Nothing is Better Than These 80s Internet Depictions of Technology

By Meg Neal on at

Ever spend time imagining what the world was like the year you popped into it? I love it. Because man, 1983 was ridiculous. And terrible. And awesome. Michael Jackson did his first moonwalk. AOL, Microsoft Word and My Little Pony came into existence. The first consumer Camcorder came out (Sony!) and weighed 3335268 kilos. And the internet looked something like this:

Nothing Is Better Than These 80s Internet Depictions of Technology

Image: Condominium, created by Laurence Gartel on an Artron PC-2000 Studio Computer, 1983, via WWWTEXT archive.

This was an "advanced" graphic:

Nothing Is Better Than These 80s Internet Depictions of Technology

Image: Advanced Graphics: Architecture, from the HP 9845C Color Graphics Demo, 1980, via WWWTXT archive.

As FastCo detailed this week, digital artist and media archaeologist Daniel Rehn has compiled the oldest internet archive yet, called WWWTXT, with images and text dating back as early as 1980 curated from chat logs from Usenet and BBS forums and the like. It's a veritable treasure trove neon digital retrofuture relics, and a rare glimpse into the net of my birth year.

But it gets even better if you wait a few more years. Around the time my younger brother was born, the really good stuff emerges: early internet depictions of the cutting-edge technology at the time.

I mean, look at this guy:

Nothing Is Better Than These 80s Internet Depictions of Technology

Image: Jan Hammer interview from K-POWER, 1986, via WWWTXT archive

This is Jan Hammer, the keyboardist who did the score for Miami Vice, expounding on the virtues of the synth in 1986. He warns, "computers aren't a free ticket to music heaven." I was 3. At 31 I gotta say, they pretty much are, Jan.

Jan is arguably outdone only by "video kid," presented without comment:

Nothing Is Better Than These 80s Internet Depictions of Technology

Image: O.C.P. (Original Cyberpunk), "Video Kid" posing on a ZX Spectrum from cover of Big K, 1984, via WWWTXT archive

The whole archive of images and text snippets ("Do you talk to the computer as if it could hear you? Does it ever talk back?") are worth perusing; check them out at WWWTXT.org. But here are a few more of my faves—1980s tech as told by 1980s tech. Merry Christmas ye history lovers.

Nothing Is Better Than These 80s Internet Depictions of Technology

Image: Telecommunications, as told by the cover of RUN Magazine (Vol 4, No 9) [cropped], 1987, via WWWTXT archive

Nothing Is Better Than These 80s Internet Depictions of Technology

Image: Pigskin Picks (nice Jams Shorts!) ▰ From inCider/A+, 1989 | "San Francisco 49ers and Apple IIGS owners" via WWTXT archive

Nothing Is Better Than These 80s Internet Depictions of Technology

Image: from article, ACE (Advanced•Computer•Entertainment), 1988, via WWTXT archive

Nothing Is Better Than These 80s Internet Depictions of Technology

Image: Brain Power ▰ Cover of STart Magazine (cropped), 1988 via WWWTXT archive

Nothing Is Better Than These 80s Internet Depictions of Technology

Image: Insert from the album "Chip Meditation" by Software, 1985 via WWWTXT archive


Lead image: VideoKey ▰ Advertisement for VideoKey (RGB to Color Composite Converter for Atari ST), STart, 1988