to have a webpage of your own. Checking the cool site of the day, every single day. Webrings. alt.newsgroups. Mr. T. ate my balls. Animated gifs. So much to choose from!

    • I had a Geocities website! Several of them, actually. And webrings! I totally forgot about them. I guess blogrolls have sort of replaced their functionality, but not nearly as well.

      • Tracey says:

        Webrings were so great, because you really could, conceivably, visit every. single. existing website on a particular topic. Totally unthinkable now.

        • While I was looking for Barbie card information because of you this morning, I found a Barbie webring!

          There were seven sites on it, so yeah, it probably doesn’t encompass every existing Barbie site.

  3. Erin says:

    It’s funny how thinking of 1997 on the internet brings a weird nostalgia for more innocent days, even though so much of it completely sucked (cf: slowest modem ever made). I used to spend hours in the They Might Be Giants chatroom. It was completely awesome. Does anyone else remember

    I had a Geocities website too, and I think an Angelfire one. I believe it prominently featured an animated GIF of Keroppi from the Hello Kitty oeuvre. And, of course, lists of my favorite movies and songs.

    There were also Yahoo groups. Those were fun. I recall that the early days of figuring myself out were completely supported by the conversations I had in the LGBT Yahoo groups I had joined.

    So, Web 1.0: silly but also helpful to questioning youth. And TMBG fans.

    • I met sooooo many men in the silverchair chatroom as a 17-year-old. I think that’s why I recall 17 as the best year of my childhood. And my parents were even smart enough to tell me to get outta there every time they saw me chatting. And also smart enough to keep the computer in their bedroom so they could walk in on me at any time.

      I’d probably still have that Keroppi GIF on this blog, because I never grew up. In fact, my old Geocities site is still up and running and has an animated ninja on the front page. Hot!

      So, you were questioning yourself all the way back then? Because I was under the impression that Jan, Keith, and Jesus had you pretty well under control.

      • Erin says:

        Heh, I think the reason no one knew I was questioning was because of Jan, Keith, and Jesus. I kept it all pretty much under wraps except to the internets. The first time I recall wanting to be with girls was age 13, actually.

        Katie, I wish we could sit down and have a cup of coffee sometime and talk about Web 1.0 and lesbians. That would be awesome.

        • I can’t believe I didn’t call it! I’ve lost so many friends by outing them against their will (and the choir teacher!), but I didn’t see you coming. You and James Watson could’ve been BFFs!

          Anyway, I would also love to have this coffee talk. Maybe we should plan an actual conversation the next time I’m in town instead of just dancing.

  4. natalie says:

    i logged on to prodigy after christmas 1992. i posted a greeting and a kid named ben from montana responded. chat rooms had yet to be invented–instead there were post forums.

    in 1994, IRC (internet chat rely) swept my college campus and we were OBSESSED. it was cool to get OPS for a room and have such godly powers to boot people and such.

    before all this, we had a commodore 128 (circa 1986 or so). it was pretty snappy and we had lots of games, including michael jackson’s ‘thriller’. we were so cooool.

    • I remember Prodigy, but I don’t remember what I did with it. Probably because there was nothing to do with it, right?

      IRC, on the other hand, was AWESOME. I got my first MP3 in an mIRC music channel, and Tracey and I spent all of our free time teasing boys by not sending them photos whenever they asked for them. Ahhhhh, when “a/s/l” was my favourite phrase.

      The Commodore is before my time, though, I’m afraid. You’ve outdone me.

  5. Cow says:

    Not really, life started at Internet.

  6. caropal says:

    I mostly remember using my best friend’s AOL account to talk to pedophiles in chat rooms, pretending we were the ripe old age of fourteen.

  7. Um Katie, that was more like Web 0.5, Web 1.0 in my opinion didn’t show up till you were able to get the aol homepage to display in under 5 minutes (with 33.3 modems).

    I was home using my company laptop (funny I didn’t own my own computer until I worked in the IT field for about 4 years, weird that I was really good at this and didn’t even own a PC, lol). Anyway I had a really important conference to setup for the next morning and before I went to sleep early I decided to see what this aol/internet thing was all about. Ahhh I can almost hear the modem screech from that 14.4 modem that seemed to last forever. As the crazy sexual horn monster that I am I went straight to a chat room (By the way: I don’t think chat rooms have ever been clean). I wound up talking to girls from Hawaii and Asia until 5am. I was sooooooo tired at my meeting, I was literally about to fall over from not getting any sleep.

    Weird thing is that pretty much sums up why I don’t get enough sleep now. The Internet is good for chatting with women, all the free pr0n a guy could want & downloading illegal music (Katie don’t you chatterbox to any Matlocks, including Kamran about this).

    Actually I was feeling a bit nostalgic for the past week and was about to post a blast from the past blog entry on my site…look out for it…it will rock!

    • Well, thanks for making me feel even more oldschool.

      See, your story about the conference is exactly what I’m talking about. There was a time when chatting and looking at websites was so exciting to me that staying up all night for them was totally worth it. Either I’ve just gotten old, or the Internet has gotten too humdrum. Not for you, though, apparently. Maybe the problem is that I don’t enjoy cheap thrills the way you do.

  8. Eric K says:

    You can actually still download a copy of that sheep program here:

  9. Kelly says:

    I had forgotten ALL about the e-sheep. Those were pretty badass. I want one now, as a matter of fact.

  10. Emily says:

    What I loved most about Web 1.1 (well, or maybe 1.2) was that you and I both had blogs before blogs were blogs and blogs were cool. We were THE Protobloggers, Katie Ett.

    But what I loved about Web 0.1 was sitting on my dad’s lap in, like, 1985, or maybe 1986, and actually dialing into the internet on the phone. We would listen to The Creepiest Computer Voice Evar as it would ask us to dial in our information, and then it would make the creepy dialing modem noise, and then the computer screen would be all black with white letters, like DOS, and we would have typed conversations with some other person from some other part of the world. Dad would be like, “This guy that we’re talking to is in SPAIN!” And I couldn’t even fathom that, mostly because I had only the faintest idea of where Spain was when I was that age. Those are some pretty damned warm-fuzzy memories. No wonder I love the internets so much.

    • Tracey says:

      I loved modem noises! Except for when I had to hear them over and over again when I was having problems with my connection. I can’t believe I forgot to say anything about dial-up in general, since I used it for so long. Sometimes, I used OSU’s free dial-up number that only lasted for a half hour at a time before kicking you off, and I remember the pain of getting disconnected from AIM and irc conversations with friends and boys I wanted to date and having to be all apologetic when I came back, because I was THAT girl with the lousy connection. Oh, the things we take for granted today.

  11. Erin says:

    Speaking of Geocities…it’s the end of Web 1.0 for reals.