This infamous scream from the Internet – now an acoustic artifact from the old AOL – doesn’t make me lose my dial-up connection; that’s sure. But the sounds of the “old Internet” leave me playing in my memory, while my mind revisits the good old days of early instant messaging, useful Microsoft Word characters and old Windows games.
You may be asking yourself, “What’s up with nostalgia?”
With Renaming Office 365 on Microsoft 365 and adding a host of new features, I can’t help but reflect on the ever-changing PC and Internet landscape – and how it used to be. Here are some other PC stuff that I – shh! – I secretly want to go back.
“Cheer up!” we would run Clippy.
With our sharp cursors, we nudged and nudged the Microsoft Office assistant of the 90s to become cool characters – entertaining ourselves for a few seconds that give life – before we return to the work of crushing the soul in Word.
Clippy was not always loved. In 2010, Time dubbed Clippy as one of the worst inventions of all time. Even its designer, Kevan Atteberry, was embarrassed of Clippy at one point – he refused to claim the poor paper clip as his creation in his resumes. Atteberry was aware of how much incessant Clippy “Looks like you’re writing a letter. Would you like help?” The questions infuriate letter writers around the world the moment the word “Dear” hits the page.
After being introduced to the world in Office 97, Clippy managed to get started almost a decade later. Over time, Clippy’s absence weighed heavily on our nostalgic hearts. I don’t know about you, but I miss that paper clip. Cortana – current Microsoft virtual assistant – could never fill the shoes that the world’s favorite paperclip left behind, even if the Halo-based robot is smarter, more elegant and sassy.
Clippy felt at home in the Office and he was an unforgettable presence in Word. Unfortunately for Microsoft, Cortana does not have the power to leave behind an impactful legacy, similar to Clippy. Only 150 million use Cortana, which is a fraction of the more than 700 million who use Windows 10. And among the world’s digital assistants, Cortana guarantees only 19% of the market share. That said, I would love to see a resurgence of Clippy in Word. An Office assistant revival – enriched with 2020 technology and AI – would do wonders.
2. Old Windows screen savers
The twists and turns of the brick-walled maze, the colored tubes spontaneously appearing on the screen and in the haunted house – old school Windows screen savers, although unpolished and rudimentary, they were mesmerizing and mesmerizing.
As the computers of the 90s remained idle in schools and offices, the dizzying maze of the popular 3D brick labyrinth screensaver was a welcome escape while teachers played with tedious lectures and office meetings.
At that time, the peculiar Windows screensavers were not just hypnotic animations for our visual enjoyment – they were used to prevent phosphorus burning in the CRT (cathode ray tube) and plasma monitors after hours displaying the same image . Now that most of us use LCD monitors, we no longer need moving images to save our screens.
Although the 3D maze was dropped in 2000, it gained nostalgic popularity as many creatives made the screensaver playable (i.e., Screensaver Subterfuge and Cornell University Maze in a box) Screen savers may be “so 1998”, but I wouldn’t mind if Windows reintroduced screen savers in future operating system updates.
3. Instant messaging from the late 90s
Bring the nasty screen names of the 90s to XxObsidian_HeartxX and HairyMole_89.
Ah, the glorious days of friend lists and messages of absence. In the late 1990s, there was Yahoo! Messenger and MSN Messenger, but AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) – launched in 1997 – caught everyone’s attention.
While many are still excited about “You received emails,” nothing stimulates the heat of nostalgia more than hearing the iconic noise from the AIM door – an indication that a friend, also an AOL subscriber, is now online and you can dispel loneliness with a social partner – by living online chat.
Social media platforms killed AIM with direct messaging services embedded in large online communities, but I missed it when individual virtual conversations were not attached to buzzy platforms full of look-at-me status and attention content. It was all so simple back then: you created an incredibly cool screen name, clicked on an online friend and chatted without much distraction.
4. 3D Pinball Space Cadet for Windows
Pulsing lights, futuristic themes and vibrant colors – the 3D Pinball Space Cadet was a blast in the 90s!
It is arguably the most addictive game that Microsoft has ever packaged with Windows. This flashy arcade experience sharpened the reflexes of millions of Windows users, as they played two rackets to keep the chrome ball inside the pinball table.
Here’s an interesting rumor: in 1994, Microsoft was looking for a new game to show The graphics advances in Windows 95, so the technology giant from Redmond enlisted the help of Cinematronics – the mentors behind the 3D Pinball Space Cadet. But pinball was not the first step for Microsoft; at first, Cinematronics tried to sell Microsoft a 3D clone of Doom (a popular PC game of the time).
Microsoft felt uncomfortable about including anything related to weapons in Windows, even though Cinematronics changed the bullets to paste and launched a game called “Gluem”. Fortunately, David Cole, head of the Windows 95 production team, saved us from “Gluem” by asking, “Can’t we just play a game of pinball or something?” And with those words, the 3D Pinball Space Cadet was born.
Space Cadet was released as part of Microsoft Windows 95 Plus! package. But when Windows Vista arrived, Microsoft abandoned the game of pinball. Why? To make a long story short, when the Space Cadet was shipped from 32 to 64 bits, an unpleasant and unpatchable bug appeared. Instead of contacting the game’s developers, Microsoft decided to abandon the game forever.
The 3D pinball space cadet is the one Windows Bloatware game that I wouldn’t mind having again.
6. Customizing colors in Windows windows
The 90s had a strange aesthetic, with peculiar shapes and vibrant colors, reflected in the Windows 95 customization offerings. With Windows 95, for example, users can customize the colors of their windows and title bars. If you want to turn the application windows from a gray ho-hum to a green Hulk, you can.
Nowadays, our modern aesthetic leans towards clean, elegant and polished design – a theme that you can see in today’s fashion, phones, laptops and more. Likewise, Windows 10 probably chose to maintain the integrity of the software’s dignified and imposing appearance, restricting some customization options that users already had in the 90s. Maybe it’s the best, but a part of me misses having ability to insert a small tap on Windows windows.
7. Ask Jeeves
8. Diskettes and CDs
The satisfying “snap” of inserting a floppy disk and CD into a drive and listening to the hum of the computer reading the stored data is a 90’s PC experience that I took for granted.
Today, our storage solutions (for example, the cloud) are much more advanced; in addition, we can easily download programs and applications – without a floppy disk or CD – with a quick click of a button. While these innovations are convenient and ingenious, my nostalgic heart cannot help but desire the tangibility of floppy disks and CDs – and the process of “feeding” these relics of storage onto my clumsy computer – which previously stimulated the senses of the 90s.
9. The classic WordArt gallery
Spicing up the work with WordArt’s rainbow gradient design and bold, large letters was a cultural trend of the 90s – these sophisticated predefined texts could already be seen in Microsoft Office 95.
After spending countless numbing hours typing an essay in Microsoft Word, the thrill of adding a splash of color to the title page was an experience that many users secretly expected.
Due to the limitations of WordArt, Microsoft destroyed WordArt and introduced a text effects option that gave Word users more flexibility to implement text design. Still, a part of me wants the classic WordArt gallery back to Microsoft Office – it may cause a resurgence of nasty headlines around the world, but you must admit that WordArt would add little zeal and zeal to our monotonous lives .
Am I looking at the 90s with pink glasses? Possibly. It is true that there are many aspects of 90’s computing that are like fanny packs – we will be happy to look at the retro monstrosity with admiration and appreciation, but when you ask us if we want a revival, the answer is “no!” From our mothers screaming “I need to use the phone!” While we use dial-up Internet for still, slow computers, there are some things for the 90s PC that need to stay in the past.
But there were some PC and Internet offerings from the 90s that weren’t too bad. With a little bit of modern tweaking, Clippy – or other former Office assistant characters like Merlin the Assistant – can come back as a staple of Microsoft Word. And perhaps a new search engine could take on the daunting and almost impossible task of eclipsing Google by embodying its search platform in a larger-than-life virtual guru character. If you want more nostalgia, check out our 10 old Windows programs and games (and how to get them) and How to get classic Solitaire and Minesweeper on Windows 10 Pages.