In the 90s there was no instant internet access. No broadband. No quick and easy way to check your latest Twitter, Facebook or Snapchat updates. Not that Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat existed in the 90s. But accessing the internet back then was no joke.
A hideous sound
The whole process involved you using the telephone network to connect to an internet service provider. This meant using an ordinary telephone line to make the connection. The noise it made was very distinctive, could drive you mad, and will probably send thousands of you into spasms of horror as you remember the hideous sound. The cacophony of white noise will certainly remind you just how difficult it used to be to look at a single website for information. It was almost not worth the trouble. At the time we accepted it as normal, but looking back, accessing the internet via a dial up modem seems archaic!
Yes, you remember – it began with the sound of the usual dialling tone you hear when you pick up any telephone. Then the beeping of each individual number being dialled, followed by several high-pitched shrieking sounds, a noise very like an owl hooting, lots of other random bleeps and a noise like a radio being tuned in. Not pleasant.
And you know how today you get frustrated when it takes more than a few seconds to load up Instagram? Well forget a few seconds. Sometimes accessing your browser of choice could take a good ten minutes. Many will remember turning on the computer, starting the dial up and then going away for ten minutes to make a cup of tea and watch the first few minutes of Coronation Street before returning to the computer in the hopes of actually using the internet.
These frustrations were only compounded when, just as you had finally found the site you wanted and were beginning to get somewhere, you could be cut off. Yes, your internet service provider could randomly decide that you had spent enough time researching your latest homework project or looking up the football scores and sever the connection with absolutely no warning, leaving you high, dry and wanting to scream.
Want a laugh? Take a look at this 90s instructional video for kids on ‘How to surf the internet’. And howl. Literally. Along with dial up modems, remember when no one was really sure what an ’email’ was, when forums were called ‘chat rooms’ and when ‘Ask Jeeves’ was the most popular search engine? This video is full of cheesy statements and questions like, ‘Learn how the net can entertain you and take you to far off locations!’ and ‘What’s a web page, something ducks walk on?’ It’s laughable, but it really demonstrates how naive we all used to be about the way the web worked. What about the girl’s statement, “It’s not just for boys either!’ What? When did anyone ever believe that the internet was just for boys?
The swipe of a finger across your Smartphone
Thankfully we are long past those innocent days now, and browsing the internet is as simple as the swipe of a finger across your Smartphone. 90s fans may long for some of the inventions that defined the decade, but not the dial up modem.
Long live Broadband! The white noise and waiting is certainly not something we miss.