2022 is not over yet, and it already has been a whirlwind of early 2000s nostalgia. I’ve witnessed the resurrection of the low rise cargo pant, chunky square toe slides, bucket hats, and, obviously saving the best for last – Crocs. I keep thinking I see a Neopets chain on everyone’s small backpacks (I think it’s the light playing tricks on my eyes).
I recently watched You’ve Got Mail, and couldn’t help but feel nostalgic when I heard the dial up sound and the “You’ve got mail!” sound. This got me curious – what does the Fuzzy Math team find nostalgic? What products shaped their design journey? Is there anything we wish would make a comeback with a fresh redesign? Or is it better that it lives on in memory?
The beginnings of modern gaming was such an exciting time. What games shaped you? Why?
The Game of Life was my favorite game growing up. I think it’s wild how there is so many versions of this game. I still think the original game is the best, the new one’s wheel spinner doesn’t spin quite as smoothly as the well loved one that was always brought out during family game nights.
Dungeons & Dragons! Many of my nights in the early 2000s were spent in my friend’s basement bartering with Gnolls and rolling dice until 4 am. I think tabletop RPGs are definitely a hobby that has had a big impact on me, and it’s one that’s grown exponentially since then and I couldn’t be happier about it.
As a 90s kid with two older brothers who were always building computers, I naturally gravitated towards anything to do with a computer. One software I fondly remember is Reader Rabbit’s Pattern Parade game that I used to play on the computer when I was super young.
Sega Genesis, Sonic the hedgehog. My mom bought it for me when I was 8, we’re leaving the store and as we’re riding the bus home she goes “where’s the game?” I left it sitting right by the cashier. Thankfully I got another and spent countless hours playing Sonic. Since I love running and sprinting I think sonic influenced my love of speed. That Sonic game was so good they continue to make remakes and re-releases of it till this day!
You’re seven years old, you’ve memorized (and written down) the DOS commands to open the greatest game you’ve ever experienced: Lode Runner. You kill hours at a time in the creaky wooden chair collecting gold and trying, but usually failing, to outwit the guards. You also experience your first technology-based depression when your 8″ floppy holding Choplifter gets corrupted 😭. Story of my life, circa 1988.
The first computer game I remember playing is Minesweeper on my dad’s work laptop – that was his attempt to distract a 7-year-old on a cross-country flight. And it worked. It also opened a can of worms because after that, I was gaming. Solitaire, Neopets, Crash Bandicoot, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3, Tetris, Monkeyball Jr., The Sims – you name it, I probably tried to play it. The beginning of modern gaming was a great time for me.
I remember playing the exciting mystery game series Freddi Fish on my computer. The characters were cute and I got to solve extremely complex puzzles.
Being an early 90s baby, elementary school computer class was spent playing The Oregon Trail Game! The simple storyline and pixelated features were all the rage! The earliest versions also aided in typing skills. It also taught me early on to appreciate the advances of modern medicine and technology because Oregon Trail characters could succumb to anything, including a broken leg!
Encountering a product from the past can drop us right back to a specific moment in time. What products do you remember fondly?
Moonshoes! Never had them but I have vivid memories of my friends who did and of the Nickelodeon commercials that played nonstop. I’ve seen heelies make a comeback, would not be surprised if these would as well? We could all moonwalk to the office.
Tamagotchi. I may or may not have browsed Ebay for the exact kind of Tamagotchi I had in 1997, I’ll never tell. But still these things were amazingly fun and I want them to get redesigned and make a comeback so bad, but I also want to shield them from all pay-to-win mobile games now as Tamagotchis would be perfect for that genre.
VideoNow. I thought these things were the pinnacle of technology, that sweet black and white 80×80 pixel screen, the bulky CD case you had to carry around, and the slight burning smell that emitted after watching for 30 minutes. All worth it to watch Spongebob, which is still one of my favorite shows, while riding the bus to school.
I was obsessed with Myspace. It was my first foray into html and I love customizing my page and would change things often. Adding music to my page felt radical, and like an ultimate act of self expression at the time.
I may or may not have had a thriving Neopets business of building custom user pages for other people on Neopets. I taught myself HTML and Photoshop — it’s what really sparked the idea that design was something that I could actually do and could actually be good at.
HitClips! Those were the jam. For something like $2.99, you could listen to a clip of a popular song at the time, right at your fingertips. But let’s be clear – it was not the full song, only a 60-second snippet of it. My go-to HitClip was “It Happens Every Time” by Dream Street. Of course, I quickly moved on when I was introduced to iTunes and the art of burning CDs.
My password journal. I didn’t have many dark secrets that needed to be password protected, but I think it helped me come up with passwords to use in every online account ever. It was also voice-activated if I remember correctly, which is pretty ahead of its time.
Microsoft Paint? Anyone?
AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). Very fond memories of sitting on my families old (even at the time) Compaq computer talking to strangers online. The experience with AIM taught me that yes, people could lie over the internet.
Mapquest. I’ll never forget all the times me and my mom had to print out directions when driving to Atlantic city scrambling to find exits from this crumpled up piece of paper. Really made me appreciate Google maps today and taught me how to read highway signs pretty early. The kids nowadays have it so easy.
Clippy was my first experience with any sort of virtual assistant software, and my first love/hate relationship with an aspect of technology. It was also my first experience questioning a part of a program. Until Clippy, I thought of all elements of a program as unquestionably cohesive and connected. I never imagined something like Clippy could exist, especially in something as formal as office software.
Not to piggyback of Tré’s answer, but I remember when having a Garmin GPS was the pinnacle of technology. My grandparents were early adopters and used it on long their long roadtrips to my childhood home. But boy those download times (not to mention having to plug it into the computer to download new maps!) sure seem primitive now!
The tool that absolutely changed the game for me was Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. In the sixth grade, I spent a whole lot of time in the computer lab trying to get my speed and accuracy numbers up. Was it lame? Yes! But was it fun? Heck yeah! Don’t sleep on Mavis Beacon – it’s never too late to improve your typing skills.
I was a big fan of Picnik in my early Facebook days. The photo editing was top tier, especially the feature where you could make everything black and white but add color to ONE aspect of the photo (most popular were lips or roses ofc). Also used Photobooth quite a bit, but to be honest I still use Photobooth to check my hair before a zoom call.
There you have it folks – a stroll down memory lane. We hope you enjoyed a small peek into the internet things that some of the designers at Fuzzy Math remember fondly. For many of us, these technologies formed the very beginnings of an interest in design that we carry with us today.