The Internet, Then And Now

Illustration of an envelope, folder, computer, and CDThe Internet has come a long way since it became a part of our day-to-day lives. Gone are the days of the Information Superhighway and — uh-oh — ICQ. Now we can ingest an entire series of a primetime drama in a single weekend (thanks, Amazon and Netflix) and video chat in real time with our family across the country (hello, Skype and FaceTime). GEICO knows this evolution intimately—we were the first to offer 24-hour phone service, and now we have the number one rated mobile app in the industry.

Here are some of the best of today’s and the worst of yesteryear’s Internet.

Then — AOL CDs:
It felt as if these CDs were mailed out every week when everyone was scrambling to get on the Internet in the ’90s. If the amount of free Internet each disc promised was actually true, our grandchildren’s grandchildren should never have to pay for Internet access.

Now — Tabbed browsing:
Remember using multiple browser windows for comparison-shopping? No longer, thanks to tabbed browsing. If I don’t have 30 tabs open by the end of the day, it means work got more of my productivity than it actually deserves. #AMIRIGHT?

Then — The long, long wait for one photo to load:
“Hey, check out this picture of my kids.”
*click*
Waiting…
Waiting…
“Oh, it’s a kitten hanging on to a branch with the words ‘Hang in there’ written in Comic Sans. Cute.”
There’s no getting that half hour of your life back.

Now — Watching, in real time, as your pizza order is prepared and delivered:
You never have to talk to an actual human being to order a pizza ever again. Now you can watch a status bar progress from preparation through to delivery on a pizza-maker’s website. (They just need to enhance it to include the status of your inevitable indigestion.)

Then — Making your own website with Geocities or Angelfire:
Did you want to publish your own movie reviews or share your Beanie Babies collection? The late-’90s Internet was the place for you. Just as long as the text was centered on a starscape background with horizontal rainbow bars between every other paragraph.

Now — The Internet in your hand:
The phone in your pocket (or on your belt, if you’re super cool) is more powerful than your desktop from six years ago with that 21-inch CRT monitor that somehow never fell off your desk. And it helps you avoid annoying tasks like leaving your home to find a date.

Then — Email:
A colleague once told me, “There’s no way the post office will let you send a letter around the world for free.” Well, email didn’t deliver CDs from my latest Columbia House order, but it did (somehow) send my message—and it got it right most of the time.

Now — Email:
I’ve got nothing. While tweaked and given an aesthetic overhaul, email is such a killer idea that it hasn’t really changed much since AskJeeves was selling search results to the highest bidder.

See why the GEICO mobile app is the best in the business. 

How has the Internet evolved for the better for you? Tell us in the comments below. 

By Mathieu Yuill

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  1. Paula says

    Hmm. My first computer was a QuadraTek 2000? 3000? back in the 1970’s. It used wedged shaped glass pieces for font selection. Four wedges fit in a round holder in the computer. I could plan as many as four fonts at one time. Wow! As I typed, I had to insert a code at the beginning where a certain font started and a code at the end where that font stopped and another code that picked up the font info on another wedge. Of course if really neat effects (i.e., italics, bold, underline) were needed that meant inserting another code at the start and stop of each effect within the code for the font wedge. All the coding as well as the text showed on the monitor. The scrambliness of it all took some getting use to. There was no auto check of any kind. So, proofing the work was a special skill to check the spelling and and the coding accuracy. Computer graphics were unheard of. That meant back to the old fashioned method of cutting sections or lines of the newly printed copy and pasting them around the artists drawings. And, oh the horrors, of having it all in place and finding a typo or that a code was wrong or omitted and the font style was totally thrown off plan. Now those were the days. Computers have come a long way. Oh yeah, it was a big deal when colored fonts came along. But, that meant another glass wedge of a font in, say, all red. Fiddlely work just to have a word or phrase stand out in another color.

  2. Art Watts says

    I to bought a TRS-80 the month before the color computer came out.

    I remember picking up the trash cans in the Corp of Engineers building (to dump then) and the place was empty until I walked into the building computer room and was amazed to see people busily working and a printer printed about 20 feet of the Missouri river bottom chart.

    I picked out of the trash can a stack of 80 column punched cards with Fortran typed across the top. I eventually became a programmer and finally understood what it meant. That was 1965. No internet then, so much has changed since then.

  3. Jessy says

    I hear the younger gen say Facebook is for old people. I think we will soon live in a post FB world, like the post AOL 2.0 world of today. I wonder if it still exists? I remember updating to a newer version every few months and how exciting it was to see what the new upgrades were going to be. I also recall the first hand me down computer my family ever possessed. We had a very small black and white box and after a few months it started smoking out the back of it, so my mom went and bought a Compaq, a few years later a Gateway.

    • Henri says

      1st computer TSR-80. It had WordStar as the one of the programs and games for the kinds, i.e., tennis and PacMan. My, how far we have come. My grandson does not move without his Kindle. He has had one since the age of three, he’s six now. He’s always showing me something new or how to blow up something on his Kindle. With all of this technology for communicating with each, you would think that the divorce rate would be lower and life would be better in our families-NOT. However, the technology we have with phones is nice for keeping in touch and all the information we have at our finger tips.

      What’s in the future? I’m sure in a few years what we have now will be obsolete and outdated.

      • Mathieu Yuill says

        This makes me so happy – my first computer was also a TSR-80!

        10 print “Hello!”
        20 goto 10
        30 Run

        “Hello!”
        “Hello!”
        “Hello!”
        “Hello!”
        “Hello!”
        “Hello!”

  4. David K. Yamamoto says

    Hey Gang, remember the “Web TV”? Well, I had bought one for $99, hooked it up to the TV, and boy! I loved it! A page to turn gave me time to go cook a meal or take a shower even.

    No, I’m just kidding from today’s perspective. I really liked my Web TV. It was so high tech and just cool to have had one.

  5. Michelle says

    The only thing about early computers that bothers me is that I’m too young to have bought stock to be a billionaire today. I was born 20 years after computers were invented. If you people didn’t buy Microsoft in the 70’s maybe you didn’t understand computers.

  6. Dave says

    I remember i got my first computer when i turned 16. It was a pentium 200mhz and i thought it was the greatest thing in the world lol. AOL: enough said, who remembers that annoying buzzing sounds as you connected to the internet. Good memories, and now the days of desktop computers are almost obsolete, i either use my smartphone or my ipad to get the job done!!!

    • Stewart says

      Okay. I have to admit that I do remember that buzzing sound as you were trying to connect to the internet, but my parents were smart back then and told us to enjoy time AWAY from all the technology that seems to be everywhere now. I don’t exactly agree that technology is the complete answer for everything in this world. I mean, just look at nature, it doesn’t need Netflix, Facebook, YouTube, or other man made gadgets to work or operate. I do agree about medical technology and technology as TOOLS ONLY and nothing more than this. At my work people hardly talk to each other in conversation anymore, but they would rather be anti-social and keep staring at their iPhone screens and be silent. I don’t have a Facebook account, and I have tried online dating, but am sick of not being able to actually be there with that person and pick-up on the subtle non-verbal gestures they do. All in all, I think there are very few positive benefits with all this “technology” we have now. Medical, search and recue, military, some commercial, and law-enforcement have benefited from technology greatly, but if you were to sum up the benefits and the downsides of technology, then you would see averaging occur proven by statistics and probability. YOU CAN NEVER GET SOMETHING FOR NOTHING, because in the end, everything catches up with you and will probably demand interest payments for it as well.

  7. David Stephens says

    My first computer was a CTX ordered from a national mailorder company in 1998.Did pretty good for its day.Man,was that thing bulky and heavy to pick up.I now have a HP desktop computer that is light enough to pick up and carry around if necessary.The internet has changes a lot.I now have Microsoft Windows 8 which is quite different but I like it.Any computer can be frustrating when things go wrong but I still want one in my house.The good outweighs the bad when it comes to a computer.

  8. Jeff says

    Haha, yeah I hadn’t thought of the old days of internet in a long time as well! Got a good laugh out of the posts though 😉
    And another story from the 90’s comes to mind: Sitting in internet/coffee bars playing games with friends, paying by the hour for a desktop booth lol. Ahhhh the good old days!

  9. Leah says

    My first computer was back in the late 80s. It was an Acer 8088 with no hard drive and a monochrome monitor (yellow on black). Prodigy took me online, but not often because I couldn’t afford the long distance bills. Primarily, I used the computer to play an old rouge type games called, “Omega” and “Nethack” and to learn programming in Basica. With Basica and a freeware speech synthesizing program, I “taught” my computer to say, “Hey, baby. You want to boogie?” at every boot. It wasn’t all playtime though. Back then I was a newspaper reporter, for a small hometown daily. I used the word processor to write and a modem to send stories into the office from home. When I could finally afford to install my first hard drive, the salesperson said to me: “A gig was all you’ll ever need.” Yup, fun memories. 🙂

  10. Deb says

    Working as a Dr.’s office manager, circa 1984, on a…….modem sound please…..Radio Shack Tandy Computer (Internet connection not included).

  11. ani says

    Wow… hadn’t thought of the old ‘world wide web’ days in a long time, fun seeing those references to AOL, dial-up, chat rooms, DOS etc… those *were* the days my friends! I remember my first computer, a gigantic Compaq with black n white tube monitor. I only knew of one other person in my neighborhood who had a computer, we became fast friends as we plodded our way through learning enough code to get to where we wanted to go…and there weren’t many places back then! When I moved on to fancy IBM a few years later, when MS Windows came on the scene, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven – so did my husband – as I didn’t come out of the office for hours n hours on end! LOL! I got over that right quick though because it was still quite pricey to be on the internet. The first purchase I ever attempted to make online in 1995 happened to be from a scam site in Russia who promptly stole my credit card info and started buying electronics from Asian countries! I found this out a few days later when the FBI called to inquire if I was aware of this activity. I suppose they were hoping to nab someone in the US who was helping the Russian criminals. Needless to say it was a very long while after that before I would be bold enough to use my credit card online again. Thanks for the memories everyone, now I need to get back to my *studies* on the WWW! 🙂

    • Samuel says

      Ani, I’m there with you! My first PC was an AST 486 DX2 66 Mhz. The first website I saw was in 1997, after spending a few years on the local BBSes. Awesome memories!

      • Ricky Jordan says

        Wow, 1997 to me sounds like fairly recent history. 18 YEARS HAVE GONE BY SINCE THEN MAN! I just have a difficult time grasping that I’m now almost 62 years of age. Young ones beware, it’s gone before you know it! When I think about my memories of the first color television and twisting those knobs on the rickety old televisions trying to get the dial to hang just right so the channel would come in, I realize how really old I have gotten. Thank God, my age has taught me to worry about significant things and let the rest ride on past. It’s a better state of mind I think. Don’t worry, be happy…my how long ago was that?

      • Derek says

        Then: Playing Legend of the Red Dragon on those BBS’s
        Now: Skyrim with unlimited mods, never the same game twice!

        Then: Your telephone line throttled your Internet connection
        Now: Your telephone company throttles your internet connection.

        (Hopefully the recently passed Title II regulation will change this)

      • Mark says

        Samuel, I remember when I upgraded to an IBM 486 DX2 66. Wow! 🙂 My first computer was a 286 back in, what was it, 1992?

        I enjoyed reading this post.