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We found a BBC magazine about the internet from 1999 and it’s brilliant


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25 years ago today the internet became available to the public! 

Rummaging around moving house, I came across a BBC magazine from 1999 called Webwise, ‘getting started with the internet’ and it’s a hilarious reminder of a time when the web was still a shiny new toy.

This magazine accompanied a six-part series on BBC Two. Yes, in the late 90s people needed six episodes of a TV show to tell them how to use the internet.

This is from a pre-Millennium world before Facebook (hell, even before Myspace), before Google, before Youtube and if your phone could send texts and run a game called Snake it was considered advanced!

For ‘digital natives’ – that’s us people who have never not known the internet - this is a bizarre and somewhat alien world.

Look at some of the bizarre gems contained in the pages of Webwise.

How I use the internet

Ever wondered how cast members from Eastenders use the internet? No? Well in 1999, using the internet was such a rare thing that celebs were needed to shed light on its virtues.

Nowadays you just need to open someones twitter feed to see how they use the internet, what they eat and their mundane thoughts on world events. 

There’s also another page where they ask normal people as well.

e-commerce – shopping on the internet

This whole article can be summed up by this quote, “’Buy Now’ means just that on the internet, there’s no going to the shops.”

In 1999, going to the shops was the norm, buying stuff online scared the bejesus out of people. It was new and weird, not like now where people binge on clothes shopping just to send half of it back!

Just in case you wondered, the article imparts wisdom like “The ‘e’ stands for ‘electronic’” and reassures you that if you shop online with your bank details you won’t get robbed – some things never change, except for maybe the advice that a good place to start e-commerce is

WWWhat is the internet?

Terrible pun aside, in the 90s, people really did need a double-page spread explaining what the net is.

Sending an e-mail

This wasn’t the age of e-mail being so ubiguitous that sometimes you just send an emoji or a picture of a cat to a mate.

No, this was still the age where letter writing was still considered an art, and this transferred to e-mail. You’d sit writing long, carefully crafted missives to far away friends and not even have to go post it – HOW COOL IS THAT?

Now we can message so much we get annoyed at having to write full words...

What do you need to go online?

Right, in 1999 getting online was a bloody mission! To get online you had to ‘dial up’ via the phone line, getting a noise that sounded like the machines talking to each other in another dimension before getting a connection slower than a Donald Trump supporter.

You could only go online when your mum wasn’t talking on the phone, and opening websites sometimes took that long you could go out for a game of football and come back!

Getting started searching the world wide web

Searching the web was nothing like it is now with sophisticated Google search engines giving us access to everything in seconds. No searching the net required a little bit of knowledge and skill.

If you typed in the word BBC “you are presented with hundreds of sites that include the word BBC. This is too many and the search needs to be restricted.” It’s then up to you to do the work by being more ‘specific’ – bloody hell!

Remember ‘Boolean Searches’, no me neither!!

10 things to do on the internet

Number two is ‘Find a plumber’!

When it says ‘Catch up on your favourite TV programme’ it doesn’t mean watch it, it just means ‘forums where you can swap messages with other viewers.’ What a revelation!

So today when you are casually surfing the web on your phone, catching Pokemon, watching telly from decades ago or chatting aimlessly on Whatsapp, remember the people of 1999 who suffered the early internet so we can have what we have today.


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