The Kids Guide to the Internet (1997) — A station wagon on the information superhighway

“Now that I’ve gotten the internet, I’d rather be on my computer than doing just about anything!”

Justin’s rating: 2800 bauds of modern lingo

Justin’s review: Where were you in 1997? If you happened to be alive and not teething back then, chances are you were getting swept up in the wave of internet fever. Everyone was logging onto AOL, surfing the world wide web, making GeoCities pages (some with mutant reviewing nonsense on them), touching base on ICQ, actually writing emails, and dealing with the zippy speeds of dial-up modems. To those who weren’t there, it’s hard to convey how magical and unknown the internet was to us back then.

Maybe it’s not that hard to convey, because we can simply plop down a copy of The Kids Guide to the Internet in your lap and run away giggling hysterically. This half-hour special walked people through the basics of online life as if it was an Apollo moon mission briefing. As a bonus, it also managed to capture the open-eyed amazement at this technology before everyone got cynical, drowned in apps, got addicted to porn, and became nasty on social media.

After a toe-tappingly hilarious opening tune, we’re introduced to the Jamison family, whom I’m sure was made up of four people fulfilling the terms of indentured slavery. The Jamisons have a computer set up with the internet in the middle (!) of their living room, unintentionally making it look like a techno shrine at which they all worship. The tension of the special comes when visiting neighbors arrive on a fact-finding mission so they can convince their parents to get the internet too.

We learn vitally interesting facts about the potential of the internet, such as increasing kids’ grades and paying bills in “half the time!” We get schooled in the three and only three activities available online (surfing web pages, looking at news groups, and writing email). Wait, did they say “three?” They meant more than three, because this list expands to talking to people on “chat lines,” playing games, visit museums, and most likely being targeted for kidnapping.

Sharp eyes will see several mentions of “Star Wars returns,” which was promoting the 1997 special editions that were released about the time of this video. And speaking of other historical artifacts, everyone can enjoy the rockabilly music that plays over half the video!

The Kids Guide to the Internet is an incredibly dorky and dated slice of the ’90s, gaining cult status in the past few years thanks to high profile coverage of what was never intended to be the subject of future mockery. It’s not only the subject that’s laughable, but the groan-worthy puns the parents spout, the teen boy’s voice cracking, prehistoric websites viewed on Netscape, boundless optimism that a President will email you back, and more.

So yes, this is a hoot and a holler, and your life is not complete unless you’ve basked in its brain-stuttering glory. Plus, you might just learn something about how to use this crazy newfangled technology that certainly won’t end up ruling over us in thirty years!

Didja notice?

  • “Adjust the VCR tracking for the clearest picture.”
  • The opening song with the amazing effects!
  • The internet isn’t just for boys! WHAT?
  • That was the lamest high-five ever
  • “What’s a web page? Something ducks can walk on?” “Ha ha.”
  • If you email President Clinton, he’s sure to answer!
  • Let’s install some AOL baby
  • Ah when’s the last time you defragged your hard drive?
  • “Take a spin, now you’re in, with a technoset, You’re going surfing on the Internet!”
  • Yahooligans
  • All kids want to read the news! About those people who died!
  • The tiny media players — this was before YouTube, after all
  • You have to go to the Russian ballet for your birthday? Poor kid.
  • “All web addresses are subject to change”
  • “Call me the minute you get an email address!”

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