The AOL Dial Up Chronicles: Throwback Thursday
Sit down, kids. I’d like to tell you a story. It’s of a time way back when, before we could fit a phone, camera, music player, video player and recorded into a machine the size of a hershey’s candy bar.
Picture it, people’s houses, 1998…
This was an ancient time when internet connection wasn’t wifi-enabled or even immediate. In fact, you probably just convinced your parents to get you a computer because that one day a week of computer class in school where you played Oregon Trail was NOT enough. So they bit and got the entire house a computer that was the size of a duffel bag. WHOOT!
You started getting random mail from a company called America Online. They were fancy-looking shiny frisbee-like things that promised 1,000 hours of FREE internet a month. And you were all OMG ONE WHOLE THOUSAND HOURS!!! EEEEEEE!!!
Let’s not talk about the fact that there’s no way you can be online for 1,000 hours in 45 days because it’d mean you’d literally do NOTHING ELSE but internet. Oh AOL, I see what you did there. WE ALL see it.
So then, you sit down to set it up and you go through the step by step process where every prompt in the tutorial excites you because you’re getting closer to the Cool Kids Club. AND it’ll mean you don’t have to go to the library to check your email. You don’t even care that you only get 2 a week and they’re both from your BFF, who also just got an email address (both of you use Hotmail).
Anywho, you pick your newest screename, which is something like DawsonsCrush1985 (clearly for the year you were born and you think Joey’s totally wrong for him) and then you get ready to sign on. The process involves picking one of the 10 numbers given to you as a choice based on your address. It looks like 910-452-7624 (random number. Don’t call that phone).
And then you press “connect.” IF you’re lucky, that number will take and you will fist pump to the sky for victory. But most of the time, it won’t and you’ll have to try the next number and the next until you make it to the screen where you see the running yellow man. The sound of delayed dreams starts playing. That awful awful staticky sound. You deal with it because at the end of it is the entire world (at 2 bits per second).
Then all of a sudden, your house phone rings and the connection cuts off before it even starts. You cuss like a sailor and fight the air because you were ALLLLMMMOSSSTTTT there. If the call is for you, you tell the person how they just ruined your chance to do the internet and you tell them you’re on the cusp of greatness and email access. If the call isn’t for you, you stand next to whoever’s on the phone so they can FEEL your impatience. Also, so they can feel guilty. It never works, of course. When your older sister stays on the phone for 30 minutes, therefore delaying your joy, you wish you were an only child.
GET OFF THE PHONE ALREADY!!! And finally, she does. And then you go back to the computer, say a quick prayer that no one else calls the house and then hit “connect.” In fact, just watch this to relive the
YESSSSSS!!! You’re in! And so begins your adventures online. By the time you finish playing connection hop scotch, it’s late and your bed time is in 20 minutes. DAMBIT! You look forward to really using your 1,000 hours though. Tomorrow is a new day and once you’re done with your homework, you can REALLY AOL it up.
Although the next night, you’re only on for 15 minutes too. I’M WASTING MY FREE HOURS! Ugh. But you’re getting your entire LIFE.
The antics that happen in AOL are another post for another day. But that connection struggle was SO REAL. Back then, we had more patience though. Waiting 20 minutes for internet was nothing. Now, if a website I’m trying to access doesn’t load in 5 seconds, I’m all cranky. But yeah… good times. By good, I mean frustrating.
That damb yellow man. I loved and hated him at the same time. Ohhh fellow veteran interneters.
Speak your piece bout the dial up process. How was yours?