Offline Chronicles: What Was Life like Before the Digital Age

In the current era powered by the internet, the divergence from even a few decades ago is strikingly apparent. Information retrieval, shopping, work, and entrepreneurial ventures have all been revolutionized, offering unprecedented convenience. The era preceding the internet, however, presented a reality vastly distinct from our contemporary landscape.

For those born in the digital age, as well as those that are nostalgic for good ole times, we’re here to capture the essence of life before the advent of the internet.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

life before the internet

Illustration: Lenka T.

Life before the internet was a stark departure from the world we know today. Certain elements of daily existence remained unchanged, for sure. Yet, numerous facets of life have undergone a profound transformation that is almost unrecognizable in today’s context. 

Those who experienced this period often refer to it as the pre-internet era. It was a time marked by a sense of tranquility, reduced pressures, and heightened enjoyment. Reflecting on this epoch prompts contemplation on the extent of its dissimilarity. 

Let’s delve into these reminiscences, shall we? 

There was no Google 

In the pre-Google era, acquiring information was an endeavor that demanded some effort. There were physical repositories of knowledge, such as encyclopedias and libraries. For the more technologically adept, there was the renowned Encarta ’95. 

Those were the times when you had to dig in extensive volumes of text to unearth the desired information. Such a reality has since undergone remarkable transformation. 

Certainly, this approach had its merits. Verifying fact or unfamiliar information demanded a comparable level of diligence—an attribute that proved advantageous. 

There were books! 

In the era preceding the internet’s dominance, the primary means of carrying out research meant delving into books. But these curious artifacts weren’t solely utilitarian. They were also sources of entertainment as well.  

No s***! 


Source: Google

Yes, you read that right—books were once cherished for their ability to transport readers into immersive narratives and fantastical realms. Quite extraordinary, isn’t it? 

Socializing meant leaving the house 

Before the internet took over our lives, there were no digital platforms like YouTube and Google, nor were there any social media. Such a reality dictated stepping outside your humble abode to participate in various activities.  

Shopping demanded visits to local stores, while watching films necessitated trips to theaters. What’s even worse, forging connections meant meeting and making friends or acquaintances in person. Good Lord! 

Modern times have introduced platforms and applications enabling these activities from the comfort of your couch or lazy bag. Still, one can’t help wondering whether this is an advancement indeed, or a step towards devolution. 

Recording music off the radio was the norm 

Long before the rise of streaming platforms such as Spotify, the existence of MP3s, or the concept of peer-to-peer file sharing, acquiring music was a different endeavor altogether. Songs were either purchased as official copies or painstakingly taped off the radio. 

Individuals from the pre-internet era recall hours spent anticipating a favored tune and hastily hitting the record button at the opportune moment. Occasionally, a stroke of luck allowed one to record the latest chart-toppers, but securing lesser-known tracks necessitated a diligent effort.  


Source: Google

Today’s generation might struggle to comprehend the satisfaction derived from flawlessly timing the recording to omit the often-trivial commentary of radio DJs. Life before the internet indeed dwelled in a distinct era. 

Procrastination was conspicuous 

The pre-internet office life was notably more challenging. There was no such thing as browsing cute cat pictures or watching dog videos while pretending you’re actually working on something.  

Gazing out the window or pondering over those ubiquitous ‘inspirational’ posters could put you in danger and expose you as a non-diligent worker. Today, however, the option to peruse the latest humorous memes or watch YouTube videos exists without exuding an air of laziness. 

Procrastination has seldom been simpler—aren’t we just fortunate? 

Dating was way too different 

In the pre-internet ages, dating required some audacity. If you wanted to ask someone out, you would need to summon the courage to ask them in person. Imagine that! 

love message

Source: Google

Other alternatives could be engaging intermediaries (often obliging friends) or delivering pre-date questionnaires and love messages. Such an approach is still present today, albeit to a lesser extent – remember dating apps like Tinder. The emergence of the internet has profoundly reshaped the dating we used to know, altering (or ruining?) the game irrevocably. 

Social media posts required actual walls 

Before the internet, spreading information to a broader audience required a physical manifestation. Namely, sharing pertinent information involved printing hardcopy notices, transporting them to a designated spot, and affixing them to noticeboards, walls, or other surfaces. 

An intriguing concept indeed! 

This, however, didn’t preclude the potential for unfavorable responses—a scenario typical of the contemporary digital age. Often, mischievous individuals would deface meticulously crafted notices or embellish them with childish imagery. 

Some things just never change. 

Web design was a skill typical of spiders 

In the dark pre-internet times, several contemporary professions were non-existent. Imagine mentioning that you were a web designer back then. Chances are that people would think something was seriously wrong with you. 

spider web

Source: Google

The notion of ‘designing’ webs was synonymous with the craft of spiders. The advent of the internet revolutionized the landscape irreversibly. 

Trolls existed only in fairy tales  

Once upon a time, the term “troll” evoked images from fairy tales or the peculiar Troll Dolls. What’s even stranger, differing opinions were more than welcome – and you could share them politely! 

The internet has undeniably broadened our horizons. But the anonymity provided by certain platforms has revealed humanity’s darker inclinations. Some online behavior observed today would have been unfathomable before the internet age. 

Mobile gaming was completely different 

In the dawn of mobile phones, the concept of gaming on these devices was inconceivable. Yet, the rise of Nokia phones and their famous Snake marked a paradigm shift in the gaming sphere. 

People of today can’t even imagine that people of then could have a great time playing those more rudimentary games. The modern generations might even find it challenging to fathom such joy, which is a true shame.  

Multiplayer games gathered around tables 

Who can forget the ole board games and Subbuteo? Engaging in multiplayer games before the internet’s reign implied gatherings with friends (in person), be it for board games or sports. 

Board games indeed have an extensive history. The period from the 1970s to the 1990s witnessed a surge in popularity for tabletop games like Subbuteo, along with strategic war games like Warhammer and Warhammer 40K. 


Source: Google

Unfortunately, their prominence diminished with the internet’s widespread adoption. However, these games have experienced a resurgence in recent times. May their revival continue to thrive! 

There were letters instead of emails 

Much before the internet, correspondence required a pen (not an S Pen) and the quaint substance known as paper. Composing messages involved writing on it, enclosing the note within another piece of paper called an envelope. When you’re done, you go to the post office and have them deliver your letter.  

This process extended over days with no guarantee that the recipient would get and read the letter. Today’s instantaneous email communications stand in stark contrast, functioning at the speed of light. 

Without a doubt, the era before the internet seems like a distant chapter for those who lived through it. Despite its relative inconvenience, the memories born during this period remain indelible for those fortunate enough to experience them. 

While opinions on whether that era outshines the present are subjective, there exists a palpable longing among some to revisit those times. 

"Ever tried. Ever failed. Never mind. Try again. Fail better."

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