Login or Register

Sign in with Facebook

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.

Continue Reading Below

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.

Continue Reading Below

4
Hacking

Hacking... yeah, we've all been there, right guys? Breaking into some poor bastard's CPU, flooding his library scripts, remotely exploding his water heater... OK, we have no idea what hacking really is, but we are fairly sure it has something to do with computers and the Internet.


Hacking!

Actually Been Around Since...

As it turns out, what we today understand as "hacking" started as far back as the fucking 1950s, and they called it Phone Phreaking.


Hacking!

Phone Phreaking exploited a flaw in the computerized switch boards of the time, which transferred calls via a single sound frequency of 2600 Hz. In 1957, a blind seven-year-old named Joe Engressia found out that by whistling the right tone, he could reset his phone and dial numbers on it without paying a dime.

Later on another "phreaker" named John Draper discovered that he could produce the Hacking Tone of 2600 Hz through a toy that came free with Captain Crunch.


Hacking!

In the 1970s, phone companies switched from single frequency to multiple frequency technology, so phone phreakers became more sophisticated as well. Draper designed and built the "Blue Box," a device which produced necessary dial tones for each number through a portable keyboard pad. The Blue Box phreakers could "hack" phones to make long distance calls for free and even hold secret conference calls with each other, basically the predecessor to IRC chat rooms.


The Blue Box, which here is black for some reason.

Of course, they didn't have anything like the technology to do the large-scale assaults hackers do these days, like DDoS attacks.

Oh, wait...

3
DDoS Attacks

To DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service Attack) someone means to flood their computer (or server) with so many requests that it shits all over itself and shuts down, sort of like during the Super Bowl when everyone and their brother orders a pizza and backs delivery up for three weeks.


Without pizza, there is chaos.

Actually Been Around Since...

While this is certainly a technique favored by legions of slighted Internet nerds flamed on a Battlestar Galactica forum, people have been doing it since the 1970s with something called Black Faxes, which meant rigging a fax machine to continuously send a full black page to another fax machine.

The attack was meant to use up all the toner in the receiving machine (which was balls expensive at the time), screwing your target twofold by wasting their money and rendering their fax machine useless until they dropped the cash to refill the toner. Theoretically, a more diabolical person could fax something other than just a simple black page, such as a 500-thousand word piece of erotic Star Wars fanfiction.


"Please, just stop! I'll do anything, just stop sending this... this...
YODA COULDN'T FIT IN CHEWIE'S ASS, THE PHYSICS ARE IMPOSSIBLE!"

But fucking with people's computers goes back even before fax machines, back to when computers were the size of a building and used those cardboard punch card programs to operate. Enter the Lace Card, a typical IBM computing punch card only with every single hole punctured.

When inserted into a computer, the card would disintegrate and all of its pieces would have to be manually removed for the computer to be able to operate again. It was sort of like shitting into someone's DVD-ROM drive--simple, classy and effective.

Continue Reading Below

2
Instant Messaging, Email and Chat Rooms

"What? Now you're going to tell us people sat around in some primitive chat room before World War II or some shit? Oh Cracked, your rampaging alcoholism makes for the cutest factual errors. I shall take to the message boards to insult you from a distance without any repercussions."

Actually Been Around Since...

Well, keep reading and learn about The Teleprinter.

A teleprinter was a large typewriter-like machine that went into common use in the early 1920s. You loaded a piece of paper into it, stuck a phone line in the back and used it to dial numbers to connect you to other teleprinters. Whatever you typed on your teleprinter's keyboard was automatically typed on the receiving machine, allowing for instant messaging across great distances, just like e-mail and... well, instant messaging.

But teleprinters could also be connected in a special loop, where one person's message would show up on a number of selected machines, basically making it an Internet chat room presumably full of flappers and speakeasy lushes instead of 13-year-old girls and your fiance's sexually frustrated roommate.


Flappers: just like these young men pictured, only with vaginas.

The Telex Net was established in 1920 as a worldwide teleprinter network with automatic switch boards that relayed connections from one end of the globe to another, enabling text based communication worldwide decades before even the most primitive incarnation of the Internet.

So really, when your grandpa is staring confusedly over your shoulder at the MSN conversation you are having with some dude in China, it's not the technology that's foreign, he just can't figure out where you put the paper in the damn thing.

1
Software File Sharing (Yes, Even Before The Invention of Floppy Disks)

Call us pretentious, but we're pretty sure half the crap you're listening to in iTunes while you read this article was downloaded from Bit Torrent, so you should be familiar with the basic premise of file sharing. You might be thinking there's no way this was possible back in the day, unless you had a guy stand in the middle of a public square shouting code at people.


GTA 4!!! Disc 2!!! 001101...

Actually Been Around Since...

All of you Mountain Dew-drinking game pirates worried that one day you'll get hurled back in time to the 1980s can now breathe a sigh of relief. In those days it was actually possible to share games over the radio, thanks to the ZX Spectrum, a 1982 home computer with a vast selection of software which occasionally came on audio cassettes (by our estimate, to put today's games on that format you'd need a cassette the size of the moon).

Shortly after its launch, the company that owned the Spectrum allowed some of its freeware programs to be aired on a few radio shows so people could record them at home. It took gamers about half of an ALF commercial break to realize they could share their entire game libraries with each other in the exact same way.


Nerds weren't any cooler back then, just in case you were wondering.

If you were a kid in Eastern Europe or Brazil after 1982 (we're going to go ahead and assume that's exactly none of you, at all, that are reading this article right now), all you had to do was tune in to your favorite pirate radio station and hit record on your ghetto blaster when the DJ said so. If there were no problems with the transmission, you could start playing Frogger on the spot. And of course gaming was immediately forever ruined as a profitable business.

Cezary also writes at DrownYourself(.com).

Do you have something funny to say about a random topic? You could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow. Go here and find out how to create a Topic Page.

To see what the Internet actually has contributed to society on its own, check out 6 New Personality Disorders Caused by the Internet. Or find out what web-niche you fill with The 8 Most Obnoxious Internet Commenters.

And stop by our Top Picks to see Cracked before the Internet existed.

And don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get dick jokes sent straight to your news feed.

To turn on reply notifications, click here

305 Comments

Load Comments