Friday, 31 December 2010

Internet Nostalgia Part 1

So it's the last day of 2010, and what a decade it has been. Rather than throw the defining sites, media and gadgets of the last 10 years at you, as I'm sure every technology blog, paper and website will be doing that.. I've decided to take a look back at some internet nostalgia from the century just gone.

Yes, before you facebooked your friends mum, tweeted about your new Nike trainers you bought whilst eating a Meatball Marinara from Subway on Oxford Street, and before you even thought about .mp3 files, iPods and especially before you even considered iPads.

This was 'The World Wide Web' in it's prime, the digital land of pixels, gifs, black backgrounds and neon writing on 640 x 480 screen resolutions. This was a time where downloading a sound file (.wav and .ra?) took over a few hours, and even thinking about downloading a movie or a computer game was almost unheard of.

Before we travel on this magical journey though, you need to hear one sound that should put a smile on alot of your faces, or possibly make some of you cringe..

Oh yes, that's right, the DUT (Dial Up Tone). Doesn't that take you back?

The Internet WayBack machine has been keeping records of websites since 1996, and makes for some funny, and nostalgic viewing. It is definitely worth a look. you remember the days before "Google it" was the answer to a question you didn't know?

Google it? No..Why not Ask Jeeves instead, or even "Yahoo it"?

What about Lycos? Alta Vista? All viable search engine options before the search engine giant of Google came along.

One thing I used to 'yahoo' alot..

"Zelda 64 Triforce Rumours" was a very common search of mine during the late nineties. I was obsessed with the idea that you could collect the whole Triforce in Zelda: Ocarina of Time, it never happened of course, but it was fun trying all the madcap rumours out.

One of the aforementioned sites is still up and running, pretty much as good quality as the Space Jam website actually..

Another popular form of website in the mid-nineties were 'Film' websites, where you could check out all the information, "internet quality" images and soundbites from the latest blockbuster releases.

This will make you cringe, guaranteed. Do you remember.. SpaceJam? I sure do. For some reason, Warner Bros have decided to keep the website still up and running today, and lets just say it doesn't seem as 'awesome' as it did 14 years ago (has it really been that long?).

Can anyone say .gif much? The actual site isn't even the worst part of it, imagine how much a website designer would have been paid by the Warner Bros execs back in 1996 to create this framed, gif extravaganza.

Another example, with a tie in to the internet via AOL (we'll come to this bad boy in a bit), was the website for You've Got Mail, a classic timeless tale of modern day (well it was once) digital love.

This leads us onto one of the early internet providers..

Yep, that shiny blue disc you see above once littered the high streets of the world, think German Hyperinflation of the 1920's, but with "CD-ROMS".

This was America OnLine. Or as it became, AOL.

Three letters that probably don't mean as much to this generation as they did to the nineties generation. These three letters were plastered everywhere, whether you simply saw it mentioned at the end of every movie and tv show with "AOL KEYWORD", or you slipped on one of the many AOL Discs at the supermarket, cinema, post office, bank, you name it.

I could easily frustrate alot of people who installed AOL after picking up one of the many discs, with one simple word.


It does seem so simple doesn't it? But for years AOL just wouldn't let you uninstall it's software, (well to the average user anyway, anyone who knew how to uninstall files without using Windows Uninstaller was fine, but for the most part, 95% of users were stuck). Not only could they not uninstall the program, they were still being billed using it as well.

Of course in the movie "You've got Mail", AOL was a plush, deluxe program that would never cause any problems at all..

Part II coming soon, watch this space for more Internet Nostalgia, Real Player, eMail (hotmail), and the introduction of webcams, forums, and chat rooms..

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Sony MZ-E25 MiniDisc

I recently found the music player that got me through school from 1997 until I left in 2005. The Sony MZ-E25 MiniDisc player.

Bought at it's prime in the late 90's, it is now going for as cheap as £20 on eBay.

I remember first getting the player in 1997 as a christmas present and not even thinking of what potential effect it would have on the portable music market, it didn't even occur to me that it would spell the end of portable CD Players. I was just so excited that I could shuffle and change the songs via the 'LCD Remote Stick' that came as an attachment to the player, which itself could attach to your clothing, pocket, etc.

Until the eventual release of mp3 players and the industry changing iPod, in 2001, Minidiscs were seen as the future of digital data, be it music, video or documents such as photos, word files, etc, and as much as I love my iPod Touch and mp3's, I do miss the MiniDisc, the sound quality was top notch, and the actual players felt like a deluxe, quality product.

The idea for it the discs for data storage seemed so 'underground' and 'cyberpunk', brought on I'm sure by Neo in The Matrix;

When mp3 first started gaining popularity on the internet in the mid-nineties, a program called 'Winamp' was needed to play the files (hands up who still uses that..), the format became so popular that eventually it would make it's way onto CD-R's, MD-R's and eventually have it's own player. But, at the point when MiniDisc was at it's prime, mp3 was considered a cheap, crappy quality sound file, that noone thought would ever amount to anything more than being used on webpages as backing music, or for putting onto Powerpoint slides.

How beautiful hindsight is.

'There is no reason why anyone would want a computer in the home'