The internet was once a new frontier of myth and legend inhabited by four-eyed explorers on college campuses who seemed to think this digital world would soon overtake the Earth. It turns out they were right.
There really is no facet of our life that the internet has not touched and become "essential" to. Work, entertainment, family it's all tied up in the World Wide Web and while it is all pretty awesome, I can't help but think we've lost some great potential experiences.
I know we have a lot of "younglings" on the site (I'm talking to YOU, the folks who think Dexter's Laboratory is retro) so I thought I would lead an expedition to the past to remind us of the many experiences of childhood that the internet is slowly eating away at or done away with altogether. I'm going to do my darndest to not sound like a cranky old geezer, by focusing more on the joys of a pre-internet childhood of the 80's and early 90's than lamenting its loss.
As a child was there anything better than getting a letter addressed to you in the mail? Of course, cards from Grandparents were always top priority since there was usually a check with a picture of fluffy kittens or a Bald Eagle inside.
Sometimes it was something you ordered out of a catalog, comic book or Boy's Life magazine. Filling out your order on a 3x5 card was part of the fun and so was the long wait for the arrival of your stuff.
My favorite mail-away items were the "Rattlesnake Eggs" that came inside a little manila envelope that rattled as you opened it up. Naive as I was I thought I was actually getting freeze-dried snake babies (hey, it worked for Sea Monkeys) so I literally jumped when the package vibrated.
Of course on closer inspection it was just a washer wrapped up in a rubber band-those tricky devils!
Another favorite was the Pen Pal letter. We had some project in school where they assigned us Pen Pals and we wrote back and forth for a year. Most of my letters included questions concerning the most pressing issues of the day, "Do you like Thundercats?" "Who is your favorite Thundercat?" "Don't you think Silverhawks is just a rip-off of the Thundercats?".
Also, the different kind of stamps attached to the envelopes were cool to look at. You'll notice I didn't say collect. Stamp collecting was for nerds and while I was called "Fatty" or "Chubby" or "Hungry Hungry Hippo", I never got labeled as a "Nerd" in which I took a certain amount of fat pride.
You know what? I was going to try and fill this article out with discussions of how we don't have the opportunity to be surprised by movies anymore because you can find spoilers and bootlegs online and how Role Playing Games are now pretty much played in the digital realm, but I should just get to the point.
What really inspired me to write this article is the glut of internet porn so readily available to be viewed and discarded in today's world. Allow me to explain. I will be as delicate as possible with this subject. SPOILER ALERT: I don't use any dirty words or pics in my description of the following events, my apologies.
Here's the deal, there used to be a quest for every young boy in America that united us all and provided endless hours of schoolyard discussion. It was a journey I'm sure many of you out there have undertaken.This quest was called "Finding Dad's Playboys".
We didn't know what sex was, we didn't know why we wanted to see a naked lady, but we knew it was all contained within the pages of the ever-elusive Playboy magazine. Legends were told of the heavily airbrushed sights within and alliances were struck with those who knew where their old man's secret stash was located.
My Dad was a pretty religious guy so either he didn't bother with the magazine (most likely) or he did a really good job of hiding it (maybe in the heating vents?), so I had to tag along with friends on their expeditions if I was to uncover the mystery for myself. One journey in particular sticks out in my mind as it was both the first and most covert.
It was my friend David's 9th birthday party and we had just finished off a couple of Pizza Hut pizzas. We were a crew of about seven 3rd graders and having filled our stomachs we were off to satisfy other appetites. Under the guise of playing Nintendo we all snuck off to David's room and plugged into a game of Base Wars (still one of my favorites) as we prepared to carry out our mission.
Feigning celebration or controversy the majority of our team would make a lot of noise to cover the flight of David took each of us, two by two, down the hall and into his parent's room. Some came back with big grins on their faces, others merely shrugged and jumped back into making hovering robots hit a home run. I remember when it was my turn to join the ranks.
My heart was pounding as we scooted into the darkened room, lit only by the fading afternoon sunlight and a 60 watt bulb in the hallway. Quietly David reached to open the drawer underneath his parent's end table and pulled out the glossy rectangle which boasted the title of Playboy on its cover. I had never seen a naked lady and now I was about to become initiated into that special club or so I thought.
David began flipping through pages trying to find a section with pictures, but all he found were words, STUPID ARTICLES WITH WORDS! Oh, wait, there's a picture.
OH CRAP, it's just an ad for Rolex watches. Come on, man, COME ON! You just did this for the other guys and NOW you can't find the good stuff?
Apparently David had never seen any number of movies where the guy just flips to the middle of the magazine and the centerfold magically appears. Just as I thought he was making his way to the good part we heard a rumbling at the bottom of the stairs and took off for David's room in a panic.
Disappointed and out of breath, I focused my still virgin eyes back on the TV screen to see two robot baseball players having a fistfight in the outfield as I hunched over in defeat.
Robots I had seen, boobies I had not.
Eventually I did get to flip the pages myself in a neighbor kid's backyard clubhouse, but the disappointment of that previous experience at David's house hung over what should have been a moment of triumph and left me cold.
But my point is that the internet has robbed today's young horn dogs of such dizzying highs and crashing disappointments. The simplicity of the operation is gone as well. Back then we were merely searching under the bed and in between mattresses, now it's like industrial espionage.
The kid's gotta figure out their parent's password or learn how to turn any filters off, then get up at 3am to sneak around while everybody's asleep. Then when they do get online it's not anything as tame as Playboy, it's super freaky deakey crap!
So in closing, even though the ever present internet has taken away some of life's simple pleasures and made movies like Hackers or The Net starring Sandra Bullock less mysterious, it is a pretty awesome tool. I mean, we the Retrojunkers of the world wouldn't even have a place to congregate and share memories without it.
I mean we'd have to throw annual RetroJunk conventions and fly out to vkimo's house and hang out in his garage drinking 15 year old cases of Hi-C Ecto Cooler.
Or Caps 2.0 would have to rent out a bar for us to sing Karaoke TV show theme songs all night long. Come to think of it, damn the internet! Let's get those RetroJunk conventions going, whaddya say?