1991 was a watershed year. How can it be 20 years ago? It was before I had a cell phone, GPS on my Jeep, no iPod but I did have a computer! And then I discovered the Internet. Does anyone else remember the first time going online? I think I discovered Ebay, Amazon and chat rooms in about my first 3 hours online.
But it’s the chat room that is on my mind. Steve Case was my hero of the day. He set up this thing called AOL and it was easy enough for his Aunt to use–that was his motto. And it was! “You’ve Got Mail!” struck to the core of my being. I got a SN(screen name). I learned LOL, ROFL, WTF,ITRW, IMHO and YGM. I made little faces like }:>) to show approval. The word emoticon wasn’t yet in my vocabulary.
AOL charged by the minute. Horror stories abounded of people who ran up $500 phone bills. If you were online, you couldn’t get phone calls–or, if you did, it knocked you offline. It cost a minimum of $30 a month. I sat at the computer with a timer ticking away.
I have been in the same chat room for almost 20 years. We have had a hard core, loyal group of cyberfriends that seem like actual friends to me. We have been through marriages, divorces, deaths, births, moves and even one chatter who had to serve time in the Big House. We’ve had cyber funerals. We’ve had cyber Bible studies, rosaries, prayer groups.
Over the years we’ve settled on about 4 rotating topics: religion, sex, food and politics. Like most of our lives, politics has taken on a more divisive tone in our chat room. We don’t get as many atheists through or Catholic bashers as we used to. Perhaps they tired of us. But we still gather in that chat room and at any hour or the day I can drop in and chat with at least half a dozen people that I know. We “yell”, we have fights, we feud, we divide into camps, we cuss, we put each other on ignore–or more often, we SAY we’ve put someone on ignore but don’t really because we’re afraid we might miss something they say about us.
When it gets really heated, someone will log the chat and then send out copies to everyone in the chat room. Then the email wars start. It’s all great fun.
I’m an old pro now. I can chat, play Freecell, shop on Amazon–all the while listening to music come over the ‘puter from my Cloud. The computer now has a 2TB HD and is faster than anything I ever could have imagined 20 years ago. I back up with Carbonite and external hard drives. I Skype, use Facebook, write a blog, order groceries from Safeway and post photos on Flickr.
It’s so different–20 years–and it’s hard to remember before the chat room.
So, to Strongr, Josei, Althy, Toady, Dah Vingster, LDY, Cebi, Soso, Sher, Nana, Light our room pagan, DrJ, and even Mgib who insists there was never Robin Hood or King Arthur–in memory of Katwarm and dear Marty–to all my wonderful cyberfriends–thank you for your presence and prayers over the years. Even though you’re not real and I’m not real and the room isn’t real–it’s been great inhabiting that vivid, vibrant corner of cyberspace with you all. I will continue to loudly iggy the cyberwhores who troll through our room and take up valuable space because I don’t want to miss out on our ongoing chats as we enter our 3rd decade of 21st century friendship.