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Thread: How did we do it before the internet...

  1. #1
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    Sep 2004
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    How did we do it before the internet...

    (If you have to make a joke, please go to "I'm so old that..." in Fun & Games.)

    So, how did we do it before the internet? Let's document it here. It's not that long ago, and I notice that I'm starting to forget how I did things before the internet. So let's give each other some insight based on concrete examples from everyday life.

    -Computer hardware and software. I used to buy computer magazines or read the one they had in the library. Those showed me a) which new hardware and software existed and b) reviewed and/or compared it. That way, I had at least some data and opinion to go by. Mind you, reading multiple opinions tended to be too expensive as one magazine = one opinion. And those were editor reviews, quite possibly sponsored so not very neutral. Forget about user reviews unless someone you knew had the thing. Those magazines, by the way, used to come with a CD-ROM with demo versions of games and software. That was an excellent way to get to know software. However, those magazines were quite expensive. But as I said, the local library had one of those magazines but the CD wasn't included when you took the magazine home. The librarian kept those CD's in his desk. And guess who was good friends with the librarian.

    OK, so now you knew what you wanted. But where to buy it, and where to buy it for the best price? At best you got an MSRP from the magazine or an advertisement of some shop that may or may not be near your place. Then you just went in whatever shop you knew, asked if they had it, and what it cost. And then you just hoped you were not being ripped off. Sure you could call multiple stores but that cost time and money. So you just had to try and figure out which shop had good prices. Remember this part for a bit further down.

    But what if you wanted to get information on hardware or software that was a few years old? No new magazines wrote about those, and old magazines were hard to find. Well then, let me introduce you to a big pre-internet concept: being blissfully unaware. Yes. Just like paying a certain price in a shop without knowing whether or not you payed a good price, you just tended to do what you thought was best without having all -or any- information when buying older hardware or software. Point in case: we bought the newer Sega Master System II game console, which we believed was better than Sega Master System 1. It was newer, and looked more modern after all. The games predating the II also looked way worse than the newer II games. True, but decades later the internet taught me that actually the I could do all the II could do and then some. But back then, you simply didn't know and that had its charms too. No nights spent/wasted on reading reviews, comparing webshops, Trustpilots, Quora's etc.

    Oh I nearly forgot. For a few years, our local community library used to borrow out PC games, and they had a decent catalogue. My youth was saved! I can't remember if you had to pay for it. I think not, and if you did, certainly not a lot. I will neither confirm nor deny we had a CD-ROM writer at home.

    Speaking of CD-ROM writers: there was a time where typically only a small handful of kids at school had one of these at home. And at least one of them would have a printed out Excell list of software you could buy from him. Piratebay on paper, and not even free. And then there were CD-ROMs with multiple hacked games on them, usually full games but lacking the music and cutscene video's. Things like the Twilight CD-ROMs. If you bought one of those from The Kid, you had multiple games at once. And an overly full hard drive. Real Friends were kids who let you borrow their official games for a few weeks for free. Just like with vinyl records: as long as you return them unscratched. And then there was this one kid who knew our PC only had a 3.5 floppy drive, so he copied a CD-ROM game onto 17 installation floppies for us.

    And if you have to ask: multiplayer games were split-screen on a single computer or LAN networks, drivers came on floppy or CD with the product, microtransactions or DLC was not a thing, and Windows couldn't perform updates even if they had wanted to. On the bright side: no computer slowdown as the years went on. And cookies were what you ate while waiting for DOOM to load.

    For clarity: my post was computer related, but I'm equally interested to read how you figured out when to do what in the garden, what the rash and fever of your child could be, where there was a restaurant or gas station in another town, etc before the internet. And please, a bit more details than "we went to the library and now get off my lawn!" to keep it interesting. Or anecdotes of things going awfully wrong or accidentally right due to lacking access to the collective knowledge of every fool and then some's opinion on the internet.
    With sufficient thrust, water towers fly just fine.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicolas View Post
    For clarity: my post was computer related, but I'm equally interested to read how you figured out when to do what in the garden, what the rash and fever of your child could be, where there was a restaurant or gas station in another town, etc before the internet. And please, a bit more details than "we went to the library and now get off my lawn!" to keep it interesting. Or anecdotes of things going awfully wrong or accidentally right due to lacking access to the collective knowledge of every fool and then some's opinion on the internet.
    Well, I really did go to the library often. So there's that.

    TV shows and radio music were on when they were on, until VCRs came along. Then we rented from Blockbuster or recorded grainy movies off cable. Saturday morning was for cartoons. The closest thing we had to social media was letters to the editor in newspapers. And Sunday meant the comic strips were in color.

    Consulted encyclopedias (non-Wiki, remember them? A shelf of books that were outdated after six months) As far as getting medical information, we called the doctor; my Mom is a nurse, so we had resources there that most folks did not. To find out where restaurants were we got maps from AAA or the rest stops or just drove around. Even with maps I got lost driving a lot. A LOT.

    Pay phones. Phone books.

    Generally things were less convenient and more time consuming. And heavier.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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