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Before the Internet

“Before the Internet, you would just sit in an armchair with a book open on your lap, staring into space or staring at a decorative broom on the wall—kind of shifting back and forth between those two modes of being.

“Before the Internet, you might take it upon yourself to do a drawing. You’d quietly start sketching something in a notebook, not sure what it was, but you’d let inspiration guide you and then—woop!—turns out you’d drawn a squiggly alligator with a cockeyed approach.

“Before the Internet, you’d have yawning summer afternoons when you’d flop down on one couch, then flop down on another, then decide to craft a fake F.B.I. card. You’d get some paper from your dad’s office, copy the F.B.I. logo and your signature, laminate it with Scotch tape, put it in your wallet, take it out of your wallet, look at it, then put it back in your wallet with a secretive smile.

“It was a heady time!

“You’d be in some kind of arts center, wearing roomy overalls, looking at a tray of precious gems, and you’d say, “That’s cat’s-eye,” and your friend would say, “Nope. That’s opal.” And you’d say, “That’s definitely cat’s-eye.” And there would be no way to look it up, no way to prove who was right, except if someone had a little booklet. “Anyone got a little booklet?” you’d ask, looking around. “Is there a booklet on this shit?”

“Then you’d walk outside and squint at the sky, just you in your body, not tethered to any network, adrift by yourself in a world of strangers in the sunlight.”
RTWT at: Before the Internet | The New Yorker

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • JoeDaddy June 25, 2017, 3:28 AM

    Please keep the sidebar info going as before!

  • Donald Sensing June 25, 2017, 6:59 AM

    Until My Dying Day I will swear that this was normal.

    Millennials, that is what a normal childhood is like. I weep that you never had one.

  • Sam L. June 25, 2017, 7:02 AM

    Verily, thou hath NAILED it!

  • ed in texas June 25, 2017, 7:50 AM

    Before the Internet… I’d be outside working on something, where I should be….

  • BillH June 25, 2017, 8:59 AM

    Before the internet, bulletin boards. Before bulletin boards, short wave radio. Before short wave radio, gossip fences and saloons. People gonna’ palaver.

  • Mike G. June 25, 2017, 9:32 AM

    @Donald Sensing,

    I swear that first pic in your commentary looks like it was taken in my old neighborhood in SoCal.

    We had a canyon behind our house and used to ride our bikes for miles. We would also ride through the flood control tunnels, climbing up the ladder at the curb drains to see if we could see a road sign so we would know where we were at.

    We used to walk about a mile and a half to school every day too. We didn’t have crossing guards either.

    If you wanted or needed to know something, you were told to look it up in the encyclopedia or trek down to the library.

    Ahhh, good times.

  • pbird June 25, 2017, 11:20 AM

    In today’s terms my siblings and I were feral. It was great. We were so much more adaptable and so much stronger than kids grown under glass. Poor little buggers.

  • ghostsniper June 25, 2017, 11:43 AM

    Next time you see someone under the age of say 40 ask them if they’ve ever been punched in the face. I bet you go thru 100 or more before you find someone that has.

    Remember the first time you did a *successful* wheelie on a stingray bike?
    Beautiful, wuddn’t it?

  • Donald Sensing June 25, 2017, 3:46 PM
  • AbigailAdams June 25, 2017, 4:20 PM

    Agreed with the previous commenters/comments! Raised in rural America in my formative years and am so sorry most kids today don’t have the opportunity to exercise their imaginations to the degree we were able just by being left alone to dream and think and ponder and wonder. They are being fed so much stuff so rapidly they haven’t the time to even think, let alone really wonder — no time to inspect or reject what they are receiving.

  • Bang Gunley June 25, 2017, 5:42 PM

    And before television we had radio and you could see the pictures better.

  • zenga June 26, 2017, 4:22 AM

    not that the internet doesn’t also have its attractive aspects. after all, I just read a pleasant reminder of life as a boy. thanks for reminding me.

  • Maddog June 28, 2017, 8:12 AM

    For a look at some photos of the pre Internet period, and a quick look at the even earlier pre Television period, see here:

    Mark Sherman

  • Chuck June 30, 2017, 4:27 AM

    Ah radio! Amos and Andy, Our Miss Brooks, Pam and Jerry North, No School Today, Grand Central Station, Let’s Pretend, Danny Clover on Broadway’s My Beat, Sgt Preston and his Wonder Dog King, Green Hornet and Cato, Don McNeil and the Breakfast Club, Cecil B DeMille on Lux Radio Theater, Escape, Inner Sanctum, Suspense, Life with Luigi, My Friend Irma, Our Gal Sunday and on and on. After 65 years they all still occupy my head and I can hear them yet.