The World Wide Web celebrates its 30th birthday today. I’m older than it. Well, not by a lot. If it’s a school situation, I’ll be the senior/senpai. But I digress. You see, I grew up in the heyday of the World Wide Web, when everything was slow and bleak, and websites were on single-frame displays, but it was OK because we didn’t have to depend on the internet for everything. Want to play games? Just go to the playground. Need to do research? Head to the library. Of course, this was before the World Wide Web became arguably more extensive than the library.
We have to address that the internet and World Wide Web are two distinct things—the latter was built on top of the former. But as far as I remembered, the two have gone hand-in-hand, which is why, just for the purpose of this article, I’m going to talk about growing up in the heyday of WWW, before the internet became what it is now.
I think the inconvenience did have its merits. It made us more patient, more grateful and more responsible. After all, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, right? You’ll understand as you read on.
Dial-up internet honed my patience
You haven’t really seen the dawn of internet if you’ve never been through dial-up internet. My mother had ours installed in our house when I was in primary school. To control our usage, my mum made us put money into a coin box ($3.50 for an hour—an amount we had all agreed upon before we got it installed) before we could use it. Months later, I realised I was the only one religiously putting in the money because my sister would cheat my using it for a few minutes a day so no one would notice. I guess even then, I was the one who couldn’t live with internet and used it more regularly than I should have. If you have used dial-up internet, you’d hate incoming calls as much as I did. The connection was tagged to a landline, so when a call comes in, the internet would be disconnected. And sometimes, It. Just. Wouldn’t. Connect. Life was hard back then, but I guess it taught us to be patient. I’m on a 1Gbps plan now, which makes me the most impatient person on the internet because whenever I go to countries where the internet is slower (even at work, tbh), I rage.
I wasn’t glued to my mobile phone because it couldn’t do anything
My first mobile phone was a Kyocera. I wanted it because it was silver, it’s a Japanese brand and I was obsessed with Japanese dramas. I traded it in for a Nokia 3310, which was so heavy it made my school skirt sag when I put it in the pocket. Stupid, naïve me left it in the pocket of my bag and went for lunch—and it got stolen. The thief got arrested but my phone was never recovered. In JC, I switched to a Motorola because flip phones were cool. That was the time when Singapore had its first foray into the world of mobile internet—it was known as Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). Each website took forever to load, but hey, it was our morsel of happiness. There was no YouTube, no Spotify, but we lived. Now, you can hardly see me without my mobile phone. I have it in front of me as we speak and when I’m not working, I refresh Twitter and Instagram every few minutes to catch up on the latest news/memes/cat videos. I probably should go on a digital detox but hey, no one is intervening (yet) so I guess I’m fine.
Email addresses reflect your professionalism
In the past, no one really made email addresses with real names. Everything was cool_gal123 or babydolphin82. My first email address was related to my favourite people in the world: BSB. When I first got it in primary school, I proudly told my friends about it. I continued using it all through university until it dawned on me how embarrassing it would be for me to email prospective internship companies and/or newsmakers for my Final Year Project using the email address. So I got a Gmail account with my name. And it made me realise, while I was proud to be a BSB fan (I thought my email address was funny and nostalgic), what would my prospective employers think of a girl who didn’t even think of putting on a professional front when she’s one step away from the workforce? Especially in this day and age where spam mails are sent in billions every day, an email sent from bsb-something would probably be filtered as junk mail. Which was why when I finally graduated from school, I bade goodbye to the nostalgic email address because I saw it as a part of adulting.
My memories were deleted along with Friendster
Before Facebook, there was Friendster. Friendster is so old that I can’t even remember its exact features—only that it was gold. We could add friends, leave testimonials for friends and add photos. It was where I learnt the word “accede”. My friend had left a testimonial on another friend’s wall, telling him that she would “accede” to his request for a testimonial. I guess it helped my English too, even though most of the time, people wrote things like, “U r a gr8 friend.” Friendster was similar to Facebook in a lot of ways, but perhaps had limited capabilities compared to the latter, which was why it eventually lost to the social media giant. All my Friendster photos are gone, and so are my memories, and it made me realise how fleeting memories are now because we store them online in the form of photos and captions, and once the server is wiped out, we don’t retain any of those memories. We live in moments to take photos and sometimes, we’re too caught up with getting the right or most flattering angle to even notice our surroundings. Look at a selfie that you took two years ago—do you even remember why you took it?
Neopets trained me to be an adult
Anyone who played Neopets was probably obsessed with it—I was one of them. I liked to think that Neopets groomed you to be a responsible adult because you had to feed it (in a similar way that you feed your Tamagotchi), among other things. You also had to complete quests, which trains your brain. Of course, that’s the reason I gave to play it religiously every day. I can’t remember how I got out of it—maybe the real internet happened.
Chain mail made me wary of spam emails and suspicious links
You know those spam/fake news you’ve been getting nowadays? Back in the day, it was known as chain mails. It’s one of those bo liao emails that you have to forward to people lest mishap befalls you or your family members. There are also those annoying ones that had people click on a link and a ghost pops up on your screen. I once clicked on a link that played really nice, serene music—until Sadako from The Ring popped up. I screamed, tripped over the wires, which in turn, pulled out the cable. It didn’t cause a short circuit but it made me skeptical about links from then on—even now. I guess that’s how I’ve managed to keep my computer virus-free. (That one time I had a Trojan horse, my sister turned out to be the culprit who downloaded s*** onto MY laptop.)
So… I guess I have to thank the Internet for making me a proper adult? Happy birthday, Internet!