The '90s Guide to the Internet
The 1990s gifted us with groundbreaking technological advances, amazing fashion trends, and a healthy dose of corny infomercials featuring painfully cheesy acting. Nothing combines these elements more than some of the hilarious '90s video guides to the internet. Back when the internet was new and mystifying technology, we were gifted with some incredible instructional guides to help us better understand the “hip and modern” world wide web.
Today, we’re taking a look at some of the most dated, heartwarming, cringe-worthy videos from this period.
On your mark, get set, we’re riding on the internet! This is the pièce de résistance
of '90s internet guides and is such a hilarious window into the days where we were still figuring out what the internet even was. It follows the Jamison family who have had the internet for a few weeks and are already “techno wiz kids”. It’s all like something out of a sitcom: the mom’s gotten some great cooking and gardening tips from online, the dad can stay up to date with the stock market, and the son can…email President Clinton for some reason. There’s some super nostalgic early website content (shout out to Yahooligans-gone but not forgotten) and it’s a hilarious reminder of how far we’ve come in the past 25 years.
To hear anyone debating what they thought the @ sign (the little “A” with a ring around it) meant, followed by the question “what is internet anyway?” is absolutely surreal to watch from the comfort of your overused laptop or phone. As silly as it may seem now, some of the points early internet critics made are more relevant than ever. People talking about their decision to avoid the internet because they’re afraid of being bombarded with negative information or of spending less time with their family is sobering to hear. We forget that there was a time the Internet felt optional rather than a daily requirement.
Another absolute gem that combines cheesy acting with that heartwarming sense of optimism people had about the Internet and all of its possibilities. This one screams 1995 and even features a “nerd alert” that would sound whenever someone started speaking “geek speak.” It really makes you appreciate how overwhelming people in the '90s must have found the introduction of all of this new information and technology. Hearing the concept of Instant Messaging explained is especially cool, it’s something so many of us take for granted and we forget how incredible the fact that we can message anyone anywhere in the world at any time of day is until we hear how wild of a concept that was 25 years ago. It’s also funny to hear the host explain that “obviously” people will always prefer phone conversations over Instant Messaging. For so many of us, that just isn’t the case anymore.
Does anything better encapsulate the '90s than Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry presenting the “world’s first cyber sitcom” during a Windows 95 instructional video? The jokes are painful, but this video is absolutely worth a watch. Like so many of these other guides, it’s so interesting to see the things we take for granted being sold as new and exciting features. The ability to name your own files? Apparently absolutely unheard of until 1995. The ability to then save these files permanently? Another absolute game changer that really set Windows 95 apart. The characters in this are great too, hilariously over the top and unnecessary but deliciously '90s.
“There I was: an ordinary mom. Then I slid into my computer chair and with a few clicks of my mouse I became a mom on the net!” Oh to be a mom on the net in 1997. I love that these ladies are trying to normalize the Internet as more than something for “techno geeks with spreadsheets.” This one has some of the cringiest lines, which is REALLY saying something, but it’s also one of the most important guides. During the early days of the web, there really was this stereotype that the Internet was only for people with extensive technology and coding skills. Moms showing other moms how user friendly and relevant the internet could be paved the way for future generations of moms on the net.