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The history of the Internet stretches back as far as 1969, but it didn’t become popular until the 1990s when the whole thing became commercialized, ISPs started offering access, and the World Wide Web emerged to give normal people something to actually do online.

In the developed world, only around 10 percent of people had access to the Internet in 1997, but in 2013 the figure had risen to around 77 percent. Globally it was just 2 percent in 1997, but was 39 percent in 2013. With that in mind, what did the Internet look like to people in the early 1990s when the vast majority had likely never even heard of it, let alone used it.

For the purposes of both education and entertainment we can travel back in time How To Time Travel Through The Brief History Of The Internet How To Time Travel Through The Brief History Of The Internet It's extremely interesting to chart the history of your favorite website(s) from their origin point, all the way through their existence, and right up until the present day. And it's entirely feasible too thanks to... Read More to 1995 (or thereabouts). And it’s all thanks to the power of YouTube, home to dozens of videos showing how early-adopters explained or demonstrated the Internet to newbies in the good old days. What follows are 10 of the best videos showing how people were learning all about the Internet in the early-1990s.

What Is The Internet, anyway?

We start with the most obvious question, “What is the Internet, anyway?” This was asked by Bryant Gumbel, co-host of The Today Show on NBC at the time the Internet was emerging as a powerful force. This segment wasn’t aired on TV, but thanks to the Internet (rather ironically) we now get to enjoy Gumbel’s rather aggressive ignorance about email and the @ symbol.

Student Internet PSA

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This Public Service Announcement made by kids for kids tries to explain why we should all be getting the Internet and seeing its future potential. The prophecies foretold by these youngsters have all came to pass, and we even see an early glimpse of the Internet generation’s love affair with cats 8 Purrfect Cat Websites For Feline Lovers 8 Purrfect Cat Websites For Feline Lovers Cats are everywhere online… as photos shared by friends on social networking sites, as cute pics on Reddit, on any of the cat-centric Tumblr sites, and even here on MakeUseOf. Oh, and then there’s Nyan... Read More . Thankfully hairstyles and fashions have also improved since this was filmed.

Early AOL Commercial

There have been some great adverts made over the years 10 Of The Best Viral Video Ad Campaigns 10 Of The Best Viral Video Ad Campaigns Read More , but this isn’t one of the classics. Some terrible acting, poor dialog, and a cheap and nasty set render this almost unwatchable. And yet it offers a glimpse into a past many of us have tried to forget. A past when AOL discs were everywhere, and 10 free hours online was considered a boon. Still, kayaking buddies need a way to chat to each other.

Internet Users’ Guide

This video has been slightly edited, with some bleeping added to make it look like the newbie being taught how to surf the Interwebs is searching for something slightly naughty. He wasn’t, of course, although the polar bear he ends up staring at for a little too long looks quite fruity. This whole clip is embarrassing; for us, for them, for the developers responsible for the state of the Web in 1995.

Apple’s View Of The Future

I’m not a particular fan of Apple for various reasons, but I cannot deny that the company has innovated massively over the years, driving computers and mobile devices forward. Many of the ideas put forward in this vision of the future prove to be spookily accurate, though the highfalutin ideal of using these technologies to change the world for the better haven’t yet come to pass.

Old-Skool Internet

This video is likely a little older than the others on this list. While they all feature kids talking about accessing the Web for fun, this clip shows a classic nerd heading online via Telnet. If using the Internet had remained this dull an experience then it would clearly never have taken off in the way it consequently did.

Internet & Street Smarts

Teaching kids how to be safe online Keeping Children Safe In An Online World: 8 Ways To Set Up Kid-Friendly Search Keeping Children Safe In An Online World: 8 Ways To Set Up Kid-Friendly Search The Internet can be a dirty place and you have to take steps to stay safe online, but it can also be a wonderful world where kids can let their creativity and imagination run free.... Read More was important in the nineties and remains important to this day, perhaps even more so thanks to the dual threats of smartphones and social networking sites. But to get the message across to children you really need to do a better job than these guys did.

The Kids’ Guide To The Internet

This video is so bad it’s almost good. With a family of Internet users trying to persuade their friends to join them in cyberspace, we get to see just what the Internet was capable of in the 1990s. The song that accompanies the opening titles is an absolute joy, and I guarantee you will be singing along to it for days to come.

Computer Chronicles – The Internet

The Computer Chronicles Relive The Hottest Tech Trends Of The 80s & 90s With The Computer Chronicles [Stuff to Watch] Relive The Hottest Tech Trends Of The 80s & 90s With The Computer Chronicles [Stuff to Watch] The Computer Chronicles was an American television series that aired on the country's public broadcasting network PBS from 1981 until 2002. More than 20 years of technological advancement in consumer electronics was recorded, discussed and... Read More was a PBS show aired for more than 20 years. This video, which includes a wealth of information about the Internet circa 1995, was worth including just for the epic opening line of, “Who says online users are a bunch of anti-social geeks?” Which shows that however much things change, some notions will never die.

The Internet Explained!

This video is real, believe it or not, and features a compilation of clips from old VHS videos, all of which try to explain the Internet to us thickos watching at home. Unfortunately the people doing the explaining don’t exactly come across well. The guy who thinks he’s funny isn’t, and you can tell that the presenters know as little about the Internet as the rest of the cast. Remember, the Internet really is for everyone.

Conclusions

I personally first gained access to the Internet in 1999 thanks to the Dreamcast and its 33.3 kbps modem and oh-so-sophisticated Web browser. Which is one of the reasons I love the last Sega games console 6 Dreamcast Games That Stand The Test Of Time [MUO Gaming] 6 Dreamcast Games That Stand The Test Of Time [MUO Gaming] In many ways the Dreamcast is the forgotten console in video games history. It didn't sell well, it didn't stick around long, and it never quite lived up to its early promise. However, those who... Read More . Unfortunately I racked up huge phone bills by staying online for hours at a time in the days when you had to pay by the minute. Ah, it takes me back. Mainly to when I was always broke.

What are your first memories of the Internet? Can you remember the year and the machine you used to take your initial steps into the online world? Is there anything you miss about those fledgling days of the Internet or has the experience improved in every conceivable way? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image Credit: Sego Canyon Petroglyphs via Flickr

  1. teatiller
    February 18, 2015 at 2:57 am

    Got online first in 1997 with a 56k modem. My family bought a Gateway 2000 pc package (at the Gateway 2000 store). It came with a small thick binder of software cd's and had Windows 95. We learned Gateway computers were not the best. It was used for several years, well past it's prime, though. My parents still had the thing, collecting dust, up until a couple years ago, I finally took it to be recycled.

  2. Dave
    January 27, 2015 at 6:24 am

    1995 university of Ballarat and the virtual Irish pub. The only pub I have ever be kicked out of...

  3. Jonen560ti
    September 4, 2013 at 9:49 am

    somehow, the kids in street smarts turned microsoft word into chat program

  4. Greg
    August 29, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    I remember in 1985 going to the BX when i was at Offutt AFB and seeing the apples for sale. They were way above my budget, in the 3K to 4k price range. I did buy a Commodore64 in 1987 , had hours of fun buying those computer magazines and trying out the code they provided when i was bored at Kwang Ju AB, Korea. Still remember using MS DOS, no windows, had to type out the commands using the computers we had in the Air Force

    • Dave P
      August 30, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      Well before the Internet was a consumer product I had computers, including a Commodore 64. Copying code from magazines was time-consuming, boring, and laborious, but I remember it with nothing but fondness lol.

  5. Mike MacIntosh
    August 28, 2013 at 6:37 am

    "The guy who thinks he’s funny isn’t"

    What the hell are you talking about?! That guy's fucking hysterical! Mind you, he's funny for all the wrong reasons, but still, he definitely IS funny.

    • Dave P
      August 30, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      Ah, my mistake. He IS funny, just in a different way than he intended.

  6. Edward
    August 28, 2013 at 2:39 am

    A while back, I unearthed an old VHS tape with a 1994 infomercial about Computers and the Internet. I went ahead and uploaded some clips to YouTube.

    Up for your consideration, here's a link to YouTube (viewed by 200,000+ people):

    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGjx92F3N0ljNYy8oD0QDSdyr1zdZfdRo

  7. Andreas Schüttler
    August 23, 2013 at 8:15 am

    1998 via ISDN 64 kbit/s :)
    I remember that I was very happy when a new month began because every month I had 10 hours of free web access and I tried not to be more than 15-20 minutes online a day (just to check for emails and some boards).
    Sometimes there where programs with massive file size, like the old "Star Office" which was given away for free. For this program I had to save my online time. So I couldn´t go into the web for days or an entire week ;)

    • Dave P
      August 27, 2013 at 10:29 am

      I certainly don't miss those days. It reminds me how much we take the always-on Broadband for granted now though.

  8. Mikey
    August 23, 2013 at 6:58 am

    For me, Internet access was gained through an acoustic coupler modem, 1979. Just a couple of universities on, pretty quiet then :)

    • Pete
      August 23, 2013 at 8:52 am

      With you there, Mikey! Acoustic coupler (in AUSTRALIA!!) and 1980. Dialled into The Source in the USA through a semi-toll free line, or universities!

      Now what was browsing back in those days?!?!?!

    • Dave P
      August 27, 2013 at 10:28 am

      Wow, that was positively prehistoric in Internet terms.

  9. Humphrey V
    August 23, 2013 at 6:54 am

    Way back! Dailing in with a 14k4 modem, looking for BBS's to find walkthroughs for Monkey Island and such :) (And of course printing that on chainpaper on a matrix printer)

    • Dave P
      August 27, 2013 at 10:27 am

      Oh man, the number of game walkthroughs I printed out was insane. I wouldn't dream of wasting that much ink these days.

    • Stephen
      September 10, 2013 at 9:06 pm

      Forget walkthroughs, those lists of cheatcodes would set you back 5 pages alone!

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