The internet in its classical sense is only thirty years old, yet now we have no idea how to live without it. But life was also pretty good in the days before the internet! And in this life, there were a lot of really cool things that we now miss so much.
Actually, the word “we” refers mostly to people who remember those times well. When Facebook was just a collection of photos of your classmates and Amazon was just a kind of parrot. When Pacman was the big game of the year and Michael Jordan was just a budding rookie.
There is an incredibly popular thread on Reddit with 45.5K upvotes and over 17.2K different comments answering just one simple question: “People old enough to remember life pre-internet, what are some less obvious things you miss about that time?”
Bored Panda made a selection of the most nostalgic and warm memories of those wonderful times of cassette recorders, Bird – Magic rivalry and the Back to the Future movie. We guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet. But your parents are going to love it.
More info: Reddit
Leaving home and just being gone for the day. No cell phones. If there were cameras, it was really different. You used them to take pictures of things or had people take pictures of you. But there was no social media to preoccupy your mind. It was just doing something. And whoever you were with, was who you were with.
Simplicity. I don’t even know how to describe it. Like my days were filled with playing outside or swimming or reading in tree out front.
Before the internet, facts were “curated” in the sense that information came from people with expert knowledge and was distributed by journalists or teachers who were held accountable for accuracy of information. The internet has allowed crazy people to spout rubbish with hardly any filter.
For me it would be less negativity. Back then I was less aware of what was going on around the world outside of where I lived but now it’s almost instant coverage of the bad things happening everywhere.
You had to call someone’s home phone number and talk to their parents first before you could talk to your friend
Video game cheat codes either spread by gaming magazines or by word of mouth. Sometimes that word of mouth was b******t. I’m looking at you Tomb Raider nude cheat code
My formative years were the 1980s. I remember like yesterday going to study in Paris my junior year of college. I got off the plane with no cell phone, no internet, a Let’s Go Paris book, and just a hostel address written on a piece of paper I’d stuck in a French dictionary. I did not know a single person in all of France.
I had $500 of cash stuck in a money belt. The belt was tight and sweaty but that money had to last me for at least a month until I could find a part-time job with my lousy French. My “credit card” was my father’s credit card numbers written down on a piece of paper. He told me I could only use it to buy a plane ticket home in an emergency.
I remember standing in the airport and having this powerful emotion of being 21 years old, scared shitless, but in absolutely completely control of my own destiny. There was absolutely nobody who could come rushing to my aid if I needed it. I was 100% on my own.
I’m actually very thankful for that experience. I found the hostel. I found a job. I made friends. I learned French. I made it all on my own which was just a big boost in life confidence.
I have no doubt if I’d had a cell phone I would’ve called my parents on Day 2, told them it was too hard, and been on the next plane home. But I had no other choice but to succeed.
Privacy. When you left work or school it was over for the day. There were no further interactions unless they were close friends. Hanging out. Teens and young adults spent a lot of time away from home with friends, at malls, movie theaters, parks, arcades, etc. Dating. You met someone at school, work, at a party, at a bar, or through friend. Money. Cash was king, debit cards didn’t exist, and many businesses didn’t accept credit cards (fast food, for example.) Planners and Address books. Write it down! Appointments, birthdays, addresses, phone numbers, reminders, etc. Photo Albums. Taking the time to buy film for a party or special occasion or just because and having 24 photos you could take (with no way to see the final photo until you took it to be developed.) Road maps. Going anywhere you haven’t been before? Better stop at a gas station and buy a map. Shopping. Go to the store and see what they have. Do the local stores not have what you need? Try looking in a catalog, maybe you can mail order it. Music. On the radio and on MTV. Buy records, cassette, or CDs. Make mix tapes to create your own playlists. If you don’t record it off the radio or buy it there is no way of finding it again. There was so much “not knowing” which made the world seem so much bigger and exotic. Now everything feels noisy and petty.
video rental stores. i have such good memories of going to our local Mr. Movie with my dad, renting a sci-fi flick and getting candy at the checkout. streaming is cool and all, but i do miss video rental stores, mainly for nostalgic reasons.
Going to the library to research things. I loved getting a big pile of books on a table, taking notes, getting photocopies. It was an experience in itself.
Also, not being available to everyone all the time. I hate that almost all apps show people when you read their messages or are online. No one needs to know that I read a message and didn’t reply for two hours!
Being in the moment. There was little temptation to be stuck in front of a screen or a phone all of the time.
TV had a schedule and wasn’t in demand, so if something you didn’t like came on you usually went to do something else, like go outside, read a book, or whatever. Life didn’t revolve around screens, and everyone was better off for it.
It sadly seems to take far too much self control to do those things these days.
The instant win bottle caps / candy / chocolate bar wrappers where you could turn them back into the store and immediately get a free one. Now it’s just codes you have to register on their website so they can get your info, i don’t even bother anymore.
When you bought new music you just had to hope it was good. The single might be popular but otherwise unless someone had it you just bought it and hoped for the best.
RSVPing mattered. If you said you were going to be there, you made sure to be there. None of this facebook invites that everyone blows off without any form of social repercussions. If you said you were going to go and didn’t go, you were the a*****e and everyone knew it.
Reading the newspaper and magazines used to be just about one of my favorite things.
Now it seems pointless to clutter the house with so much paper when I can access all of it online – but of course I don’t. I pick and choose just a few articles, I don’t really browse the way I would before and I encounter a lot fewer new or enlightening things.
Getting the Sunday New York Times and then going out for brunch and reading it with your friends/dates was such a treat.
I used to get so excited when my favorite magazines came in the mail, I’d immediately sit down and leaf through them and see what was worth reading right away and what could wait.
Living in the moment. Memorizing peoples phone numbers. People were less flaky. No manufactured drama over likes and dislikes.
Sitting down in the evening to read a book because there was nothing on tv. With today’s streaming services, there is so much more media being produced – and it’s all available at the click of a button whenever you damn well please. It can easily become an endless loop of what to watch next. I remember when there used to be 8 channels. You either had to watch “General Hospital” or find something better to do.
Being at a party and folks not checking their phones. In the good old days you had to interact.
Before the internet, people with crazy ideas lost confidence when they could not find others who agreed. On the internet, you can easily find at least 100 people who will agree to something, even a totally crazy idea. As a hold-over from the olden days, the 100 people who agree with you seems like a lot.
This is gonna sound dumb but… getting lost. Like, it was bad a lot of the time too but sometimes not knowing exactly where you were going led to unexpected and awesome consequences.
News only being on at 6pm. That was it. Now we have 6 hours of local news and 24 hours of cable news. Not being bombarded all day with “news.” And when you saw “Breaking News” on the screen you knew some serious s**t went down.
Edit: My old brain interpreted “pre internet” as “when you were a kid”. So yeah cable news was a thing ore internet. But you all know what I mean. When I was a kid local news was noon for 30 minutes and 6pm for 30 minutes, then Network news was 6:39 for 39 minutes. I think local might have had an 11pm too but I don’t remember for sure.
People just stopping by your house. You would be just sitting there drinking beer or scratching your a*s and boom, someones at the door.
Having to wait for movies. It was more of an event to go see a film. Kids being kids. The Arcade. Travel before everything made it Instagram. Meals before everyone took photos of it. MTV played music. Being home on time to watch your favourite show.
The ease at which even a kid can gain access to the scariest of content (or super serious content) is such a drastic change from the 90s early 2000s.
I lived in Garland, TX before the world wide web took hold. I remember buying the very first Wolfenstein sample disk at a grocery store. In it, there was an address to send a check or money order to in order to get the full version. Apogee Games was the distributor, and they had their office in Garland at the time. I rode my bike way across town and went to their office with cash in hand to buy the game. All the guys were there packaging their game into sleeves getting them ready to ship. I got to talk with them for a few minutes and got mine handed to me by John Romero. I have been a huge fan of his ever since. This all happened in 1985 I think.
I found out that the games Wolfenstein and Doom were programmed in an apartment complex down the street from my childhood home. They all rented apartments there and they each chipped in for an extra apartment where they did all of their coding and design work. Later they rented offices in Mesquite near the local mall. Seeing their Ferraris was a great experience because I always wanted to be a programmer and they were the shining example of success. I haven’t made it as far, but I feel I have been fairly successful as a programmer.
EDIT: I didn’t get the timeline much wrong, it was 1987. When Wolfenstein 3D came out, I had already graduated highschool and had a job/car. I was mainly wrong about the game itself. It was distributed by Apogee, I had to ride my bike to get it. ID built the next few Wolfenstein games. Sorry about the confusion, I was a lot younger (50 now) and I’ve been drunk and stoned more than once since then 🙂
Making plans was an adventure, especially if you and your friends all relied on public transportation. Look up the movie times in the newspaper (or later call moviefone), decide on a time to meet (and tell that one friend who’s always late an earlier time), walk our your house and check the bus timetable (that’s hardly accurate anyway), and then hoping nothing happens en route since you had no way of telling your friends if you’re late.
You could be the cool guy that remembered s**t. Like who was in what movie or the themes to TV shows. Now IMDb makes everyone that guy and it’s not special. There’s a lot of little things like that.
Playing kickball with all the neighborhood kids on the block. Using addresses on the sidewalks as bases, having to run home cause the street lights came on, then mom inviting friends to come have dinner with us after.
I loved being away from tech completely. It was pure freedom to go “exploring” in the woods. No one to call you or get in touch with you. It was just assumed that the dog and I would make it home at some reasonable hour, typically before the sunset for the day.
It used to be a lot harder to bail on things. You’d have to call the person at home and tell them yourself, or at least leave a message if you wanted to be risky. Typically if you were gonna bail you’d give at least 24 hours notice. Nowadays people can let you know they’re bailing last second since you’re always reachable.
Not quite pre internet but pre everyone having computers, smartphones etc.
You could be unavailable. Full stop. And it wasn’t an issue that you didn’t see that email or get that text or whatever.
I kinda miss that ability to just not be contactable
**The blissful ignorance**.
When the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded it blew us away. It was such a devastating thing that it dominated the news for years.
Now there’s a disaster every other week. I honestly didn’t want to know that these kinds of things happen in our world. It forces us to grow up, think and act differently very fast.
Also **Urban Legends** are quickly debunked today, taking away from the enjoyment of the mystery of it all.
The ability to start over. I moved a lot, every move I could reinvent myself, bookworm, punk, preppie, I got to try out lots of aspects of my personality and my past wasn’t a factor.
I also miss patience. I get annoyed at TV ads now, radio makes you listen to the WHOLE song, even when you sooner like it….. I’m far too comfortable with instant gratification.
Having the music channels on at house parties.
Bike riding in the neighborhood and staying out till nightfall. Playing Tag, hide and seek, and having Nerf wars. Not to mention communicating via Walkie Talkies haha
I miss the debates about random unimportant facts or details.
You really had to know your stuff and/or be persuasive to win an argument. There wasn’t the ability to just instantly Google something to get the answer, you actually had to go find it in a book or an encyclopedia.
I vividly remember many times when people would argue or debate on something, go home and research it, then come back the next day to resume the debate.
The rollercoaster of emotion and the gamble you took any time you bought an album. Is this going to be amazing? Did I just waste 20 bucks? Why is it taking so long to get home!?
I miss my video game magazines. The thrill of getting one in the mail (often multiple because I had several different subscriptions) to read up on the next thing coming out, strategies for games that recently came out, and just the fun articles about related material were some of my favorite memories.