Whenever I log into SpaceHey, I can easily imagine that everyone else online is in a computer lab full of colorful iMac computers. The Internet is too new to be broken; it's just awkward. Everything was awkward then. "Awkward" was the catch phrase. The Internet was too slow to be "necessary," computers were too big to be portable, and cellphones were mostly for playing Snake. I can afford to idolize that era because it's behind me and glistens with nostalgia. Let's be honest: I kind of hated it.
MTV mostly stopped playing music videos, playing reality shows instead. My iPod reduced my CD collection from an entire shelving unit to something smaller than a remote control. But downloadable music meant illegal downloads were wrecking the music industry. Record stores weren't places to find music ... if you went to them at all. The combination of computers and satellite feeds meant radio stations were automated or featured DJs from major cities, no one you'd ever meet while shopping. And a computer doesn't take your requests at night or dedicate a song to someone you had a crush on. I remember just beginning to replace my VHS collection with DVDs when the fight between HDDVD and Blu-Ray broke out. Traditional TVs stopped working as the transition to HDTV began. Flat screens would replace the boxy screens, and our phones would replace TVs.
I miss the last hints of 20th Century life. I miss pay phones, video stores, record stores, and network TV. I miss independent theaters, grocery stores, and restaurants. I even miss department stores, though. I also miss RadioShack storefronts and Waldenbooks. These things are gone for many reasons, too many to list here.
In a way, what I am missing is my own childhood. I miss shopping malls where I could find -- not just clothes -- but music, books, greeting cards, appliances, and an arcade. However, my parents loathed the shopping mall and missed shopping in downtown stores where holiday parades didn't pass by empty buildings and broken windows. My grandparents missed live music and the other kinds of entertainment that got you out of the house and enjoying other people. I never really knew those things, and they're hard for me to imagine.
I find it funny to see kids on SpaceHey express wistful admiration for anyone who got to live through the 90s or early 2000s. I can remember being their age and feeling the same way about the late 60s and early 70s. I no longer wish I had lived my parents' childhood, nor do I regret my own. However, because I can't easily identify some ideal time period, I think I've lost my mooring. Would it be better to wish I had lived in an earlier era or be realistic and lost?
Life is a buffet: it's neither good nor bad so long as there's something to enjoy. For now, I'll take the simplicity of SpaceHey and fondly recall a quiet lab with a rainbow of computers that were so slow you sometimes wanted to pull your hair out ... but you passed the time talking and playing Snake.