8 Online Fads You Didn't Know Were Invented Decades Ago

Many of you reading this article right now can't imagine a world before the Internet. Either you were too young, or the Web has entangled itself so completely into your everyday life that the very wiring of your brain has adjusted accordingly.

But the world hasn't changed as much as we think. In fact, many of the things we think of as being unique to the Internet generation pre-date it by decades.

#8.
Emoticons

Here's something that has to have originated in online culture, right? Nothing symbolizes the "lazily use as few keystrokes as possible" culture of the email/text message generation like combining punctuation to convey human emotions.


For example, this lets people know that there is a spider on your face and you are wearing a party hat.

Actually Been Around Since...

The first emoticon showed up nearly 120 years ago, when author Ambrose Bierce wrote his essay "For Brevity and Clarity" and proposed a new type of punctuation mark to convey jest, which he knew would make the satire a little more clear in typewritten correspondence where he proposed, say, killing a hobo with a bag of doorknobs.

The new punctuation took the form of a horizontal parenthesis, which was meant to look like a smile, sort of like a written laugh track to cue readers in on all the jokes.


This shit is fucking funny.

Bierce's eyeless horror-smile never caught on, but other versions continued to turn up in places like the personal telegraphs of Abraham Lincoln. Then the most uncanny example of old-timey smileys comes from 1881 when a satirical magazine called Puck--sort of like Ye Olde Cracked.com, presumably with 19th century dick jokes--published its own list of "humorous typographical faces" for use in telegraphs.


Yes, 18-Fucking-81.

#7.
LOLcats

A couple of years ago, around 78 percent of Internet bandwidth was made up of pictures of cats superimposed with broken English captions. Perhaps you've seen one or two.



They got a book deal out of it.

Combining the two things the Web loves the most--cats and badly misspelled words--made for the perfect Internet meme. Something only Web-surfing teens could have invented, right?

Actually Been Around Since...

Well, you're only off by about a century.

It was in the early 1900s when Harry Whittier Frees started working on his animal postcards for The Rotograph Company of New York. What did he come up with? This:


This is an old-timey photograph, so this cat had to sit here for like fifteen minutes.

Note the words near the bottom. Yep, it was cats in hilarious poses, with kitty dialogue superimposed. LOLcats of the Teddy Roosevelt era.

Back in those days, picture postcards were fairly recent developments and Frees's animal models were filling the public's need for adorable animal cruelty. Frees experimented like hell with his cats and dogs, playing around with different settings, costumes and props and restraining the animals in their poses. Hilarity ensued!

Well, sort of.


This cat is not asleep.

#6.
Cartoon Porn

Many of you can probably pinpoint the exact moment your childhood innocence died: right around the time someone showed you extremely detailed drawings of April O'Neil getting plowed by a Ninja Turtle, who then was blown by Krang. That person then pointed out that you were looking at an entire website full of nothing but cartoon porn. A vast website.

Wouldn't it be nice to live in a simpler time before such depravity, when people didn't actually masturbate to pictures of Marge Simpson going down on Sailor Moon?

Actually Been Around Since...

You know, back when they masturbated to this instead?

Yes, to escape pornographic spoofs of famous characters you would have to set the Way-Back Machine to before the 1920s when there were no Tijuana Bibles; the racist-tastic name given to an eight-page underground porno comic book found all throughout America up until about the 1960s.

They often featured famous cartoon creations like Popeye, Mickey Mouse and Little Orphan Annie filling each other out like a service questionnaire at Outback Steakhouse. And we're not talking about boring, edited-for-television sex. We're talking about butthole-lancing graphic pornography, sometimes with a sprinkle of bestiality.


"I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a boner jamwich today."

Typically, Tijuana Bibles were sold "under the counter" (a phrase which here means "out of the backs of station wagons or from oversized overcoat pockets") at garages, barber shops and even schoolyards, because nothing develops young minds quite like an image of Popeye bashing through a wooden door with his erect cock.

#5.
Twitter

Twitter is surely the clearest and most pathetic sign of the downfall of our civilization. It's a damning byproduct of an attention-deficit, egocentric and aimless population, with millions of us reporting that we went to see Paranormal Activity movie and that it was "totally creepy lol!"

Honestly, at what other point in history could we have felt the need to log our everyday activities in 140 characters or less?

Actually Been Around Since...

Well, if Twitter is a sign that we're all shallow and vapid, then we've been going down that road for a long, long time.

Check out some of the ancient wall writings discovered at Pompeii. Sure, you've got the normal graffiti--the kind about various individuals' less-than-immaculate reputations and where they can be reached "for a good time." But you also find a ton of people who stopped to scrawl reports of whatever random, pedestrian activity they were involved in. For example, one guy wrote the date he made a loaf of bread. Another guy detailed his laundry list.


Not interesting. Ever.

They were Tweeting. Posting the ancient equivalent of all the "at the mall" and "this guy in front of me totally just farted" messages that dominate Twitter on a daily basis.

Back then, graffiti was used to pass gossip around the city, letting people know what everyone else was up to. And as these brief "tweets" were often replaced with new entries, a simple stroll down any Roman street kept you up to speed with everything that was happening with your friends and neighbors, same as visiting their Twitter pages.


Some stuff should probably have been kept private though.

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