My LifeSocial MediaThrowback Thursday

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!!!

aol 1000 hours free

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).

Tina Fey Amy Poehler High Five gif

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.

chair slide gif

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 nightmare process.

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.

aol dialup connecting gif

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?

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  1. laddibugg
    January 23, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Where was the yellow man at in the final picture?

    I remember having to be careful that the number I choose wasn’t long distance.

  2. blackberry molasses
    January 23, 2014 at 11:19 am

    you know what made me the baddest kid in school? when my parents got a separate phone line JUST FOR THE INTERWEBS. and i could be on the phone and surfing the chatrooms. FUHWIMMEH.
    btw, a/s/l?

    • Nichelle
      January 23, 2014 at 11:39 am

      Omgosh yes!! I still remember the number of that separate phone line! A/s/l indeed! #memories

      • January 23, 2014 at 12:49 pm

        I used to hate that. READ MY PROFILE! A/S/L RIGHT THERR!!!

      • January 23, 2014 at 10:59 pm

        a/s/l yaaaaassss ol’ skool online hookin’ up.

    • Randomly Jazzy
      January 23, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      My parents did that for me too because they were 1) tired of me tying up their line when I was on the phone, and then 2) tired of me circling over them like a buzzard waiting for them to get off the phone.

    • Bukky
      January 27, 2014 at 7:08 pm

      Yassss!! My dad knew better and got a fax line that we could use for the internets…but we got it like 2 years after everybody had already had their screen names and whatnot. But once we got it? You couldn’t tell me nuthin.

  3. January 23, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Oh dial-up…

    My parents eventually got me and my brother our own phone line so we could AOL it up without hogging up their phone. The problem is my brother wanted to be on AOL for his ‘stupid’ stuff, so I’d pick up my phone and press buttons to disconnect him. I’d have the Internet free for myself until my brother decided to do the same.

    The day we got DSL was a godsend.

  4. MsZ
    January 23, 2014 at 11:31 am

    I remember finally getting logged on and downloading music. I would leave it on while I was sleeping, and when I woke up 8 hours later, it was just finishing up!

    • NaturallyNeesh
      January 23, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      I soooo remember this too! I actually found a lot of old music from those days recently lol…oh the memories

  5. @ProfBellamy
    January 23, 2014 at 11:33 am

    You weren’t cool if you didn’t have AOL. So I was cool until my parents decided to support a local ISP. Granted we had better service, but it wasn’t AOL. If you had AIM, you were a second class citizen.

    But what’s really funny, I still have access to my AOL account after we went back. Never check it, but it’s still alive. Also those status messages, that was when things were really real.

    • Bukky
      January 27, 2014 at 7:10 pm

      Status messages…there was an art form to creating the perfect/witty/trill away messages. I mastered that in college. I was so proud of myself.

  6. Nichelle
    January 23, 2014 at 11:37 am

    This is my proof you’re younger than me lol back in myyyyy day (insert raised old lady finger 🙂 those aol discs only had FIVE free hours on em! I remember when I started seeing those discs with 1000 free hours I was MAD. ABOUT. IT. Haha

    Ps: “back in my day” was 1994 and I was so stoked to use my nickname and my birth year RIP NikkiD1980 *tips out a 40*

  7. QueenSista
    January 23, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Like those 3 lines meant the connection just got faster… uh no. LOL Oh and I’m sorry babygirl but AOL was around way back in 1991, oh but you’re just a baby you wouldn’t remember that (damb I’m old) lol

  8. Tori
    January 23, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    Downloading a whole album would take entire days!! These young ones will never know the struggle lol

  9. Bree
    January 23, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Maaaan Listen, Thankfully my parents were techies so there never was a time when we didn’t have a computer in the household. Granted, the computer we had at the time I was old enough to play on it was a big ole monster with a screen that glowed an eery shade of green (and the only game I could play on it was an Olympic game and I would ALWAYS play the Bruce Jenner chacter, anyhoos). So when we upgraded to a smaller monster of a machine and got interwebs… GOOD LIFE!! I would hang out (aka troll)Baltimore chatrooms on AOL where everyone was having “private” conversations for the whole world to see and every 2 seconds a new person would come into the room and ask “A/S/L?”

    • January 23, 2014 at 9:24 pm

      Oh my goodness…hanging out in those chat rooms used to be so much fun. When you said A/S/L…I almost spit out my water laughing! Those were the days of good fun and no internet bullies.

  10. JenniferG
    January 23, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    I started on Prodigy (DOS!) in 1993 then upgraded to AOL a little later. We used to get those monthly Steve Case emails “Membership is up to 100,000 users” and I had a username without a number. This was on my 486 which had a ginormous 240MB hard drive. I had soooooo many AOL disks!

    • nichelle
      January 26, 2014 at 11:42 pm

      you just made me remember prodigy! lol i had a username on prodigy, aol AND Compuserve for a hot minute 😀

      • JenniferG
        January 27, 2014 at 1:22 pm

        So…you were one of the cool kids! 🙂

  11. January 23, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Not to be crass [this means I’m going to be crass] but I was in high school when AOL happened–so porn happened, lots of it. When you are trying to spank one out, that little yellow man is the devil; he is the only thing standing between you and Heaven.
    Dial-up was a road block for late night sexy time. I’ve used to put comforters over the computer to drown out the sound of that annoying noise. I would wrap the computer with the comforter hit connect, go stand by the steps to see if anyone in the house was moving, head back to the computer, wrap myself with the comforter and get to work.
    It was the golden age. Porn was a treasure. These teenagers don’t understand what it means to troll the internet looking for free porn; and saving the best of it in a folder hidden in the computer settings folder.
    I miss the 90’s. I miss pre-Kardashian porn.
    Thank you for taking me back.

  12. Nicole
    January 23, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Oh the mem’ries! I can picture exactly where I sat in our house doing this exact thing! And we would get those dang free trial cds like every day! Too funny. Oregon Trail though?! That really took me back. Whatchu know about that?

  13. T
    January 23, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    This is exactly how I got my first internet access at home! OMG! LOL!

  14. NaturallyNeesh
    January 23, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    We would hoard those dang disks and then sign up for black expressions memberships lol…and I had like 100 AIM statuses to choose from….chatbox was my fave chat site lol…my name was fattybangin1012 ha!

  15. Bethany
    January 23, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Ohhhh those AOL days. We must’ve gotten it in 92 or somewhere thereabouts. I was in HS (dating myself)and we upgraded from the word processor w/the screen to the computer. I’m not sure it was even a brand LOL. Then when I went to college I got CompuServe and didn’t have to go to the lab to use the computer (I had one in my room on loan w/my scholarship…couldn’t tell me nothin’). Me and AOL were friends after college and right up until I was out on my own and got DSL…sometime in the 2000s…

  16. Syrich
    January 23, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    LOL, my dear Luvvie. Okay I you guys have had a good time making fun of me (grandma moses). You are bodering on ageism and being that I STILL have my account, you know I must have a great sense of humor and not worried about what people say about me. I am from that old school of if it is not broken don’t fix it. So not only was I still paying for email long after it was free (yes that was me and I am stilling thinking about suing AOL), I also had for the longest time a limited amount of emails I could receive. They finally fixed that problem (although it did not bother me).

    Okay, hold up, before you ship me off to the old folks home, you know I am one of those old schoolers who think I am a rockstar and every thing I do is super cool. So I am going to wait until AOL is either out of business or back on top, instead of changing.

    On on a side note, in my first year of college I took a computer class where we designed software that operated on DOS. There was no monitors with any type of visual except a flashing white cursor.

    Ok, I am out.

  17. January 23, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    April 25, 1995, I remember it well: when I opened my AOL account. With a 14.4 KBS modem. How well I know that dialup noise; it’s now my ringtone for when I get a text message.

    Lemme take y’all back to December 1996, where AOL stopped pricing by the minute. Phone lines were tied up! Once you logged in, you didn’t dare log out. Cuz you couldn’t get back in. Back then, I would forward my home number to my pager, so I wouldn’t get knocked off. People in the know knew to page me.

    Yep. I’m old.

  18. Ashley
    January 23, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    Remember hearing “you’ve got mail!” after signing on?! Magical.

    What’chu know bout Napster though?!

    Away messages on AIM -“bRb potty break”…”bRb! shower!”..away messages = the original facebook status when you post up song lyrics about a crush..”all day long I think of you”..

    Those were the days though. I’m 27, my younger bro is 21 and there’s a huge difference in how we each remember the internet. He doesn’t know the struggle of “get off the computer I need to use the phone!” or being in the chat rooms, getting booted off, and not being able to find the people you were chatting with again once you finally sign back on. Sadness.

  19. Stacy
    January 23, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    This was a stroll down memory lane (or the valley of death, however you actually saw it). My older brothers and sisters used to get so jealous over the fact that I had the interwebs and they didn’t. However, I paid for it because they used to stay on the phone….haters, lol.

  20. Bee
    January 23, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    I swear I frown upon anyone who still has an aol e-mail address. Where have you been? Oh, by the way the President is black too.

  21. Petranilla
    January 23, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Look at all you young folks with your AOL stories blah…back in my day we just had BOOKS,TV and SNAIL MAIL!! *slams door walks away*

  22. Alyssa Kapri
    January 23, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    OMG! I smiled the entire way through this article. I was 12 when I got my first computer.. My screen name was buttahflii69.. lmao!! That trying to connect struggle was so real. I’m talking frustration to the point of tears, but once I got on, I spent many a day in chatrooms, lying about everything. Man… Good Times.

  23. Alison
    January 23, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    This had me literally dying of laughter.

    I actually suffered through AOL well after wifi and DSL.

    I was stuck in the hospital back around 2006 going into 2007 for months with Cancer and the only way to get the net in my hospital room was dial up and they were still sending out those damn CD’s. It was pretty much my own personal hell logging on and taking 30 minutes to connect.

    I was never so happy to escape the hospital

  24. rikyrah
    January 24, 2014 at 7:50 am

    three words:

    local toll call.

    this is the difference between the phone bill being ok and your parents going crazy.

  25. chanel
    January 24, 2014 at 9:12 am

    These days bring me back especially the downloading music part… but anyone remember webtv?… it was short lived in my house but it was great when we were in between computers…

    • OrganizedChaos
      January 24, 2014 at 2:14 pm

      Lol I had a webtv as well before we got a computer! I thought it was everything! That little highway waiting to get on the internet.

  26. shadgg02
    January 24, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    i had blocked out quite a bit of the AOL days, but i remember the chatrooms fondly…..trying to follow the convo while everything was scrolling constantly….i guess that was my intro in speed reading and boy did i learn fast!!
    i remember the stories of ppl would get down to the last few days of the free trial and would call up AOL to complain about not being able to get on all the time and they would just extend their free trial another 45 days. OR would sign up another trial with a new account name (only off by a letter or number from the original) and would let everybody know it was them!
    AND, my eclectic aunt, saved all the AOL discs she would get in the mail and made large art installations that she would hang on her wall: fish, the yellow man (made out of the GOLD discs), a wave….just whatever she could think of. THOSE were the days…..

  27. January 25, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Dial up was the worsted yo. How did we get pass that time in internet history lol lol lol lol. Great post by the way. Lets teach these youngens lol

  28. Pash
    January 27, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Serious memories of dial up. The sound of the modem connecting gave me life. I use to spend hours on the internet just browsing and reading (usually because the connection was so slow). Now, I can access info in minutes but I don’t think I appreciate it as much. Not to say that I could ever go back to dial up. No sah! As the saying goes “Life’s too short for dial up”.

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  32. April 23, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    LOL… I hated that yellow man!!!!!