Remember When... is a weekly feature every (#Throwback)Thursday where we look back on a moment that changed the world of pop culture forever. Come for the nostalgia, stay for the reminder that you are getting SO OLD.
What Happened: The date was...the '90s. Specifically the mid- to late-'90s. The service that we now call AOL was known as "America Online," and everyone had it. After enduring five minutes (sometimes much, much longer) of that awful dial-up noise, you got to hear one of the most satisfying sounds of the decade: "You've got mail!" The Internet came to you in a CD-ROM, and as it said in the commercial: "If you have a phone line, you can go online." Those commercials also boasted connection speeds of 56 k! Wow.
And AOL Instant Messenger was the only way "cool" kids talked to each other. Your screen name probably had both upper and lower case x's and your font was almost certainly Comic Sans. But beware of the dreaded a/s/l? in chat rooms.
What Else Was Happening: What wasn't happening in the '90s? You could watch shows like GUTS and Legends of the Hidden Temple on Nickelodeon and see newcomer Britney Spears on an MTV show called Total Request Live. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan brought their love into the digital age with the
AOL sponsored rom-com You've Got Mail. President Bill Clinton finally admitted to having an affair with a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky, and Titanic was the only movie that mattered. In fact, half of the screen names in the late '90s probably were variations of LeoLover99.
How We Remember It, With First Screen Name Confessions:
Tierney Bricker, TV Scoop Editor: "First screen name: Reeses623, because I loved Reese's. And 6-23 is not my birthday, but I idolized my older cousin and she had 623 at the end of her AIM screen name and I did not realize it was because that is her birthday. I'd like to say I learned my lesson, but my second screen name was TBoz623, so..."
Jeffrey Wisenbaugh, Interactive Producer: "First screen name: KoolJeffrey."
Nicole Pirshafiey, Social Media Manager: "My first screenname was ABeatleGal. Yes, seriously. It's how my current best friend and I bonded: chatting about our love of Beatles music on AIM (we were 11). I also had an 87-year-old pen pal with fibromyalgia, so obviously I was super popular."
Jenna Mullins, E! Loves Editor: "My first screen name was Blondychick17. I was blonde. And a chick. I don't know where the 17 came from, because I was definitely on AOL before I hit high school. AIM profiles were the sweetest form of torture for me, and I remember seeing the lyrics to Nickelback's "How You Remind Me" in my ex-boyfriend's AIM profile and obsessing over it. Were they about me? About some new girl he was seeing? What did it mean?! It's probably best we never got back together, you know, because of Nickelback reasons."
Brett Malec, Writer/Reporter: "Just a jumble of my initials and my old favorite number: B7MandM18. So dumb."
Kamala Kirk, Writer/Editor: "My very first AOL screen name was KamilleBangkok. At the time, I thought it was so clever since I had just moved back to the US from Thailand. Looking back, now I know why the boys would chuckle whenever I told them what my screen name was. In my opinion, AOL was a breeding ground for stalkers and creepy guys from school who didn't have the courage to talk to me in person. None of my experiences on there were good, from the guy who completely misrepresented who he was and stalked me until I changed my phone number to the girls from my high school who created a fake profile pretending to be one of the senior water polo players I had a crush on. So glad those days are over!"
Rosemary Brennan, Supervising Editor: "First screen name: rosalineb3. In junior high, I was obsessed with Romeo and Juliet—Rosaline is Romeo's ex GF—and in some weird twist of fate, the newspaper had incorrectly labeled a photo of me as Rosaline Brennan. Obviously, it was meant to be."
Emily Popp, Editor: "My first screen name was EmNems14, a play on my favorite candy and my name. I was 12 and I remember having troubles settling on that one because so many people had "MandM" variations in their screen names."
Jenna Loomer, Senior Interactive Producer: "Taking away my AOL/AIM was always my Dad's first signature go-to in terms of serious punishments. Unfortunately, time after time I always forgot to turn down the volume whenever I would try to sneak on to get my after-school chat on. One time in particular I remember he had booby-trapped me and put the speakers on full blast. As soon as I heard "YOU'VE GOT MAIL" boom throughout the halls, I knew I had been caught and I immediately sprinted into my bedroom to ground myself for another week. To add insult to injury, I had left all of my private conversations under my very secretive alias: CoolJen86."
Alyssa Toomey, Writer: "I think mine was tapgirl26?"
Jennifer Cady, Senior Producer, Audience Development: "I remember collecting those 400 FREE HOURS! discs everywhere so that my parents would shut up about how expensive the Internet was and from that moment on, you'd be sure to get a busy signal if you tried to call my house. Looooved the chatrooms, obviously. A/S/L check! My screename was CDiscoChic."
Bruna Nessif, Writer: "First screen name was something like xxbrunisbabexx. I just remember running away from the computer every time a message would pop up with 'A/S/L?'"
John Boone, E! Loves Managing Editor: "My first screen name was CrazyDog231, which was my "Indian" name for Indian Guides (in retrospect, it all seems very, very racist). In middle school, you would go home after school every day and log on to AOL—and we only had one phone line, so SORRY MOM, NO CALLS TONIGHT—and then just stay on all night. I remember a big thing was making screen names for fake people and then pretending to be them and talking to your friends. As in, ‘Oh hey, I'm so and so from Texas. I'm Tommy's friend!' And then you would just talk to this person and become friends with this person until six months later you found out it was actually just Tommy. Basically, we were catfishing people before it was cool to catfish people."
What was your first AOL screen name? But if it's the one you still have now, maybe don't share it. Gotta watch out for the crazies.