What do Neopets, dial-up modems and the screeching of a thousand dying birds have in common? They made up the internet experience for kids who lived through this period of hell: the 2000s! Yes, the 2000s, when overalls where the shit, Bert’s Backyard was popular, and The Wiggles were finger-waving their way into our hearts, minds and wallets, as we paid for all of their meals.
It’s been 19 years since the start of the noughties and what better way to commemorate this feat by jumping back to my own childhood.
As a kid born in the heart of the 90s (1998 to be exact) I know a thing or two about entertaining myself when the internet wasn’t yet a thing – okay, no I didn’t, but I do remember when my Dad brought home our first ever computer and internet package. It was LARGE, did not come pre-loaded with iTunes, Adobe, Spotify or even Internet Explorer (even mentioning this shit stain of a browser makes me feel old). The only clouds that people would talk about were the ones in the sky – because that’s what would be interesting, looking at real clouds in the sky. It’s a far stretch from the laptops, smartphones and tech pads (saying pads by itself didn’t sound right) that even five-month-old babies are equipped with. Does anyone remember flip phones? No, they’re prehistoric.
One thing I will never forget is the whining sound of the dial-up modem in my ears that transcends the irritation of any sound. The harmonising of high-pitched squealing and the deep bass buzzing was in no way soothing as I booted up the internet for the fourth time in a row after my mum called to Susie to bitch about the other school mums.
The fact that the phone and internet were connected (not by wifi or wireless connection but) PHYSICALLY is foreign now. We don’t work physically with many things anymore, just ask the FBI agent watching you through your webcam while you’re reading this article right now. Hi Dave, how are the kids and missus doing?
Once booted up, www.neopets.com would be my first stop. Either that or Club Penguin, Cartoon Network or even YouTube in its infancy. Sometimes I would just browse countries, the solar system or Digimon because I wanted to learn things. Back then, learning wasn’t a given, you had to look for it. Now, I feel as though we take this luxury somewhat for granted. Now, Google is my professor and Wikipedia, my checker.
Even thinking about Neopets, Club Penguin and all of those awesome Cartoon Network games has me nostalgic, bringing back memories of me playing on my Dad’s shitty PC, having to wait 10 minutes for a screen to load and even more for the game to even start. Now, load screens are extinct. Games didn’t have graphics, oh no, they had bits – and God knows those bits heard me laugh and cry for years as I tried to beat Trapfall.
The most memorable part of my childhood would be the collections of Neopets whom I cared for in my youth. I’ve always wondered what would happen to them 10 years down the track, I cared for those pixels more than I take care of myself now. I had the motivation to haggle for the best snacks, food and items to ensure my babies were in the best possible position in life, meanwhile, IRL I’m opening up my second pack of Oreos for the day. Who’s the real winner here?
On a trip down memory lane, we also cannot neglect to mention the greatest game of the 00s: Runescape, a game that still plagues the internet today. I remember some person scamming me out of giving them my account details. Not happy, Jan.
Aside from the games that moulded me into the man I am today, the evolution of internet has given people the opportunity to learn about different cultures with ease, allowing for new aesthetics, subcultures and styles to be created – with Instagram being the main form of style sharing.
Back in the 2000s, MySpace was the absolute shit. I never had my own account, hadn’t even heard of it until it was already on its last legs (it was old for me) and only remember that it was in and out of my life like my latest love interest in the story of my life. Spoiler alert, the protagonist in the story of my life ends up alone with his Instagram Valencia filter being his only way to brighten up his life. Back in the good ol’ days, no one knew what a Valencia filter was, and I have no idea how they would have lived without it. The only thing Insta-like in the 00s was the instant frustration I would feel when someone would get on the fucking landline and I wouldn’t get the chance to feed my Neopet before it died of starvation (again). I would always give them the cutest names like “Ariel” and “Angel” but then they would literally die and become an Angel which was quite distressing for eight-year-old me as I desperately tried to save my little chipmunk-dog-thing. Looking back, Neopets were hugely terrifying.
After school socialising online consisted of Club Penguin hangouts and the grind of puffle collecting. The number of hours I spent grinding to get as many puffles as I could, decorate my fucking igloo with the best shit, including a light-up dancefloor, was too many.
I would click all over my screen to get those secret items in the monthly catalogue, crashing my shitty PC more than once and breaking a few mouses. I felt it, the end of the world was nigh that day. I will never forget the day that I lost to someone on the ski tubing game, the bitch that won would never race again as I uttered the most disgusting phrase ever uttered in Club Penguin’s history “you shit.” Shortly after, my hours of hard work had come to nothing, and I was banned from playing Club Penguin, Pengy511 was never seen on Club Penguin again.
So, after I grew out of my Club Penguin phase, Facebook had emerged in its infancy. I wasn’t allowed Facebook. So, what did young me do? Made one behind his parents’ back. It was during my rebellious years and I found it so fun to interact with people – until I friended my friend’s mum and she said to my mum “oh! Kris got Facebook! When are you coming on Simone! :)” I was grounded for too long.
Currently, our society has evolved into the number-crunching, double-tapping, smartphone frenzy, so it’s nice to reflect on what life was before social media and technology were rampant in our lives – when we all had control of our lives, that is.