DISCLAIMER: This article is more philosophical than technical.

Hi, I’m Milan, and I was born 20 years ago. In the relative scope of things, I am considered young. However, as a teacher, I find that when talking to today’s youth, they are often unfamiliar with things that I grew up with, such as VHS tapes and DVDs. Surprisingly, even some of my peers do not know what a Commodore 64 is. Currently, I’m studying at university, and it has been some time since I graduated and completed my smart city project.

Going back the memory lane

About a week ago, I decided to flash my older Note10 to Pixel Experience. It had been quite some time since I had flashed any phone; the last one was probably in 2017, with the Huawei P9. While doing this, I remembered how I used to root and flash nearly all my devices in the early 2010s. It began with the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini, then the HTC One, followed by the Xperia M2. Back then, phones came in different shapes and sizes, with or without physical keyboards. And, more importantly, they were more “tinkerable.” Today’s youth don’t realize that you can tinker with phones this way (I asked my students in an IT class I attended a few years ago). It’s as if we’re separated by generations, but we aren’t!

Wrong generation?

I am considered a part of Gen-Z, also known as Zoomers. Do I consider myself a Zoomer? Yes and no. Personally, I believe that Gen-Z should be divided into two subcategories - older and younger. For instance:

  • I don’t use TikTok.
  • I know what VHS is and have used it.
  • I have never played Fortnite.
  • My first phone was a flip phone, not a smartphone, etc.

A few years ago, this post was circulating on Reddit:


Even then, I questioned myself: “Does this image truly represent me?” The short answer is no, it doesn’t. But this is how the world perceives Gen-Z. Being born in the technology boom doesn’t mean I’m braindead TikTok user; unfortunately, that’s the stereotype the world assigns to my generation. If given the choice, I’d like to be born in 1984 (20 years before my actual birth), a time that marked a technological revolution. I’d be just old enough to experience the early internet, free from today’s commercial dominance. Early internet and older usenets were a playground for exploration and knowledge sharing, much like the community on 370network now. While modern technology has brought undeniable advancements, there’s a nostalgic allure to the simplicity and camaraderie of that era.

Nostalgia for something I did not expirienced.

As you may already know by the look of my website, I really like the old internet. It’s a fascination not just with the technology itself, but with the culture that surrounded it. This interest extends into various forms of media from that time, including anime. One series that stands out to me, embodying the spirit of that era, is “Serial Experiments Lain.”. “Serial Experiments Lain” is not just an anime; it’s a profound commentary on the nature of consciousness, identity, and reality, all explored through the lens of early internet culture. Lain, the protagonist, navigates a world that increasingly blurs the line between the physical and the digital, a theme that is even more relevant today.

The early internet felt like a new frontier, a digital Wild West where anything was possible. Usenets, bulletin board systems (BBS), and IRC chat rooms were the main means of online communication, allowing for a level of anonymity and freedom that is hard to find in today’s heavily monitored and commercialized internet landscape. It was a time when the internet felt like a collective adventure, a space for genuine exploration and connection. This is a stark contrast to the algorithm-driven, ad-saturated experience of the today’s modern web. I’ve survive only a bit of this era, a remaining piece in late 2000s internet.

When I first watched “Serial Experiments Lain,” it made me miss the ’90s tech era, even though I never lived through it. Starting college, with all its new tech, reminded me of that feeling. It’s weird - students back then were excited about the internet just like we get excited about new stuff today. But I found myself wishing for the simpler tech of the past, mainly because of “tinkerability”. Back then, you could “hack” your stuff to run any code you wanted. Today, we have “walled gardens”, locked bootloaders, KNOXs, and who knows what to prevent you from tinkering with your own device, like I described above (and yes, this is the original meaning of word “hack” – over the years the word turned meaning from fascinating to word invoking panic, scare, etc.)

But It’s not just about the gadgets; it’s how we connect with people. In college, everyone’s on social media, but it feels shallow compared to how people met and talked online in the ’90s (and I’d personally say to 2015). Back then, making a new friend online was a big deal, full of mystery and fun. Now, it’s all quick likes and swipes.

Seeing this difference, I realized that both the ’90s and now have their own new tech that changes how we live and talk to each other. But there’s something special about the ’90s internet—it felt like a whole new world to explore. Today, even with cool new tech, I sometimes wish for the simpler, deeper connections from the past.