Thursday, October 8, 2009

AOL and Chat Rooms

Once upon a time, our parents didn't have a clue what we were doing online. The internet was a new and exciting place, and it seemed like a safe and inpenetrable fortress of unsupervised mischief. Mind you, this was years before Chris Hansen was popping in to offer you a seat while the decoy internet teen went to go check on the hot tub. There was no catching of predators, no online policing, just pure, unadulterated dangerous fun.

If anything, our parents were more concerned with our tying up the phone lines than our online whereabouts. Sure, we may have been making under-the-table investments with Nigerian princes, but our parents were solely worried about the busy signal clogging our line. Back in the day, there was no wireless or high speed internet connections, there was a little phone jack that shared a common line with our home phones. In a time before universal cell phone ownership, this was a pretty serious inconvenience. Not to mention how annoying that modem sound was when you picked up the phone. Ouch.

When children of the 90s first got in-home internet access, it was a novel and exciting concept. Finally, a relatively captive audience with whom to share our innermost thoughts, dreams, and anonymous flirtations. Once we could actually forge a connection, that is. I'd sit for scores of minutes at a time, waiting impatiently for that little running AOL man to enter his successive phase of connectedness. Words like "modem failure" and "inability to connect" haunted us, forcing us to redial and redial until finally we could enter our glorious online community.

At our house, there were three potential modem phone numbers with which to reach the internet, and we'd frantically alternate between our options, forever seeking a signal. It's remarkable to think that just a decade earlier, we were content to wait five minutes to catch even the briefest glimpse of the internet. Nowadays, if a website takes more than three seconds to load we're all about one step away from tossing the laptop out the window. Back then, though, these were different times. More patient times. And of course, more salacious.

No sooner than we'd heard that familiar robotically enthusiastic declaration "You've Got Mail!", we'd be clamoring to reach our favorite chat rooms. As AOL was the premier internet service of the 90s, a good chunk of the online population could be found roaming these virtual spaces. It was a novel concept for the time: you could actually communicate with many people at once! People you didn't know! People who we should trust indefinitely to be telling the truth, the absolute truth, and nothing but the truth!

So help us God, this was probably not the case. Judging how things usually went our own end, it's doubtable that these new virtual pals were honest about any element of their existence other than that they were currently connected to the internet. The original chat rooms were popular online pickup scenes, the equivalent of an internet singles bar. Only, truth be told, all the people in those rooms were probably either under the age of 12 or over the age of 50.

While today a notion like that might raise a red flag or two, these things were chalked up to good, clean fun back then. Well, er, sort of clean. Children delighted in their ability to fool others, though looking back it's unlikely that my friends and I fooled anyone with our fifth grade writing skills and general misunderstanding of innuendos.

From the moment a person asked, "A/S/L", you knew it was on. That is, imploring his chatroommates to give their age, sex, and location. I don't know about you, but this was a great source of fun for my pals and I as children. In one room we could be exotic 18-year old Brazilian twins working to get our modeling careers off the ground while in the next we could easily slip into the guise of a mysterious lonelyhearts Spanish exchange student seeking a nice middle aged office drone to. The possibilities were truly endless.

Sometimes we may have outed ourselves as the 12/Fs we really were, but in general the idea was to fool others into believing the bull we were serving up. I imagine parents everywhere would have been pretty uneasy to find that their young children were being approached online with the request to "cyber", but again, these were different times. Very few people had considered the notion of troubling internet connections, we were too enthralled by its exciting possibilities to see any danger in letting children loose into chatrooms with a slew of card-carrying NAMBLA members and known sex offenders.

In our innocence, though, we were too giddy to be bothered by these facts. These were the days before MySpace, Facebook, or online dating, so people everywhere used this free market chatroom environment to make connections. Users formed full-fledged online relationships with people they had never even met. Sure, in real life you may have been a Dungeons and Dragons playing loner with duct-taped glasses, but online you could be the suave AOL romeo you'd always dreamed of being. Until your potential mate requested a picture, of course. Photographic evidence is a bitch.

The original AOL was a kid's paradise. It's going date us immensely when we someday tell our children of plugging a common search term in a search engine and having zero results, but we'll know that we were the true online pioneers. We knew the thrill of navigating the unknown wildernesses of the internet before firewalls and parental controls and the like neutralized the treacherous terrain. Sure, we may have talked to a pedophile or two, but we lived, dammit. We lived. Well, vicariously through our internet alteregos. But you know what I mean.


The Matters of Style Girls said...

Brings back such glorious AOL memories. The 5 minute dial-ups, the novel concept of messaging with my friends rather than just calling them, and of course fighting with my mom over control of the phone line. Those were the days!

Mrs EyeCanSee said...

Oh AOL how I loved thee. I remember when my dad let me create my own screename, I thought I was the shiz. That summer I spent hours in chat rooms! This was WAY back when time wasn't unlimited and you were charged by the minute, let's just say I got grounded once or twice over that.

Brandi said...

This brings back memories. I could stay hours in chat rooms. Now I get on the internet and after 10 minutes I am bored.

Cee said...

My neighbor and I spent waaay too much time "tricking" people in chat rooms. The goal was to get the other person to say something which we thought was really freaky but was normally just about giving us a massage so we could laugh hyserically and sign off.

Maggi said...

Oh yeah, I was all about some AOL chat rooms! lol

Ice Queen said...

I also used to make up secret screen names and mess with people I went to school with. I know I'm not the only one!

Jaime said...

OMG trip down memory rooms! How funny. It's amazing how much the internet has changed in like 10-15 years.

Randi Troxell said...

oh how i remember those days.. and i can remember sitting there starring at the screen for what seemed like HOURS waiting for the screen to load!

Little Mrs Domestic said...

I was just talking about the old AOL the other day. Ahh the memoires.. thanks for the screen shots! :)

Hanako66 said...

this is so funny! I still have my aol email because I have had it since the early 90s! I was just talking about chat rooms lol!

Melanie's Randomness said...

I actually missed all this. Honest to God I didn't have the internet at home til 2003. I know looking back on it, it seems ridicolous. hehe.

Kristin said...

I actually never really got into chat rooms. Good thing. Countless pervs out there. Ah ha

Katie said...

Confession - my mom still had dial up until two years ago - seriously! This brings back memories of talking to my friends on ICQ..

Gwen said...

We were just talking about AOL and dial up the other day. I remember hanging those CD's they mailed to our house all over my room as if they were decorations. My Dad even created my screen name not knowing what I would be up to. I won't give it all away but it may have including the words "hot" "girl" and my age. He thought it would embarass me but little did he know that it just drew them in more. :) LOL!!! I'm really glad that I can police what Ellie does on the internet now. XOXO

Lil' Woman said...

I'm pretty sure one of my online names was Trixie..(yeah I thought of the cereal, other people didnt). You get asked to cyber with a stripper name like that.

Alicia said...

HAHA!! YES! totally!! i love it!! man this brings back memories... i wonder how many of those chatters back in the day ended up on dateline?

alissa said...

good lord, i remember when my friend got AOL! im pretty sure we just sat there roaming around on there...not really looking at anything at all.
ive always been afraid of chat rooms haha

Secret Agent T said...

Oh my gosh. I have read your blog for a while but the amazingness of aol and their chatrooms has finally motivated me to comment...

I still use my screenname for some things here and there and spent way too much time in chat rooms (the kids chat room, maybe named the treehouse or fort or something like that) was my favorite.

Kristen said...

sadly I never had aol :( I was jealous of everyone who did because their e-mails seemed awesome. I loved aim though. What about prodigy? We had that back in the day!

Molly said...

god, the memories. the memories!

I actually made real friends through old-school AOL. I'm still in touch with a lot of them.

mollymouse said...

this post was my childhood. hahahahah LOVE IT!

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David said...

This article is good but it forgot about the days of Fate X 3.0 and HellRaiser and all the other programs we used to thoroughly annoy people with! IM bomber, email bomber, chatroom bomber, boot them offline, steal their password, etc. Ahh the days.....

David said...

This article is good but it forgot about the days of Fate X 3.0 and HellRaiser and all the other programs we used to thoroughly annoy people with! IM bomber, email bomber, chatroom bomber, boot them offline, steal their password, etc. Ahh the days.....

be683652-1800-11e1-9e5d-000bcdcb2996 said...

I love this post so much! I remember AOL chat rooms. I remember the online "romeos" too lol. Ahhh the old days.

Unknown said...

LOL, best post ever! Oh, the glory! I spent ages 11-15 on AOL chat. Memories...

Turtle_Rock said...

I remember AOL back in 1997 when I was 12 years old and I sure do miss it. I use to be in chatrooms for hours on end. I would usually cybersex, download free software, or try to im bomb someone =) with progs. There were a lot of wannabe hackers and prevs online. Memories of AOL in 1990's will always be with me forever; good-bye AOL.

pure dreams said...

I'm glad everybody had fond memories of those chatroom days. I wish I could say the same thing too!

Cindyns said...

Loved Aol chatrooms they was apart of my life in my youth. miss the people who were my chat friends and sometimes wonder whatever became of them, what wonderful memories even the Pervs we use to all gang up on when they entered the rooms.

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Raven Baxter said...

This does bring all the memories back. I still have a few friends I met as a child in aol chatrooms, of course we have met after all this time. I am sure a few of you readers out there still have a friend or two you met in a chatroom, those few precious people who really were honest and reaching out for someone to have a real conversation with from the lonely place they were.

Nicky Doody said...

Was anyone here a regular in the PAF ? Pick A Fight chat room??? I was wildazznicky, hottazznicky, littlegavindol, nicole722 something, I just remember that I am trying to reunite with the regs! I have contact with Stree Monkey, there was I JaneDough I,Chicky, Prisontool/PrisonSex, Mental somthing... Rottingdeth, Bunny, theres more I gotta think Please email me if you know anything!

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Theresa said...

I miss those days!! I would chat for hours!! I remember some guy, think his name was Michael, whom was sent my way to be mean and we ended up talking for months and months or years. I was thinking about him and how much he liked Gwar and Anime. I was trying to see if I could find him and stumbled on this article :)

Sherry Herndon said...

OMG those were the best days of my life. I had so much fun with AOL and Compuserve chat rooms back in the day. Wish we had all of that back again so we could have a reunion and get everybody back together. Shame it is gone.

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Brittany Candies Parker said...

Anyone used to ever go into the chatroom "friends" and know a "BRITTIEP" or "BeachBabeBritt"?

Rachel Madalyn said...

I love this post!! This was my childhood!! I had a group of friends in aol's private room "love" that I never met in person but were other 90's kids (or pedophiles in disguise). Sometimes I ran up 400 dollar phone bills calling them. Remember when long distance wasn't free? I even had online boyfriends. My AOL profiles were dedicated to them. We'd let each other make our profiles. haha. oh, what fun!

Jamie said...

I remember talking to a decent looking gal on a local chat on aol.. things got hot and heavy and we just had to meet... ended up going to meet her within an hour of our first messages on aol. she tells me she is gonna shower first and should be done by the time I get there. I knock on her door to find out she is falling down drunk, stumbling trying to put her clothes on after her shower.. she finally decides she is going au natural... then I find her boyfriend on her bed passed out drunk with cum stains on the bed..

Iria said...

If they still had the chat rooms I might still be there. Anyone remember keyword Ant., or keywords at all most companies had a keyword on Aol for quick page exe. I remember being online and someone would call and I would get kicked off. I also used Lotus modem for doom 1.5

kapish chandra said...

I remember that while growing up chat rooms had just arrived and lots of my friends also used to go to internet cafes to video chat. These days dating sites with free chat rooms provide a great way to do all the chatting and more as well.

Candice said...

I would love to find the peeps we would all hang out with everyday, they became "real friends"
There has to be a way we could get a lot of them together for "old time" chat party!
I met my husband on compuserve 14 years ago! And we would love to talk to our online peeps!
Maybe you would remember us, as we kept our names and never changed them, Maze and Candice!

LetsTalkAboutBooksBaby said...

I met my husband 15 years ago on Compuserve's Teen Scene chatroom! I was just browsing the net to see if it still existed!

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This was a pretty serious inconvenience. Not to mention how annoying that modem sound was when you picked up the phone. Ouch. Free Chat

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I met my husband in an AOL chat room in 1999.. He lived in Philadelphia and I lived in Michigan... We have been married 13 years and have four children together.. Thank you AOL

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Ron S said...

Yes, the good old days in AOL chat rooms from the late 90's to early 00's was so easy to get a date and not everybody was uptight and private happy like they are now, but I remember in about 2004 is when Chat Rooms started to wane in popularity and in 2012 I got rid of AOL altogether because it just wasn't fun anymore.

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These were an fact glories days with great memories. Not only chat rooms that we chat with people...I remember the message boards also. I would go on to Nintendo board and talk about different talk different games such as; Goldeneye 64, Perfect Dark, OOT, ect. I still some of the screen names of the people I talk to there lol.

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