(Watch Bryant and Katie try to figure out what email and the internet are)
In those days, for example, my department at work had one or two computers for a staff of 10 or 11, and they were not connected to anything but a printer. A dot-matrix printer. (Look it up, younger readers). We had one CRT terminal, connected to the Bank's mainframe. where we could look up rudimentary data on customers that was updated in batches each night. Obtaining a credit report on someone involved inputting a specific sequence of data (Last Name, First Name, Social Security Number) separated by various punctuation marks into a machine, then using the telephone line to dial into the credit bureau, and waiting for the machine to print out a complicated report that loan officers would have to decipher. We didn't know any better, we thought we were cooking with gas!
Flash forward a decade and a half, and our technological life is on a completely different plane from 1994. My husband and I often remark, "The internet is amazing." Just think what we can do on the Internet now - check the local library's catalog to see if a certain book is on the shelf, locate a photo of Christmas cake, look for a replacement part for the refrigerator, or figure out what the #1 hit song was in 1978 ("Shadow Dancing" by Andy Gibb).
So, try to imagine this story taking place in 1994. In January, I was reviewing our credit card activity online before downloading it into our personal finance software. (See, right off the bat, that sentence is unintelligible to the 1994 reader). I noticed a small $5 charge to the Disney Movie Club of Canada on there, plus a foreign transaction fee. My husband was working on his computer upstairs, so I Instant-Messaged him and asked him about the charge, since our kids are past the Disney movie stage, and, more importantly, we have never lived in Canada. We've never even been to Canada. We don't even like hockey. (Although we did come perilously close to visiting it last summer, but for the fact that we lacked passports).
He replied back that it wasn't his charge. A minute later, after searching his hard drive, he forwarded to me an email he found in his Spam folder, welcoming him to the Disney Movie Club of Canada. Huh? The email listed the account as being in his name, but at an address in Toronto, Canada! He Googled the Disney Movie Club to find its website, and from there was able to Live Chat a customer service rep, who, in the end could not give him any more information on the apparently fraudulent account.
Meanwhile, I pulled up Google Maps and input the Toronto address. In a flash, I was able to see a map of the what I will refer to as The Perp's neighborhood. Cul-de-sacs and swimming pools were visible in the satellite photo. In the lefthand portion of the Google map page, a close-up photo of The Perp's house was conveniently displayed. I Instant-Messaged a copy of the photo upstairs to my husband.
I could see a nicely kept single-family 2 car garage house in a residential neighborhood. By scrolling with my mouse, I could look up and down the street of tidy homes and late model cars and vans. "Thief!" I wanted to yell at the photo! Who commits fraud to buy movies for their kids? I would have had much more respect for him had he used his own cash to enroll in the Movie club and nicked our Visa for the Beer of the Month club.
Upstairs my husband was calling our Visa card company to report this suspicious activity. They told him they had to immediately suspend our account, cancel our number and would overnight us 2 new Visa cards. Frustrated by the whole situation, my husband added a Status Update to his Facebook account, briefly mentioning that some guy in Toronto had gotten our Visa number and used it, and remarkably we had his address and list of movies. ("The Rescuers" in Wide-Screen? Really?)
Within a few minutes, one of my husband's friends posted a reply saying that he had to go to Toronto on business that week and would be happy to pay a visit to The Perp. Not wanting this to escalate into Dirty Harry territory, we decided to leave justice to the fraud department at Visa.
This entire exchange took place in less than 10 minutes. That quickly, I was able to see evidence of a crime, report it, and pull up photos of the criminal's home, in quite the "Big Brother" fashion. The final piece of the story that could not be understood in 1994? Posting the whole episode to a blog for the world to see, of course.
Just for fun, I highlighted in purple those phrases that I thought would be unknown to a 1994 era reader. What do you think? Do you agree? Let me know in our Comments section~
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For another blog post that would be entirely incomprehensible to our 1994 follower, check out Carol-Ann's essay on Social Suicide, posted here just about a year ago.