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Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Cyberspace for Generation X

Sometimes, I think it was better that I experienced my teenage years in a world where the Internet was fairly new. 

When I was a teenager, there was no such thing as Google.  We used Yahoo and Alta Vista as search engines.  We didn't have high speed unlimited Internet either - we had to use dial up modems and pay by the hour!  Shocking, I know!

There was no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or even MySpace back in those days.  Heck, back when I was a teenager, having a private e-mail account was considered ritzy!

And we certainly didn't have teenagers trying to make a meal out of Tide Pods or snorting condoms up their noses.  And if there were teens in my generation doing this, I'm thankful that we had no way of showing the world.  I mean, I grew up with teenagers using condoms as water bombs - and I thought THAT was strange.  But then, I suppose that every generation had stupid things that they did when they were that age. 

But still.  There was something about the early Internet that was endearing - even though looking at it now, you'd think it was totally ancient.  And that's what this post is about.  The internet of my teen years - which took place largely in the 1990s.

I still remember the first time I ever used the Internet.  It was...ahem...twenty-one years ago.  My god, I said that with a straight face without breaking into a panic attack about how quickly time is passing us by.

Anyway, it was September 1997.  I had just turned sixteen a few months ago, and I was enrolled in a "Computer Communications" course in high school - which is essentially a fancy way of saying "Learning How To Use The Internet".  The first time we learned about how e-mail worked, and how search engines worked, and what websites were was absolutely fascinating to me.  I absolutely loved every minute of that class.

Now, the Internet at that time was still in its infancy, so there were only a few basics that we could be taught.  There was hardly any online shopping available, music streaming was still a couple of years away, and forget about YouTube.  It didn't exist back then.

What did exist was the various HTML links and Shockwave Flash technology that everybody used to make beautiful websites, and as our final project in that class, we had to make our own website!  A daunting task for the sixteen year old, but certainly one that I found exciting.

As it turned out, my website was quite the job well done, and I scored an easy A+ on it.  Unfortunately I do not have visual proof of this website as back in 1997, none of us knew how to take a screenshot!  But trust me, my website was brilliant.

And to be fair, a lot of websites that existed back in the 1990s were well done for their time.  And then there were some that you look at and you wonder what sort of drugs the designer was on.

I've looked through Google (ironic since Google wasn't around when I started using the Internet) to find screenshots of actual websites that existed between 1996 and 2000 to showcase what websites looked like back then, and whether they would fly in a 2018 world.  (Short answer, no.)

Okay, let's take a look at some of the treasures I've found from the cyberspace of the past.

Ah, Yesterdayland.  This is a site I know all too well, as I was a member of it back in the day.  Made some of the greatest friends ever from that site.  As you can see, the early design of that site was pleasant to look at, and for people who loved pop culture of the past, it was the foundation for endless discussions about anything you wanted.  Sadly, the site doesn't exist anymore.  It closed up shop for good in 2003.  But at least screenshots can show you its former glory.

(I suppose posting this entry on April 4 would have some irony to it, given that many of the websites like Yesterdayland would come up with a 404 message.)

Coca-Cola also gets a passing grade from me.  I have no clue when this website was up and running, but I think the company did a fantastic job with it.  The logo is bold and bright, the fonts are easy to read.  Someone clearly had a lot of web design background at corporate headquarters!

Wow...remember when Bob Dole tried to run for President in 1996?  And how he lost to Bill Clinton that year?  I'm not saying that the design of his official website was what pushed voters to vote Democrat instead of Republican that year, but this website design is sort of bland.  I mean, yes, it's designed well and it's easy to read...but it's format is typical for that of a politician's website.

Oh my goodness, I don't even think my eyes can stand looking at this screenshot for much longer than a second and a half.  The bright orange text in a font that is more or less unreadable combined with bright green font on a patterned background?  Yikes!  Not good at all.

And can we just say that I'm so glad that Domino's Pizza has greatly improved their web design over the last twenty years?  I mean, seriously.  This website looks like it was designed by a six year old boy!  I'm trying to justify this design and yet when I see Coca-Cola's website from that same time period, I just can't do it!  Horrible even for 1990s standards!

Motion pictures often used the Internet to promote their films - even back in the 1990s.  Here's a website for the SpaceJam movie - which believe it or not is STILL available to use. 

The website is below.

Oh, dear...who knew that Walmart had a website back in the days in which Walmart was still hyphenated with a star?  And who knew that the website would look so incredibly dull.  This would be the equivalent to watching paint dry.

And finally...remember Amazon?  Of course you do.  It's only the biggest online retailer in the world with millions of orders being placed and shipped per day.  But back in 1996, the website for Amazon was not exactly the most eye-catching page to exist.  I mean, if we were going to judge a company based on their website design alone, I'd be unconvinced that this company would last any longer than a couple of years.  What a difference two decades make, huh?

So, as you can clearly see, the world on online searching has evolved and the Internet of 1996 is a prehistoric archive of cyberspace gone by.  The kids of today probably think that we were primitive cavemen back in the day, but this was the Internet as we knew it back then.  And honestly, it wasn't all that bad.  

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