Of letters and newspapers: Nostalgia for a Pre-Internet era from 1900 to Our Days
In times before the omnipresence of the internet, life took on a different shape than it does today, and while some things persist, others fade into the nebula of the past. In the early 1960s, the internet was born to allow government scientists to share information. Back then, computers were behemoths that occupied entire rooms and couldn’t move. Accessing information from any computer required physically traveling to its location or sending magnetic tapes by post.
The Birth of the Internet
It’s curious to step back a few decades to when Nikola Tesla explored the idea of a “worldwide wireless system” in the early 1900s. Visionaries like Paul Otlet and Vannevar Bush imagined mechanized book storage systems in the 1930s and 1940s. Perhaps, over time, they might have created the internet.
The Evolution of the Internet
The realization of the internet as we know it today occurred in the early 1960s when J.C.R. Licklider of MIT popularized the idea of an “intergalactic network” of computers. The launch of the Sputnik satellite during the Cold War prompted the U.S. Department of Defense to consider ways to disseminate information even after a possible nuclear attack.
This led to ARPANET, the precursor to the internet. January 1, 1983, is the official anniversary of the internet, marking the day when the TCP/IP protocol was officially adopted. Before this, diverse computer networks had no standard way of communicating. The TCP/IP protocol allowed different network machines to “speak” a common language.
Life Before the Digital Revolution
Today, accessing information, making purchases, working, or starting a business is easier than ever. But how was life before this digital revolution? Do you remember what you did before the internet?
Physical Playlists—without Spotify and other apps, creating a playlist involved cassette tapes and dedication. Handmade song mixes were special and personal gifts; this happened before the internet.
Job Hunting—Before LinkedIn and the internet, job hunting involved scanning newspapers for listings, tearing bits of paper with crucial information, and sometimes getting references through friends. In the pre-internet era, socializing meant leaving the house.
Meeting New People—Whether going to the cinema, renting a movie, or buying vinyl records, meeting new people requires physical presence. Without the internet, there was no GPS or Google Maps. Travel relied on physical maps stored in car glove compartments or bags.
Journey of Exploration—Getting lost was part of the journey, and folding maps was an art. In the analog era, printing photos was essential. We couldn’t share them digitally; we went to the store to develop and preserve physical memories. And yes, there was no internet.
Life before the internet was a mix of analog experiences, where screens didn’t mediate the human connection, and the physical traces of our actions were tangible. Do you remember those times?
The net has revolutionized our world, from how we communicate, learn, work, shop, and play. It has given us access to information, resources, and unimaginable opportunities. But it has also affected how we interact with each other, ourselves, and our history. Life before the net was different, not better or worse. It was a time when human connections were more physical, information was more valuable, and memories were more meaningful.
It was a time when we had to put more effort into creating, discovering, and connecting. It was a time that we should remember, not regret, and learn from. As Paulo Coelho said, “We can never judge the lives of others because each person knows only their pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”
What can we learn from life before the internet? How can we balance the benefits and drawbacks of the digital era? How can we preserve the analog experiences that shaped our identity and culture? These are some of the questions that we invite you to think about.