Stop me if this sounds familiar: a popular theory posits that, about every 20 years, pop culture warps, folding in on itself, and nostalgia for two decades prior suddenly becomes hip, as evidenced by, say, a recent spike in the ranks of Pearl Jam cover bands.
Willing as I am to sign up for a study that straps thousands of millennials into electrodes, this isn't yet a scientifically validated theory. But here's a personal anecdote: I have an affection for this project from technologist Andy Baio that borders on the defensive. A couple months ago, Baio dumped a collection of videos about the pre-1996 web onto the internet. The videos, culled from VHS tapes, are an exercise in answering a simple question: How did people view the internet when it was just hitting homes?
The answer is: embarrassingly. Here is a 1995 video called "The Internet Show" that is essentially a single cringe expanded into one hour of instructional programming:
But get past the gentleman in the mustache defining "geek speak" — I know, but you can get past it — and there's something almost comforting about this video. It's a comfort in cluelessness: here is not only a reminder of how far we've come, but how far we've got to go. In the great year of King Rand Paul 2035, we will look back at the simpler times, at Facebook, and Amazon, and at the drones that had not yet gained sentience. When the world feels overwhelming, there's a pleasing nihilism in revisiting the past, but also in realizing we don't know the half of what's coming.