Life before the internet

How do you think life before the internet was different from the present? Easier? More difficult? Or just different? Read the following text to find out!

Life before the internet

Nowadays, the Internet is probably the service that people use the most because without it, we can't do the activities we do every single day: send emails, download music, watch movies and even see a person we love on a screen.

It is certainly difficult, if not impossible to imagine a life without the Internet. However, if we ask people in their 50s, 60s or even older how life was when the Internet didn't even exist, you will be surprised by their answer.

To begin with, there weren't any social networks around… Yes, there was no Facebook, there was no Instagram or Twitter. Consequently, the concepts post, friend request, like or share didn't exist in the way we know them now. Of course those words existed, but in other contexts.

Besides, there were no memes to laugh about. People had fun in other ways, but not with memes. Computer games were popular to enjoy some free time. In the 90's, for example, there were computers and people played games. There weren't any online games of course because there wasn't Internet service. It was you against the computer.

Now, think about how much you enjoy watching movies, series and youtubers online. Well, before the Internet, there was no such a thing. I mean, there wasn't a streaming service like Netflix; There wasn't either YouTube, nor any other way to watch good TV content if you didn't pay for cable TV. There were movies and series on, but some were really bad and you didn't have the chance to watch a program on demand; there was a schedule on each channel and you had to stick to that.

So, forget as well about Amazon as a streaming service, of course; but also, as the main site for online buying. Before the Internet, there were stores in the malls as they are now, but they didn't even have the idea that one day, there would be an option for buyers to shop at home. Without the Internet, online shopping was just out of the map, you had to go to the mall or the supermarket and buy what you needed.

Additionally, before the Internet, the experience of doing homework or some research for school was completely different. There were a lot of public libraries full of people investigating and doing homework. In fact, if you were a university student 30 years ago, I'm sure there were a lot of times you arrived home late because you had to go to the library. Nowadays, search engines are at your service and you can almost google whatever you want and get results.

Similarly, if you needed information about where to eat or what to do in a place you didn't know… Aha, you had to try yourself. There was no Foursquare; there was no Tripadvisor; there wasn't even Google Maps to tell you how to get to a certain place.

Finally, before the Internet, you had to dial to your friends' landline to talk to them after school, or after work. There was no such possibility of Messenger or WhatsApp. Weren't there smartphones? Absolutely not. There were cellphones, though; but there was no Internet service, so you could only send regular text messages and make phone calls.

What a nuisance! You may think, but the reality is that life before the Internet was also good! There weren't social networks, but there were excuses to go out and see your friends in the flesh. There weren't search engines, but there were libraries where you could meet interesting people and learn from each other. There wasn't Instagram to share your pics and your favorite song in a concert; but just because of that, people lived fully and more excited about those experiences to keep them in their memories and hearts.

Such was life before the Internet!

Drag and drop exercise

Look at the words in bold in the text. Do you know the meaning? Use a dictionary if you don’t know and drag each word with the appropriate meaning; then, complete the rest of the chart as in the example. Look up the words in a link to a dictionary we share here with you:

on demand
Word from the text Meaning
screen a) the surface on which an image appears on TV, computer or phone.
b) The activity to ask for something politely.
c) In opposition to.
d) The activity of listening or watching content on the Internet.
e) When you want.
f) To search for something on the net using a specific search engine.
g) To make a phone call someone by choosing a combination of numbers.
h) Something or someone that causes trouble.

After you drag the word to the correct meaning, check the dictionary again and identify the word class.

It is important to know that word classes are also called parts of speech. There are eight parts of speech in English: noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, adverb, conjunctions and interjections.

Examples of parts of speech from the text:

noun: Internet

pronoun: it

verb: want

adjective: impossible

adverb: consequently

preposition: on

conjunction: but

interjection: aha!

Regularly the part of speech appears after the word in dictionary entries.

Look at the following entree from a dictionary of the word screen:


noun [C]

UK /skri:n/ US /skri:n/

a flat surface in a cinema, on a television, or as part of a computer, on which pictures or words are shown:

  • Our television has a 19-inch screen.
  • Coming to your screens (=cinemas) shortly.

Don't forget that good dictionaries also include the pronunciation of the word in American and British English, and of course the phonetic transcription.

Words can have different meanings. That's why the context is very important so that you choose the correct meaning accordingly. For example: screen also means -a vertical structure used to separate one area from another-, but this meaning is completely different from the one we need for the context of the text, that is the Internet.

Writing exercise

In the first column, write the words that correspond to each definition. (Take those words from the text “Life before the internet”). In the third column, write the part of speech of each word.

Word from the text Meaning Part of Speech
request b) The activity to ask for something politely. noun
against c) In opposition to. preposition
streaming d) The activity of listening or watching content on the Internet. noun
on demand e) When you want. This is a phrase, not a word. Sometimes it's difficult to find meanings of phrases in the dictionary, but not impossible. Look carefully!
google f) To search for something on the net using a specific search engine. verb
dial g) To make a phone call someone by choosing a combination of numbers. verb
nuisance h) Something or someone that causes trouble. noun
Check exercise

Read the text again if necessary, then choose if each sentence is (T) True, (F) False, or (NM) if it is not mentioned on the text.

  True False Not mentioned

1. According to the text it is impossible to live without the internet.

2. People played computer games for hours.

3. There were good programs on cable TV in the past.

4. There was a library in every and each school.

5. Before the Internet, there wasn't a way to talk to your friends after school or work.

6. People were also happy before the Internet.