Culture What do you miss most about the early days of the Internet?

Shawn Knight

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

The early days of the Internet were vastly different than what we have today. Without experiencing it, however, it's hard to put a finger on just what exactly was so appealing about the net back then.

Was it the fact that it truly felt cutting-edge as very few people were using it? Was it the simplicity of it all? A specific program? Knowing more about technology than everyone else? Or maybe it was the lack of advertising / trolling / social sharing or the perceived privacy it offered?

With this week's open forum, we want to know what you miss most about the early days of the Internet. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Cycloid Torus

Stone age computing - click on the rock below..
I remember sitting at a terminal, typing painfully and then, at the incredible speed of about 100 baud, getting a response from a computer 200 miles away. The terminal made terrific noise and I am glad my programs were short. High School AP Math memory...ARPANET was here.
 

Evernessince

地獄らしい人間動物園
I miss the feeling that it was actually reserved for doing something important. Used to be you could go into a tech forum and be able to converse with actual experts. Nowadays anyone with access to google thinks they know everything and anything and will pass their godlike "knowledge" unto the masses. That is, if you don't get some random troll who decides to nitpick you for your use of memory vs RAM, explaining that they are two different things.
 

cliffordcooley

TS Redneck
Social eye to eye contact. You know things people did before they had texting and Internet on their phone. Now everyone talks while reading their damned phone. Makes me want to change my avatar to "TheHulk" and "smash" every phone I see shinning ever so brightly as people walk.
 
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dividebyzero

trainee n00b
I miss the feeling that it was actually reserved for doing something important. Used to be you could go into a tech forum and be able to converse with actual experts. Nowadays anyone with access to google thinks they know everything and anything and will pass their godlike "knowledge" unto the masses. That is, if you don't get some random troll who decides to nitpick you for your use of memory vs RAM, explaining that they are two different things.
That 's pretty much how I saw it too. The internet used to be an extended conversation and an exchange of information and ideas with a reasonable degree of fraternity. As the web became more accessible and the users proliferated, useful content got diluted down to the point where it is a blip in a landscape. The conversation became the Black Hole at a Raiders game, usefulness got marginalized for the sake of revenue streams further enhanced by successfully manipulating insecurity to sell social networking....and information? well that used to be a product of education. Way too many people now tend to believe that being able to Google is a substitute for actual academic endeavour.
People discover stone tools and we refer to it as the Stone Age.
People discover metallurgy and we refer to it as the Bronze Age
People discover the web, and I think historians will refer to it as the Entitlement Age.
 
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psycros

TS Evangelist
* Simplicity and straightforward design. Function nearly always trumped form. Most interfaces were designed to present information in a useful and sometimes attractive way. Limits on bandwidth and screen resolutions meant web sites *had* to be quick and efficient. Most content was text and a reasonable amount of graphics rather than lazily cobbled together videos or acres of photos.

* Modest number of ads, fewer attempts to spy on users. Data mining hadn't become the primary occupation of most web entities yet. Vast adware/spying networks were in their infancy and blocking them almost entirely wasn't difficult.

* Focus on content and meaningful interaction between users. Messaging was about conversations rather than one-directional narcissism. Email was THE standard - you didn't need to give some monolithic company all your personal info just to stay in touch with people. Online stalking was almost non-existent..if you didn't know someone's email address or ICQ number you weren't going to find them easily.

* Internet was still slow enough that it hadn't largely destroyed the print industry. Online resources complimented paper instead of replacing it. Curated content directories were fairly common. Automated search was just coming into its own and was considered a fallback to human-powered indexes.

* Anonymity was a little harder to set up but once you did it was virtually bulletproof. Sites didn't intentionally break themselves when privacy measures were employed.

*Applications were more efficient and robust and didn't have the handicap of depending on the "cloud" for everything.

* Offline installations and patches were readily available. The industry hadn't started trying to make everything 100% web-based (with even MORE spyware included). This also made securing systems easier because not every program was trying to connect to a remote server.

* Mutiplayer games weren't usually limited to a single matchmaking service. Gamespy really started this trend but there was usually a fairly simple workaround (direct IP if nothing else). Almost every game had server hosting capability and LAN gaming was common.
 

LiveResistance

TS Booster
Or maybe it was the lack of advertising / trolling / social sharing..

This is it for me. While it did still happen from time to time..it just didn't seem that everyone had such an "I'm better than you at everything opinion." While I would never want to go back to dial-up speeds, I would love some of the simplicity that the internet used to have. Also, hearing that "You've got mail" when you got signed in. :)
 

CrisisDog

TS Booster
I miss being able to do "anything" in general with my older equipment. I still have an Amiga and Apple IIgs hanging around, that are much less useful now that terminal emulation is no longer used, and HTML 5 is the becoming the standard. Old technology just isn't supported any more.
 

Julio Franco

TechSpot Editor
Staff member
The very early days of the Internet mostly meant web browsing for me. Now, I wouldn't say I miss it per se, but it does bring a deep sense of nostalgia. From how it took some effort to get connected, dial up sounds and all, once you were "in", launching Netscape and looking at its iconic animation -- while waiting for pages to load -- there was this sense of discovery, it was definitely special.
 

Nitrotoxin

TS Addict
1. Privacy
2. Less trolls
3. no big brother trolling my info aka NSA again
4. The mutual respect people use to give each other while posting and conversing on Bulletin Boards and early forums.
 
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mrtraver

TS Evangelist
Nitrotoxin beat me to it!

The only other thing is just the sense of wonder and awe from this whole new world opening up to me in 1999, when I got my first PC and went online. Now it's just routine.
 

penn919

TS Maniac
Oh come on now. I understand nostalgia, but there really isn't much to miss about the early web. Of course there weren't any trolls. Home desktops were rarities and MAYBE there would've been a single home or two that had one for every block (in middle income neighborhoods). The internet back then was NOT for exploring. Whenever you logged on, it would be for very specific purpose like entering the web address to a specific website you saw advertised on the occasional TV ad or checking out something you were referred to at some sort of gathering.

It was a completely different animal. It was nothing like today where you can punch in a few words into a search engine and get exactly what you wanted. It was far less consumer and friendly and very experimental.

Lets put it this way, there probably weren't too many people around who would voluntarily throw an afternoon away "surfing" the web. It wasn't quite the entertainment gallary/do-everything tool it's become today. At best it could save you a trip to the library which at the time was vastly superior in terms of quality and quantity of information.
 

Evernessince

地獄らしい人間動物園
That 's pretty much how I saw it too. The internet used to be an extended conversation and an exchange of information and ideas with a reasonable degree of fraternity. As the web became more accessible and the users proliferated, useful content got diluted down by the point where it is a blip in a landscape. The conversation became the Black Hole at a Raiders game, usefulness got marginalized for the sake of revenue streams further enhanced by successfully manipulating insecurity to sell social networking....and information? well that used to be a product of education. Way too many people now tend to believe that being able to Google is a substitute for actual academic endeavour.
People discover stone tools and we refer to it as the Stone Age.
People discover metallurgy and we refer to it as the Bronze Age
People discover the web, and I think historians will refer to it as the Entitlement Age.
That right there should be comment of the month.
 

red1776

Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe
I think the feeling that you got dialed in because you were going to accomplish something worthwhile and that you were contributing something of value.
Now it feels as if they are desperately erecting corrugated tin shacks to house those entitled to their fifteen minutes of fame or infamy.
 

J spot

TS Maniac
It's much better now. With things like Wikipedia, if I wanted to know about a subject, I would do a search and go into a bunch of random websites, learn bits and pieces there. And while I know Wikipedia gets critizied immediately because they see it as a place where everyone is editing, it just eliminated that process and made things a thousand times better.

Having said that, things like Facebook has been such a negative on humanity in general. I won't go into it though.

Too much of everything, having everything at your fingertips makes it hard to enjoy individual things.

For example, when a kid, if one of my cousin's or friends got a new SNES/Genesis game, NES, you would go over, and just play that game and enjoy it at a deeper level. Get to know it in and out. Now a days, while kids have more games, it's hard for them to focus on one. My cousin's kid, for days wanted to play MK9. Talked about it lots. When he finally got the opportunity to come over, it's his favorite game, but after literally ten minutes, it's off to the next game. And then the next game. That's very enjoyable, if a person could go into both mindsets.

The same could be said for so many other things, thanks to the internet. But the good outweighs the bad. Information is power.
 

ypsylon

TS Booster
I miss that dial-up beep, burp, beep music when connecting. Now internet just is. Also waiting for midnight to get any kind of decent speed was a norm and of course you could do pretty much whatever you like then. Now there is so much surveillance that privacy is non-existent.

And best of all no facebook or twitter. Time when people knew how to talk to each other not with some cryptic 140 nonsense contacting virtual "friends" they never meet and know nothing about.
 

Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
- No advertisers clogging everything up.
- No BOTS, Viruses, or other "junk".
- People were a lot more honest
- Very early on was university to university so no ..... *****s!
 

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