Do You Remember Life Before The Internet?

How to list business in online local directories

I can distinctly remember the first time I ever used the internet. It was during the mid 1990’s, and I had no idea how powerful this new “thing” would become. Let me set the scene…

In 1995, I was invited to a local school to test out this new gimmick called “the internet.” I have to be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed. As far as my feeble child-like mind could tell, the internet was nothing more than an online library. You typed in what you were looking for, and the interweb spat out some moderately relevant results. It wasn’t efficient, it wasn’t insightful, and it certainly wasn’t user friendly. I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t see this catching on.” I had no idea.

Tom As A Kid

(When I was young, my kid moments weren't documented for the world to see.)

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A Dis-Trust Of Technology

To be fair, I had every right to believe the internet would flop. 20 years ago, humans didn’t trust technology. In 1993, you’d be halfway through an eight page essay, and MS DOS would suddenly decide it’s time for a re-boot. All your work was gone, and you’d have to start from scratch. Do you remember the frustration? Even if you had saved the document, you were relying on some useless, clunky, floppy disk to do the job. Let’s be honest, those ridiculous old disks didn’t inspire much confidence.

But back to the point…

It’s hard to comprehend how important the internet has become in such a short period of time. In 1993, the only person with a cell phone was Zack Morris. In 2013, your grandma has a smartphone synched to her email and Facebook page. In 1993, businesses relied on old school push marketing efforts to instruct consumers what to do. In 2013, businesses are at the mercy of consumers who can gather all the information they want with the push of a button. Consumers have never had so much power. For business owners, perfecting your message and reputation has never been more important. The onus is squarely placed on business owners to adapt, and those who don’t heed the warning are destined to fail.

Stare Down

(When I was in high school, we couldn't share the experience online.)

Does this sound overly dramatic? Good! I’m not joking when I say the internet has become, and will continue to be, the most important conduit of new business.

The Times, They Are A Changin'

So how can business owners effectively adapt to these changes? The first step towards changing your circumstances is admitting you have a problem. Can you save money by designing a website yourself and trying to master this “search engine optimization” thing? Absolutely. But don’t expect positive results. Would you edit, shoot, and produce a global television commercial on your own? Obviously not.

So here’s the question…

Why would someone outsource the production of a television commercial, but attempt to do all forms of internet marketing in-house? The simple answer is that the television industry has more barriers to entry. In order to get on TV, you need to meet the right people, and you need to pay a lot of money for air time. Conversely, the internet has zero barriers to entry, and all you need is a domain name, a host, and a free Wordpress theme. Given the inherent open door nature of the internet, it’s easy to think you can do it all on your own. But here’s something to think about. How can you stay on top of an industry that continues to evolve at a break neck pace?

Think about it, in the span of 20 years technology has gone from practical irrelevance, to indisputable prominence. Everyone has a computer, most people have smartphones, and many people have tablets. More importantly, the internet is taking over every aspect of communication and information sharing. Television and radio are being integrated into the online experience, and traditional print media properties are desperately trying to survive. If the internet was a roller coaster, we are still in the process of reaching the tipping point.


(In 2008 I played hockey overseas, and I was able to document the experience online.)

Here’s a crazy thought. Google and Facebook barely existed seven years ago, and now they are two of the most powerful companies in the world. With this in mind, can you begin to comprehend how technology will change the world in the next 20 years? Education will be completely reformed, the medical industry will do the same, and all business will operate in the online space. Honestly, these tectonic paradigm shifts can be more than a little intimidating. However, similar to anything else in life, you have to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run. The worst thing a business can do is remain stagnant.

It's Going To Get Worse Before It Gets Better

If you feel like you are behind in terms of your online presence right now, you better get a move on. In the words of Police Chief Clancy Wiggum, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. In 2013, a business without an online presence is like someone lost at sea with a life jacket. In 2015, a business without an online presence will be that same person, except they will have an anvil attached to their ankle. Atrophy kills business, and in the digital age it is incumbent upon all of us to be nimble and proactive.

For some people, the internet represents an opportunity to control your brand and get creative. For others, it’s a nuisance. No matter which side of the fence you stand on, these are the new rules of the game. It’s time to respect the game.

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  • avatar

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  • avatar


    I started using the internet around 2004 and I can’t remember NOT using the internet. Even as a child, we played online games when my mother would permit it. This article challenged me to think back before those times. Unfortunately, I failed the challenge. I can’t imagine life without internet. I should probably work on this…

  • avatar

    I remember life before the internet. I actually embrace the fact that I had an internet-less childhood where playing outside was more fun than staying inside online like it is today. 🙂 However, the internet today is good but we just need to make sure we can get away from it as well. Go “unplgged” here and there if you will.

  • avatar

    Ditto on the point made about the “Dis-trust of the internet.” I remember back in college when the college president and valedictorian had to be rushing from the computer room to the hall to make her speech then back to the computer room again complete a major piece that they had to turn in or else…
    It was a mad rush for a number of the graduates and only the graduates who did not have the piece to complete were spared. There was only one computer room with several computers and some of them had been up all night trying to get the piece done. The long and short of the story is that after all that the system acted up and she lost all her work. I really don’t know if the computer teacher was able to help her retrieve if, but we all felt it for her and others affected.
    The system was more than buggy back then (1995 – 1998) and college gave me my first interaction with the internet and computers. Today, we have backup systems such as Google Docs that save as we work and spare us the headache of losing our work if there are interruptions such as a power cut.
    I live on the internet everyday, and keep wondering how well we will all adjust if we were to return to a life without it.

  • avatar


    Nostalgia! Walking back to the memory lane pre internet era is a jumble of memories from my childhood, climbing trees, skinning my knees, playing tag, handwritten entries to my diary. Children nowadays dont skin their knees, they suffer carpal tunnel syndrome from spending too much time playing online games. Spending time with friends, hanging out and laughing together became chatting in front of a monitor, social media and LOL. Before mobile phones were invented, Meet ups were based on trust and people were more patient, willing to wait. Yes,Technology and the internet made life easier, but i hope people don’t forget the genuine humanity of the past.

  • avatar

    I wish this article was a bulletin that went out to every business owner in America that is just sitting behind the times. It’s so evident that technology, mainly the Internet, plays such a vital role in the success of any business today. There are so many small business owners that are dead set in the pre-Internet days, and they feel like people will just sumble upon them by chance. What’s sad is that they really don’t understand that it’s just not gonna happen. Competition is fierce, and it’s worth the fight of staying ahead of the curve if you want your business to survive in this age.

  • avatar

    I remember my semester in college, and my professor taking the entire class to the library to introduce us the the World Wide Web. Just as this article stated, I had no idea that one day I would be addicted. When I am home, I am usually on my computer either doing some online work or doing some research looking for more online work. I can’t imagine life without the internet.

  • avatar

    Yeah I don’t think anyone would’ve thought that the internet would be what it was today. I honestly don’t know what I would do without my internet and my social media, it’s basically all I do all day I just can’t believe the internet is something so big and so used these days. So much has changed in the past 20 years, it’s awesome though.

  • avatar

    Reading the comments above confirms my own thoughts on the subject. It’s just amazing how far computers and the internet has come in such a short period of time.
    Think of the evolution. It was slow and filled with mis-information. Then it became valuable and people worried about Y2K. Then it become a hub for business, then the balloon popped…and now it’s come back with a vengeance. Just amazing how much change has occurred in 10-20 years.

  • avatar

    Great article! Reminded me of a time not too long ago.
    We had dial-up (remember that?) up to about 2006. I remember excitedly downloading a PSP update file which took 1hr 56mins exactly. The file was only 20mb! Then we got the “speedy” 1mb connection we still have today. The joys of living in a rural area.
    I guess I wish I could go back there. My days were filled with hours outside instead of spending my time on 9gag and the like. I guess it’s just a part of being in this generation. I feel sorry for kids nowadays though. They were introduced to technology far too young and won’t have a childhood half as good as we had!

  • avatar

    In 1998 when I was doing my management diploma, there was only one computer hooked up to the internet in the computer lab. There were more than 15 people around it to see what internet is like. Funny old days! 🙂

  • avatar

    Great article. Amazing that you were using the internet in the 90s. I remember that is when there was the yr 2000 scare of the end of the world. The internet was going to disappear. There was a lot of paranoid people.
    Then the internet bubble began and gave rise to Silicon Valley. Information was now accessible to anyone with a computer and this is really truly the best invention ever.
    Ofcourse the internet brought with it some cons but to me it will be the best thing this century.

  • avatar

    You made me recall my memories on how I managed before the internet era. Thanks for that. Life was much easy then. But without internet life would be much difficult now.

  • avatar

    Excellent article. This trip down memory lane reminded me of a professor I had back in 1997. The class was debating how long it would be before cell phones would become mainstream. We laughed hysterically when she said it wouldn’t happen until it looked like a Star Trek Communicator and allowed us to surf the internet. (!!!) I remember this like it was yesterday.

  • avatar

    Impressive write-up!What would life be without social media…

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