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There's Still Something About the Good Old Days of Tech

May 02, 2017

I like to check my Twitter analytics to get a feel for the kinds of topics that my followers find interesting. You can learn the number of impressions and engagements for each individual tweet, as well as your overall engagement rate.

I don't have a huge Twitter following, so my numbers are usually pretty modest. That's why I was so surprised at the response to a recent tweet.

On March 12, my notifications lit up over this. I simply said, "Retweet if you've ever typed AT commands like ATDT to control a modem."

To my astonishment, I received more than 9,000 impressions so far for that one, and as of the time of this writing, it still gets the occasional retweet. For the sake of comparison, most of my tweets only generate a few hundred impressions.

I guess it goes to show that there's something about the "good ol' days" of tech that seems to capture so many imaginations. For me, when I saw that initial tweet, I instantly flashed back to the sound of a modem connecting.

That sound meant that soon you'd be back online. Of course getting and staying online wasn't easy in those days. I had a 386 zeos laptop and an external modem, and I can remember needing to be sure to bring either my long distance calling card or some local POP phone numbers so I could check email or send files. To the world at large, computers weren't ubiquitous then, and wifi and data on our phones didn't exist. "Long-distance calling" could mean talking to someone a half hour away, and it cost real money. Yet here we were, able to send emails and chat with people from anywhere. It seemed so awe-inspiring back then.

As much as I enjoy being able to connect to wifi from an airplane to check email or watch cat videos while hurtling through the sky at 30,000 feet, there's something almost romantic about all those hoops we jumped through to get access to our text-based Internet. At least for those of us who've been there from the evolution from BBSs to now, there's a simple perfection to text-based computing. It may be why us older computer nerds have less of an issue with things like the Korn shell and 'set -o vi' and vi editing. We were using AT commands before we ever heard the sounds that made it happen. We grew up with these kinds of systems. We didn't grow up in the graphical, "GUI-fied" world that came after.

This was the soundtrack of life in the 1990s. Before the Eternal September. Before any of your non-techie friends even knew what you were talking about when you mentioned gopher or usenet or irc or email, let alone the World Wide Web.

Posted May 02, 2017 | Permalink

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