We Shop, Socialise, Date And Even Study Online These Days, So How Did We Even Manage Before The Internet?

No, really. I can't remember.

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I’m a fairly smart person with an undergraduate degree, and I remember the sound of a dial-up modem in all its weird, screechy glory. But my recollection of life before smartphones and sub-$1000 laptops is starting to get a bit hazy.

We rely on online services, apps and communication so completely now that it’s tough to remember how we functioned before we all had the entire internet in our pockets.


Then: shopping malls / Now: shopping online 

In 1997, if you suddenly felt the urge to see if you could buy a Reptar T-shirt, you had to go down to your local Jay Jays and hope they had some Rugrats gear in their range of licensed tees.

Now any t-shirt that appears on a popular TV show for half a second is available to bootleg from a dozen different print-on-demand sites within six minutes, and you can pick up toilet paper, a family-size bucket of mac and cheese, and a dozen bottles of wine while you’re there, and then you don’t even have to leave the house ever again.

You still can’t get the perfect white tee that doesn’t show your bra, but that doesn’t actually exist, so it’s fine, whatever.


Then: Street directories / Now: Google maps 

“Where would you be without your UBD?” went the radio jingle in the 90s.

Parents on holiday, P-platers trying to get to 18ths on the other side of the city, and cab drivers all used to have to rely on the big, heavy book with the plastic covers that would slice your fingers open if you handled them too roughly.

What did we do if we needed to walk somewhere, or get public transport?

I have absolutely no idea. This is where the whole thing fell down. Nobody was walking around with a street directory in their bags – those things weighed like nineteen kilos. Once you left your car, you were on your own.

No wonder murder rates have nearly halved since the 90s – Google Maps might occasionally take you to the wrong Royal Hotel, but we’re spending less time getting lost in dark alleys.


Then: boredom / Now: the entire internet

Waiting for the bus? You had three options: Snake, rereading the nine text messages you kept stored in your SMS inbox, or, if you were cool, a book.

Now, you have a book with you all the time, but that’s mainly for when your phone runs out of battery or you’ve hit “Ignore ScreenTime limit” on Instagram so many times you’re actually a little embarrassed.


Then: listening to CDs / Now: streaming

There are few sounds more satisfying than the slap…slap…slap of a CD wallet’s pages turning, and few disappointments keener than tearing off the shrinkwrap on a new jewel case only to find that the little plastic teeth holding the disc in place have been crushed into awkward confetti.

Compact disc marketing promised that the format would last forever, but ask anyone who’s thrashed a homemade mix CD to death until the underside looks like frosted glass from all the tiny scratches: you’ve gotta handle those things like Faberge eggs.

Also, remember when you couldn’t find literally any song you wanted in twelve seconds flat, and there weren’t even any AI assistants to put them on for you? That was so sad. Siri, play ‘Despacito’.


Then: on campus studying / Now: online studying 

Look, dragging your hungover butt down to a lecture theatre at 8am is kind of a quintessential uni experience – but how effective was it at actually getting facts into your brain?

There’s a reason why your favourite lecturer wasn’t the one who sat on his chair backwards and said things like “Seminar sounds so formal – let’s just chat!” It was the one who always recorded her lectures and put them online so you could revisit them whenever you were actually in a better headspace to absorb the content. Now online learning is, well, extremely online and way more interactive – it’s well beyond just PowerPoints and echo-y voice memos.

Studying your degree online with providers like Swinburne Online, you spend time sleeping and showering (and then getting back into your trackies) when you’d otherwise have wasted it on your commute just so you can sit in your tute and listen to some mature-age student talk about why you don’t understand what second-wave feminism actually IS because you weren’t there.

With online courses, if you function better at 9pm than 9am, then that’s when you study. Simple.


Then: ???? / Now: Tinder

I have literally zero memory of how people met before dating apps were a thing.

All our parents had arranged marriages sealed with the exchange of a few goats and then adopted us from the stork factory, right?


Swinburne Online provides a new approach to learning in Australia, where the classroom comes to you.

With an interactive learning format, coupled with the flexibility of online study and 7-day support, Swinburne Online gives students all the best features of an on-campus degree in a digital environment.