First, let me start by saying that if you are under about 35 years old, you won’t get this post. You Facebooked, Tweeted, Googled, and Wikipediaed (all of which are acceptable verbs now, I’m pretty sure) your way to adulthood and none of what I’m about to say will make any sense to you. It won’t be funny so you might as well stop reading now.
No, this is for us old-timers. I was taken on this trip down memory lane by a book I’m reading by Virginia Vitzthum called I Love You, Let's Meet in which she traces some of the history of Internet dating. So put on some NSync and Destiny’s Child, and settle in for the ride.
The year is 1998. Maybe, like me, you never expected this Internet thing to get so big. While working for the Department of Defense in 1994 (The Ex was in the military), a Commander required that we used this newfangled computer email to send out memos. I thought the whole thing was ridiculous, and asserted that, “no one will ever use this to communicate when they can just pick up the telephone.” Ha!
By 1998, though, you knew you were witnessing some sort of Brave New World. You went to sign in on your one (because we all only had one) desktop computer, to which we were tethered. You waited impatiently for the long tone and the short beeps that meant your dial up connection was taking place, and you hoped it would work. If you got a busy signal, you’d have to try a different access number and start the whole process over again. Once connected, you navigated the complicated menu that took you to AOL and then to the 30 Something chatroom (a process which could take upwards of ten minutes, during which you might get up to go to the bathroom or get a snack).
Here are some highlights of what I remember of the AOL chatroom experience:
- Feeling like you were entering a magical world where the rules were being created as you went along
- Those (by today’s standards primitive) cool graphics
- Free AOL discs at the grocery store checkout line
- “Meeting” people and waxing philosophic on all manner of topics until the wee hours of the morning; then rushing back home in the evening to “see” them again
- People in the room saying “Welcome Back” when you returned as if you were a long lost friend
- A/S/L (age, sex, location) checks
- “What would everyone in the room like to drink?” (and everyone responded!)
- Talking about people in the room as if you knew them (“Well Flyboy hates the government so we’d better steer clear of that tonight…LOL! Pretty Eyes is here, hide the booze LMFAO”)
- Welcoming newcomers to the room (as long as we liked them and they weren’t obnoxious)
- Entering the room to a chorus of ***kisses, (hugs), and <<high 5's
- Giving online virtual backrubs to your chatroom friends
- Being introduced to IM speak (contrary to my teenage daughter’s belief, their generation did not invent it; it was invented in the AOL chatrooms, and we were LOL’ing and ROFL’ing long before there was text messaging)
- Moderators kicking out jerks who were “lurking”
- Flirting in chatrooms with potential RT dates; then talking for hours in private IM’s
- Typing with one hand (enough said)
- Realizing that you were oh so hilarious in late-night IM’s—especially after a glass of wine
- Finally sending a pic to someone you met in the chatroom (this was a complicated procedure that involved taking an actual picture to Kinko’s, having them scan it in for you and put it on a floppy disc then taking it home and attaching it to an email and sending it—sending could take over 20 minutes and often failed while uploading)
- Waiting with baited breath to see what they thought of said picture
- “You’ve got mail”
- Trying to call someone and getting a busy signal for 3 hours straight because they were online
- Paying for AOL
Ah, those were the days.
copyright © 2009 Tiia Jones