Computer Lab circa 1990, as seen in a UD catalog."How did we live without it?" Simpler times at UD, it’s all a matter of perspective. As in other walks of life, you may have asked yourself while attending Delaware, "How the hell did people do this ten years ago?" Meaning, without today's technology.
Hey, I graduated in '95, and had a lot of college conveniences that the UD eras before me didn't, and all you kids after me have had that many more. Some of these things we’ve already talked about; electronic Drop / Add, FLEX accounts, textbook pre-ordering, etc. But hey, here’s some more of the biggies…
I dunno, maybe 25% of people had their own computers in the early '90s. Maybe less. That was what the computer labs were for. Let me rephrase: that was what standing outside the computer labs and waiting until a machine opened up was for.
Looking back now, what was happening when I was at UD, was that the functionality of computers (and the course demand to use them) suddenly outpaced their availability, as it was not yet affordable for everybody to own one. Also, before PCs became absolutely critical for college work, some people simply didn’t want to eat up all that desk space in their small dorm rooms. Me included. At the time, the convenience of owning a (then, large desktop) computer didn’t outweigh the loss of space. So, you’d commonly find me in that Purnell basement computer lab…after my name was called off of the waiting list!
Before 1991, I had heard the term “email,” but I’d never seen it, and certainly hadn’t used it. But I discovered while researching for Glory Days, that no student was on email when I first landed at UD: on the university’s site, I dug up that February, 1992 (my second semester) was when kids first got email addresses. To activate this “new service,” students had to go to 002A Smith Hall during weekdays.
Well, some people were using email '92 - '95, but not a lot. Back then, the email conventions were based on one of several different classical composers -- mine was an @brahms.udel.edu address, for example. I barely knew how to check it, until one of my profs finally required us to check assignments on email. It was a hassle. To me, at least.
How the hell did we flirt before instant messaging existed? It definitely helps. Well, one thing I do remember -- way back in '91 or '92 -- was a few people utilizing early forms of “chatting,” with the old school UNIX green type / black screen look. Like it was WarGames, or something.
The Internet, as we recognize it today, was really just starting to take shape during the end of my college years. There wasn't a whole lot of "clicking around," as the browsers were just coming in during my last year, '94 - '95. In the Pearson Hall Computing Lab, they had a bunch of sweet (at the time) new PowerMacs. They had the predecessor of Netscape installed on them, called “Mosaic.”
Of course, like with any technology, what drove the Internet’s growth was its ability to display pictures of hot chicks. One moment of almost embarrassment for me in 1994 in Pearson Hall, was me, ahem, "accidentally" bringing up a pic of Teri Hatcher...wearing a tight tank top with her boobs all hanging out the sides. Nice. This was when she was on Lois & Clark.
It might’ve been the first image I ever clicked on to enlarge from a thumbnail, and I didn’t realize that it would load slooooow -- the "back" or "stop" buttons weren’t responsive as something was loading. So, Teri Hatcher’s almost bare rack was slowly appearing on my screen, line-by-line, from top to bottom. I found myself covering the screen the best I could by holding up a notebook, until the image was eventually complete, and I was able to kill it. It felt like an eternity.
Well, after a few more years, hopefully no other UD kid had that same sort of problem with data transfer speed…given that circa 2000, Delaware was ranked second "Most Wired College" in the nation, by Yahoo! Internet Life magazine.
Voicemail was first made available in the dorms in early 1994. It was so weird for our answering machine to suddenly be obsolete, but then it was put right back into use when we moved off-campus, cuz…
…virtually no one had cell phones, or the voicemail that came with them. Or texting. Or smart phones. How the hell did we meet up with people, without cell phones? Well, we made a plan. "Yeah, we’re all gonna be at the Deer Park at 10:00 tonight." Lots of answering machine phone tag, relayed hand-written messages on message boards, and tracking people down when they were hanging out in other people's rooms, apartments, and houses. Somehow, we managed to maintain social lives without cell phones.
No Facebook, no MySpace. Not that the latter is relevant anymore, but you know what I’m saying: being at college, waaaay before social media was part of daily life. I couldn’t imagine how different stalking, I mean, staying in touch with friends would have been, if we had Facebook when I was at UD. We’d lose touch with people from year-to-year, simply because they lived on the other side of campus.
Really though, being able to “meet” your entire floor, building, and complex via Facebook, during the weeks before you even start college? Amazing.
“I have to laugh now when I remember that from '96 - '00, I used to give people dirty looks when they walked down Main Street talking on their cell phones. I thought it was so snooty. Now I text while I'm driving. I know, I know! I was barely functional on email (or computers for that matter) when I was a freshman. I was never so intimidated, as I was when I had to go to the computer lab in Smith.”
- Gretchen R, UD '00
“When I started UD in the '80s, I lived in Kent, and some people didn't have phones at all. That's what the phone booths were for. The phone would ring and someone nearby would answer. They would ask the caller to hold, and you had to run down the hallway and get the person. If the person wasn't in her room, you had to take a message and write it on her memo board, or slip a note under her door and hope she saw it.”
- Sandey, UD '90
“I remember checking email with Pine around 1993. You could ‘finger’ someone to see if they were online (so dirty). Email addresses were so primitive, I had a @bach.udel.edu. I knew guys who liked to use the composer Ravel, because it made it look as if their email address had ‘rave’ in it. And pre-Mosaic, I used Lynx to look at the internet, or what there was of it, before it had pictures.”
- Anonymous, UD '95
“College must suck now with all this cell phone nonsense. I actually did have AOL IM in '94 - '95, when I was a freshman…it’s just that nobody else was on it. Most people didn’t even have computers. People would come into my dorm room, and it was the first time they had ever seen chat rooms.”
- Keith W, UD '98
“One word, well two: Smith Hall. I was an aspiring CIS major and got to help a lot of hot chicks with their CIS105 classes. Ended up marrying one of them. Back in the early ‘80s no one owned their own computer (except for us super geeks, but Commodore 64s don't really count), so if you wanted to work on your dippy little Pascal program you had to go to the basement of Smith Hall and wait in a line along with 20 plus other students to get on a terminal.
Needed something printed out neatly, like a report? You had to wait a couple of days as the ONLY laser printer lived over on Wyoming Road in the data center. They'd then ship it to the I/O window -- also located in the open areas of the basement -- for you to pick up.
Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, UD was part of the beginnings of the internet, called ‘Plato.’ It was a computer system that was used primarily for the first ever online courses. I was a programmer when I was a student working for UD, developing courseware for the Nursing department over at Willard. Plato was also on the forefront of a lot of the technologies that came out later, including text messages, email, forums, and online games. Plato had computer classrooms scattered all over campus; Smith Hall, Willard, Brown and probably a few others.”
- Eric D, Attended UD sometime in the '80s!
“I did have a phone the whole time I was at UD, but no long distance…but didn't need it because everyone I needed to talk to lived in Delaware. And nobody had email back then, but a friend of mine in 1989 did show me the Internet…or whatever it was called back then. I recall being like, 'Whatever, I'm going out for pitchers at the Deer Park.'”
- Edward P, UD '93
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