Nostalgia isn't what it used to be

hingo's picture

My parents had found a box of old stuff which they delivered to me and I went through yesterday. For instance, did you know that I appeared on a photo of Kellogs Frosties (with Tony the Tiger) in 1995! We have several of those boxes still saved, empty of course. No, I'm not a celebrity. I was in the audience of a hockey game in Lillehammer Olympics which they used on their boxes in 1995. All the more memorable then, since 1995 is still the one and only year that Finland won the World Championships!

There was a lot of letters in that box. Of course Christmas cards and birthday cards too. Many from girls - it seems girls are just more likely to write than boys. To the extent that my wife started to wonder... Until I reminded her that there was no email in 1993, this was an actual form of communication people would use. 1 I never really had pen-pals or such, these are just from people I met when traveling, among others I was lucky to attend 2 language summer schools. Ah... :-) Some of the letters are even pretty mundane, like what email would be today, about "it was nice to meet you, are you going next year..." or "btw, I'll send you this thing you forgot" and such.

Sorting your correspondence

It was fun to take a little time travel through all the letters - that by the way I already as a teenager kept sorted into folders by sender and date!!! (Damn, didn't see that one coming. Now this personal post became work related... Sorry PlanetMySQL, I didn't intend to spam you, honest :-) Very convenient for reading them now, that I was so organised then. The first letters start at 1993, when I attended my first language course, and by 1996 there are a lot of birthday cards, but not much in the form of letters left. One of the last letters is from the relatives we wanted to crash by when going to the Hockey Championships in Stockholm 1995 - I had forgotten how much persuading of my parents that took, very funny! In 1995 I had already gotten my first Internet e-mail address, which was on freenet.hut.fi. 2

They do have faxes in Berlin

There were a couple of gems that stand out in todays world. 3 Already in 1993 I was one of the few who used a kind of non-Internet based email. (It was a service of Tele, today's Sonera, but I can't remember the name anymore.) It was really Finland-only, but I had heard that through something called X.400 you could send emails globally too. 4 So I had asked my Berliner friend, whether she knew that it is possible to send letters by computer, and that they could be both sent and replied to within the same day. Note that apparently neither me or she was aware of a good English word for such a thing. So she replied that yes they do have such a thing at school and it is called FAX! After some additional exchanges (which, you know, would be months later...) we came to a common understanding of what I was trying to explain. Well, I never was interested in using a fax, and she never got to have an electronic mailbox. I'm really happy for that, because had we used e-mail already back then, there wouldn't be any photos, autumn leaves or other lovely surprises you can easily send in a physical envelope.

And also: c'mon, how much of a nerd was I already back then!

...But they don't have phones in Lillehammer

There is another similar exchange with a Norwegian girl. She was going to do volunteer-labor at the media center in the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994. I was going to the Olympics and staying at friends in Lillehammer. We were planning to meet, yet there was one little problem. While at the Olympics, she wouldn't have a phone number I could have called. I sent her the contact details of the family I was staying with. Yet, I have no recollection of actually manage to meet her - one problem of course is that during the Olympics everyone would be outside all the time, watching the events and then in the city at nights.

Those mobile phones are a wonderful invention. Now you can call people even when traveling and even when not sitting at home watching the phone!

Where are they now?

After my nostalgia trip I of course started thinking what these people are up to nowadays. Most probably have families and jobs and such. If it would be possible, it would be nice to reconnect...

Not only has Internet changed the way we communicate and made the world smaller. I remember being genuinely excited when visiting for the first time places like whitehouse.gov or louvre.fr. It has also made it easier to keep contact details valid longer. During the last 15 years, I have changed phone numbers 3 times (so I now have my fourth), first due to renumbering of my parents number, then due to getting a cell phone, then due to changing private cell phone to work cell phone. Nowadays you can even keep you cell phone number across operators! I have changed physical address, aka my postal address, 7 times. Once I almost ended up sued by Stockmann because I hadn't paid a bill their computer insisted on sending to a 3 year old address.

I've never had personal e-mail sent to my university or job addresses, so of all the email-addresses I've used, only the first: hingo@freenet.hut.fi has apparently now stopped working. But I'm pretty sure it's 12 years since I got any mail through that one. I also abandoned my @multi.fi address (my second one) once, because they wouldn't allow me to setup forwarding and gmail at that time didn't know how to pull email from old POP accounts. But now that gmail supports that, I'm still reachable with my old address too.

...enter Facebook. What a lovely tool to connect with old friends. Some small details though. In the case of old friends of the female sort, there is a high probability that the family name has changed at least once by now. Facebook reportedly allows you to enter a maiden name too, but at least so far I haven't found anyone yet.

The method of finding more friends through the ones you are already connected to is great. I'm still missing the really old friends though. There seems to be a "Facebook horizon" for me, that all of my friends are such that I've met them during this century. (...or Finnish, which is different.) But I still lack connectivity to non-Finnish friends I had during the pre-Internet era. Hopefully, as time goes and more people connect to Facebook, my Facebook horizon will be pushed further into the 90's and perhaps 80's.

  1. 1. Even within Finland, it seems long distance calls were out of the question for a teenager, you would opt for a letter instead.
  2. 2. I would link to it, but to my sadness I find that this excellent resource for school children is not active anymore. Well, thanks for introducing me to the Internet, so many memories...
  3. 3. Note that coverage of this is spotty since I of course now only have access to the letters I received, but not the ones I've sent. So this is part fact, part fading memories.
  4. 4. X.400 is a suite of ITU-T Recommendations that define standards for Data Communication Networks for Message Handling Systems (MHS) — more commonly known as "E-mail". (Wikipedia).

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