Nostaglia 101: The Wonders of the 90's: Mattman70 is back from away
Published: Sunday, September 29, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 29, 2013 22:09
Remember that time when cell phones didn’t have text messaging? Or when they finally did and you didn’t have one? Seriously what did we do before texting?
Remember AIM, AOL Instant Messenger? Skipping the big journalistic no-no of starting with four questions and the fact that AIM is an acronym inside an acronym, AIM, as well as other similar platforms of the time really were the precursor to modern texting, unless of course you count the old pen and paper.
AIM was a place where your screen name and your profile determined how much of a total tool you were. Hence “xxoxcutiebb208” and “BHSFo0tball14.” A screen name had to be something you weren’t embarrassed to give out but still sort of reflected who you were as a person.
The best part was, you could have as many names as you wanted. You just had to tell everyone every time you got a new one so that they didn’t think you were Ken Kaniff and call the cops.
The other way AIM let you personalize is the good ol’ buddy icons. It could literally be an image you desired, but almost no one ever used their actual face, did they? Most people either used short GIFs or pictures of dogs or hearts or baseballs.
The buddy icon, that little 60 x 60 pixel picture next to the text box was the most important thing, yet couldn’t have mattered less. Looking back, who cares? They were fun, but having the same icon as someone else was probably the biggest mistake, a real crime against humanity.
Along with every screen name and icon there was a profile. Everyone had a different font and background, telling a little about themselves or blatantly lying. Then they had their boyfriend or girlfriend’s name and when they started dating. Is it all coming back yet?
Getting a cute boy or girl’s screen name was kind of like getting his/her number. That is, if you actually asked for it as opposed to getting it from someone else. There was a strange feeling you would get when the little window popped up and said “K3lLy946 has signed on” or “SuperBrad10 returned from away,” Then you would have to wait the appropriate amount of time before you messaged them or else it would be creepy.
One thing that AIM had that is so underutilized today with texting is the use of the away message. Most smartphones have the capability for auto-response messages, which are essentially the same. But they don’t have that little yellow sticky note next to a user’s name letting they’re not there, or at least don’t want to be bothered.
Away messages in a way were an early Facebook status. They let everyone else know what you were doing, which most of the time no one cared about or it was so vague enough that it didn’t matter.
Now think about it. Before you had a phone, before Facebook and even Myspace, how did you communicate with your friends? Sure there were landlines which may have gotten occasional use, but AIM dominated communications for most 90’s kids and well into the 2000’s.
I hope I haven’t bored you to pieces, if you liked this column let me know, if not I’d like to hear that as well. Tweet at me @GiGantos.