This Is What The Internet Looked Like In 1996

by Lily Feinn
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Remember when you actually knew that URLs were "Universal Resources Locators" and dragging and dropping an image on your computer was a trial of dexterity? The benevolent YouTube gods have bestowed on us a 1996 VHS tape explaining the wonders of the World Wide Web, and it is chock full of things you forgot about the internet in the '90s. The instructional video, which was quietly transferred to YouTube in 2011 and recently uncovered by the Laughing Squid, is guaranteed to be one of the most nostalgia-tastic things you will ever seen, and is definitely worth a watch.

With the video, you can now relive the internet as it was in 1996 and have some of your most pressing questions from the mid-'90s answered — questions like, "How do I send an email?" and "What is a webpage?" What's more, these answers will be explained to you by a host dressed as an archeologist. Why is he dressed as an archeologist? I do not know. We might never know, although I suppose we could always Google it, because it is no longer 1996.

Two decades ago, the internet was a mysterious thing. Though online banking and shopping were starting to become popular, only 23 percent of adults went online — a percentage which would double by 1998 and subsequently skyrocket from there. But while there is plenty of PC nostalgia to go around, don't expect any deep insights from this hour-long tutorial as far as the workings of the internet are concerned. "I'm guessing the average 1st grader knows more about using a PC and the internet than this professional instructional video is teaching," the uploader wrote in the video description — which is probably accurate.

You can check out the entire web seminar here:

It's hard to believe that once upon a time we needed a VHS to explain how to use the internet, but that's just another thing we forgot about the internet in the '90s. Here are a few more:


The Internet Used To Be Super Obscure

Back in 1996, we were still using pay phones, listening to cassette tapes, and reading books made of paper. The internet was this cool up-and-coming thing that wasn't really accessible to most people. In the beginning of the video, the host informs the viewers that the internet's popularity has grown so fast that "it's predicted that over 25 million people will be using it by the year 1998." Little did he know that less than 20 years later, we'd all be walking around with personal computers in our pockets connect to the internet all the time.


It Was Once Called The World Wide Web (Not Ironically)

The World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berner-Lee in 1991, and would come to define the Information Age. Connecting the web across international boundaries was a relatively new thing in 1996. The web created a interface for the average person to access the Internet using "hypertext links" and "URLs." It's no wonder that we were all so confused about why we had to type "www" back then to go to a webpage.


You Had To Use A Personal Phone Line To Run The Internet Through A Modem

In 1996, the majority of people had to tie up their telephone lines to get online. There were no routers or Wi Fi, just good ol' modems converting digital data into analogue signals. I will never forget the screech that the dial-up modem made while connecting to a local ISP server. Now, if only I could remember what a Slip PPP connection was.


Netscape Navigator Was A Popular Browser

Released in 1994, Netscape Navigator was one of the most popular browsers until Microsoft's Internet Explorer came around. I will never forget watching the little animated "N" logo as I waited for webpages to load. As it was the '90s, I spent a lot of time waiting for sites to load.


Images Always Stopped Loading Half Way Through

Navigating the wiles of the internet took a lot longer on the old web, and back then you just needed to be zen about it. Running at blazing fast speeds of 28.8 Kbps, each webpage would take about 30 seconds to load, and pictures could take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes. Heaven forbid someone picked up the phone while you were waiting for an image or it would be all for naught.


Search Engines Looked Very Different

Before the age of Google dominance, search engines of the '90s were used only to look up key words and information on the web. Unlike today, there was no search engine loyalty; to get the best results you had to use a combo of all your '90s faves, like AltaVista, Lycos, Ask Jeeves, and InfoSeek.


The Web and The Internet Were Separate Things Online

Back in the '90s, to do a proper search you had to look at both the web and the internet. The web was a multi-media platform, while the internet was non-graphical. Indeed, many sites were only accessible over the internet using Gopher protocol URLs — though I can't remember ever typing out a website that started with "Gopher://."


Sending An Email Was Pretty Easy

Back in the '90s, email was done through your preferred web browser, so to send an email, you could simply click on the "File" option in the menu bar and select the "New Mail Message" from any website. You could also subscribe to special interest groups called "News Groups" and receive and respond to on-topic postings in the email thread. These long-forgotten hallmarks of the young internet were similar to discussion forums, and predecessors of social media.

It's easy to lose track of how far we've come in the past couple of decades — but it's good to remind ourselves that we didn't always live in a world where we could look up exactly who played Newman on Seinfeld whenever we felt like it. It helps keep you grounded, you know?

And maybe — just maybe — it'll help you keep your cool the next time you suffer a service interruption. You dealt with it all the time back then; you can deal with it now. You got this.