I didn't have an e-mail address before college. Why would I have needed one? If I needed to invite a ton of people over to the beatnik party at my mom's basement, I could just call all those people. Which I did. Call all those people whose phone numbers I had memorized. And then when my friend Dave recorded the beatnik sessions in my mom's basement, he just sent me the cassette tape of it in the mail. Not as an mp3 attachment. Also, we didn't have internet at my mom's house when I was in high school, so what was the point, anyway. It seemed to me that the kids who had internet at home, AOL, which was shortened from America Online (so cool), just frittered away all of their time in chat rooms with strangers who went by the name PeachFuzz234 or AussieBabe49. 1996. Life and times.
When I got to college, I got an e-mail address and would write the whole e-mail in the subject line. The vastness of the world wide web was skull-splitting for me. I watched as people could gamely conduct web searches and deduce what other movies certain stars had appeared in, rather just wondering for a few months if that was really Drew Barrymore as the little sister in E.T. and finally getting the movie out at the library and confirming, wow, yes, that really does appear to be a young Drew Barrymore.
That first semester of college, I bought a new desktop computer that occupied 75% of my desk. It took me roughly three weeks to assemble it and to get the internet hooked up and my friend Steve from the floor below visited my room daily just to make fun of my total grandma approach to technology. Hi Steve. Hugsies.
But by far, the moment that most crystallizes how I was a child who came of age just as the internet was emerging as our mainstream information source, it is this:
I walked down the hall to the bathroom and stopped short at the door of my hallmate Keira's room. The door was open and she and her roomie Kathy were cracking up about something, but what caught my attention was a piece of paper hanging from Kathy's bookshelf. On the paper was a picture of 3 marshmallow chicks peeps. It was clearly a print-out from your standard deskjet printer. But I just stood there, wondering how this got there, like they were harboring a bona fide unicorn in their dorm room.
My cognitions had ground to a halt. I could not understand. There was a picture of marshmallow peeps on a piece of paper. And Keira and Kathy had printed it out themselves.
This was where the neurons started misfiring for me. Because, I understood how things got printed out of a printer from a computer, say, like from a word processing document. But how did the marshmallow peeps get into the computer and then get through the printer and onto paper? Also, I got a 1300 on my SATs.
I asked Keira, How did you do that?
With a printer, she said.
I know, but how did you get the picture of the peeps? Did you take the picture?
No, I just found them on a website.
You found them on a ...
Then you printed them out and now there are marshmallows cut into bunny shapes dipped in sugar in a one-dimensional jpeg on a piece of recycled paper.
My world was never. Never. The same.