The public internet did not become a thing until the mid-1990s. Given that it has only been about 30 years, there are a lot of us who remember life without it. Things were certainly different back then. For starters, the world was nowhere near as connected as it is now. Globalism was more a topic for political philosophy than a goal that governments were actually working toward.
Hindsight reveals that the public internet has been both good and bad for the world. It has been mostly good, so we can take solace in that much. Still, nostalgia makes some of our pre-internet memories especially sweet. Just think about the things we used to do before we started going online.
Do you still do any of these three pre-internet things?
1. Banking in Person
I remember first signing up for direct deposit back in the nineties. I thought I had reached the pinnacle of success. Prior to that, I had to make a stop at the bank every Friday on the way home from work. I waited in line with all the other working staff to deposit my paycheck and grab a little spending money.
I cannot tell you the last time I stepped foot in a bank. I deposit checks with my phone. I receive most of my payments electronically, so checks are limited anyway. I applied for my mortgage and car loan online. And since I rarely use cash, withdrawals are a thing of the past.
Standing in line at the bank was annoying back then. I kind of miss it now. I miss conversations with my fellow working stiffs. I miss getting to know the tellers and having them ask about my family. I even miss the sense of satisfaction that used to come with handing the teller my check and a deposit slip.
2. Paying Bills by Check
Keeping things in the financial realm, we used to pay bills by check before there was an internet. I had all my bills and their due dates marked on a calendar. Every weekend, I would pull out the checkbook and get all the checks I needed for that week written. I would stuff the envelopes, address them, and attach stamps. Then off to the mail they went.
This is one pre-internet task I do not miss. Writing checks and licking stamps was never a favorite activity of mine. Good riddance to it.
3. Shopping by Catalog
Online shopping has its roots in old-school catalog shopping. Before the internet, many of us would get catalogs delivered to our homes in the mail. The catalogs had order forms attached. We could search through the catalogs, fill out the forms, and send them away. A few weeks later the purchased items would arrive at the front door.
Catalog shopping was actually kind of fun. It wasn’t as convenient as going down to the department store or hitting the mom-and-pop shops on main street, but its uniqueness had a strange appeal. Today, online shopping seems much less personal.
Strange as it sounds, Houston-based Blazing Hog says there are still some parts of rural America where these three practices are normal. Without access to wired broadband, a lot of people still do things the old way. Blazing Hog and its competitors are seeking to change that with 4G high speed rural internet access.
Do you remember a world without the internet? If so, do you think it was a better world? No need to answer out loud. We wouldn’t want to start a debate you couldn’t extract yourself from.