The year was 1998. We were one of the first houses to have the internet in all its 14.4 kbps (but actually approximately the sq. root of 2 kbps), dial-up modem glory. Of course, it's one thing to have the internet & completely another to actually be allowed to use it. See, the pater was (and still is in many ways) what could be described diplomatically as conservative. Heaven knows what cerebral Armageddon had taken place to even allow for the idea of the net, never mind him actually getting it, but that isn't pertinent to this story. What is, was his stone-cold conviction that the internet was evil, dangerous and would quite likely flummox vital State secrets right out of the heads of his gullible brood. So yes, malignant tools like chatting on the net & email did not stand a chance. Even 2 years later, when he'd thawed a bit, using ICQ was frowned upon & I spent many an evening chatting in an atmosphere more suited to a spy thriller.
However, something inexplicable happened in '98 that no one had factored for; I had my first almost-crush. You know... the one where you get a funny feeling in your tummy when you see a certain girl & only later realise that the funniness was a precursor to the mother of all stomach aches & subsequent bed-rest. To cut a long story short, the circumstances dictated that I move out of the Middle Ages of technology & get an email address. For totally business-related correspondence, mind. The only two major players in the free email racket at the time were Yahoo & Hotmail. I picked the latter.
People today probably won't get this, but it was thrilling to have an email address back then. For one, I only got to sign into the account once a day, if I was lucky. No one replied within hours either. It took time, days even, to reply to someone because penmanship had not died out yet. The email was wonderful because not only was it letter-writing at it's speediest but it boosted your tech-credibility. All these wonderful facets of the email, Hotmail killed off nonchalantly. It offered about 3 - 5 mb of mail space & would wipe out everything if the account had not been visited every 30 days. I'd lost quite a few valuable emails thanks to such foolishness and opened a Yahoo account. But I kept the Hotmail account. Some friends would send mails there. A few relatives were encouraged to use only that address. It was handy when I needed an almost-faux address for registrations. A few years went by, the pater gave up on his muttered portents & the passable email experience continued.
Then, this happened. Invitation only, at first and whatnot but it gave the others a swift kick in the unmentionables, leaving the competitors so far behind that, well...
To counter it, Hotmail made changes and supposed improvements all of which served to 'eff it up further. Half the drafts wouldn't save. Mails, inadvertently, would not be sent. And it attracts junk mail like no one else. And just like that, to me, it became obsolete.
Today, I went through the process of closing my Hotmail account. Even as I waited for the abysmally slow Microsoft server to do it's duty, memories came tumbling by... the first email I sent out, that first reply from her, the ones which told me clearly that my love life was going nowhere, mails from friends on their first days in college & ones exchanged when we were all miserable in different parts of the world & needed empathy. All of those recollections, milestones on the highway of my life, have been saved elsewhere.
But that first email address is gone.
And just like it, so is some part of my youth.
Song for the moment: Song for the asking - Simon & Garfunkel
P.S: Or rather, will be gone... in 9 months!! Microsoft now keeps your account open for 270 days, would you believe.