University and ‘technology’ in the 90s

I missed my weekend post. My new house, and finally, the ability to properly socialize and entertain got in the way. How dare it?! One thing I did, and quite often, do is reminisce about university in the 90s.

I know that a large proportion of my network went to university in the 90s like me. I was there from 1996 to 2000, at the wonderful University of Surrey in Guildford in England. It really was a great time in my life. So with a brief focus on ‘technology’ and life in general, here are some fun memories:

The computer lab / This is where one went to power up Netscape, check your newly formed Hotmail email account and then ‘surf’ the Internet. Things were slow back then, everything often took a good hour, regardless of the task. However, we had no to low expectations so we were just happy to be on a computer of some sort.

As a perceived privilege, and being better funded, our Engineering department had its own special ‘locked’ computer lab, which seemed to get heavily used by lots of male students overnight? Strange? Working hard, researching, I imagine?

Funnily enough, even with the advent of the Internet and search engines like Ask Jeeves (who actually knew nothing) and Altavista (remember there was no Google until 1998, and back then we thought it was crap), we still relied on ‘noticeboards’ and newspapers, magazines and books for information / research. Hours upon hours in the library.

Hotmail arrives / We did have a university email address (ftp, perhaps?), but with Hotmail being founded the year I started at university, we all had our own Hotmail accounts with 2Mb of free storage! Woohoo! To think the founder of Hotmail sold it to Microsoft a year later for US$400m. A sign of things to come.

Although I failed to email or call my poor mother for the first two months at university, my friends’ parents in Cyprus were letting her know I was okay. I took the ‘Kai, be independent’ a little too far. She was not happy. Imagine not receiving something nowadays for two months?!

When we were sending emails, rather than letters, we would spend hours upon hours crafting long essays around all our activities and emotions. We would also have no expectation on a reply. On average a reply would be a week (still faster than a letter) and we would be disappointed if the reply was shorter than our original email. How dare they?!

The phone box / I know they still exist, but people used to queue. Especially the Greek community, who has mastered a way of ripping off British Telecom. The Greeks have always been good at ‘saving’ money.

Now we did eventually have phones in our accommodation (shared of course), and if you were lucky to have your own computer (I never did, but my room mate did). It certainly was not connected to the Internet. That was special, and only in the above mentioned computer labs.

No one had mobiles, well most of did not until around 1999, when the mighty Nokia 3210 (long live snakes) arrived. I kept that phone until around 2002 (I think we still have it somewhere). Surviving on a max of eight text messages only was always a struggle. I remember organizing to leave campus for a night out meant having to plan and coordinate meeting places and times etc. I also enjoyed ‘losing’ friends at the Union or on a night out and having to spend the whole night looking for them.

Taking photographs / To end with, and remember we had no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc, taking photos was not such a common occurrence. When you did you had to send off your film to Boots, and wait a couple of weeks for the terrible photographs to return. In hindsight it was probably a good thing that not many photos were taken. Well, for a bit of a laugh, here are a couple from my university days. Enjoy.

1998 The crazy ‘Mechies’, we were a lively fun bunch

2000 Final nights at university with the beautiful Kerry, now my wife

Thanks for reading,

Kai

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