Saturday, April 19, 2014

Absolutely pointless nostalgia: The history of my email addresses

Do you remember the internet? What was all that about?

I don't mean the useful communication service integrally entangled with myriad aspects of our professional and private lives, that indispensable utility you take for granted until you live in a country that enforces a mandatory blackout hour daily because the monopoly electricity provider is typically inept.

I mean the internet, that fun commodity that you persuaded your parents to hook up to your clucking Windows 95 desktop after being awed by its clueless promotion in such Hollywood blockbusters as The Net and Children's BBC's The Web (I remember something about Zoe Ball running from a big spider, probably some kind of metaphor for sex predators).

The internet you were so impatient to use as your mum's boyfriend slowly connected the modem and explained in tedious detail how to use Internet Explorer 1 or whatever, but when you finally got your freedom to surf the information superhighway with the world's knowledge at your fingertips you didn't really know what to do, so just downloaded some blurry League of Gentlemen wallpapers and joined the first small forum or Yahoo! Group you came across dedicated to your favourite TV show or band which you doggedly stuck with for a year. You know, that internet.

Like other impulsive decisions you made and attitudes you embraced in your teenage years, those early email addresses could go on to spoil your whole life.

The early years: Impractically long comedy fanboy quotes (1999-2004)

True to the hermetically sealed nature of my various life cycles (school; university; Edinburgh; travelling; whatever exactly I'm doing now... writing this?), I've updated my email addresses every few years. So I've never been in one of those situations that inevitably happens, when a prospective employee is asked to include an email address on their application, and not thinking to sign up with a new, professional-sounding one they embarrassingly disclose the personal email they've been using since they were 15, which doesn't make the best impression. '' or whatever. I hope that happens.

The closest I came to this was signing up for my first proper bank account at 15 or 16, being confronted with an email address box for the first time in my life and dutifully transcribing 'thisyeargarthfinallygotpubes@hotmail.' (None of these email addresses will work any more, at least I hope not). My friend's attractive older sister worked at the bank, and he later told me she'd found it amusing. 'Brilliant, one step closer to the hopelessly unlikely friend's attractive older sister poonani,' I probably tried to kid myself.

My second email address (third if you count the communal 'warburton50.freeserve' one) was with Yahoo!, probably because I wanted to join a group or something, and evidently not having taken any lessons away from the laughing derision or ungainly length of my Wayne's World 2 inspired original, I went for the Red Dwarf-inspired 'gunmenoftheapocalypse@yahoo.' I used that alias on a few forums that somehow seemed worth wasting my precious youth on, and when I contacted Richard Herring in 2004 applying for the position of virgin he was advertising (buy the DVD for explanation), one of several reasons he cited for turning me down was that my email address looked a little worrying.

Did I learn my lesson? Did I smeg.

University: It's all about music (2004-2007)

Like a pathetic character from Grease caught up in a subculture apartheid or just another lost soul lacking a sense of self-worth in the real world, I defined myself by the music I listened to when I got to university and found it was a good way to meet people who were at least like-minded on that one aspect of life, which was one step above most of the people from my block I'd been hanging out with in the early weeks at least.

I was delighted to receive the first nickname in years that wasn't Harry Potter based, when someone noticed I tended to wear the same band T-shirt quite a lot and named me 'Iced Earth Guy,' and that would do for my email address with my new friends and my alias on our cliquey rock society forum.

As time went on, an insufficient student loan and lack of a proper job led me back to my teenage penny-scrounging pastime of writing consumer reviews online to make 'a living' at 50p a time (don't worry about me, I was making a small profit flogging illegal imported DVDs too), for which I returned to comedy fanboy quotes territory with the Lee-and-Herring-derived moniker Frankingsteins, which has regrettably stuck and is still used today when I embark on uncharacteristic online socialising (basically just a travel tips forum). I think I messed up my original frankingstein@hotmail email address, so frankingstein2@hotmail stuck for a couple of years. Until I replaced all my friends again.

A viewing of the landmark Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors with my Edinburgh pals offered another nickname I could grasp onto for email purposes. Some of my Edinburgh friends still occasionally ask if I use 'thewizardmaster@hotmail' any more, and the ones who don't might have tried to contact me using it and just didn't know what to do when they got the bounce-back. If you didn't get the memo, maybe that's your reply.

Work: Let's get professional and boring (2007-)

At least you don't need email when you're dead. Hurry up, I'm waiting

When the end of university was looming and the prospect of real work looked dismally bleak, I signed up for a few work-from-home scams, lost money and learned life lessons (like I've never been foolishly trusting with money since). For this I had to come up with an email address that was suitably bland and professional for the first time, which was new territory for me.

Not being able to turn to cheesy 80s horror films, early 90s comedy movies, space sitcoms or power metal bands for inspiration, I just used the alias I'd been given by Lancaster University's amusingly outdated WING email service, taking part of my surname and my first initial. I won't type that one here, since Gmail's been good to me over the past seven years and I don't really want it screwing up.

If you know me and you ever wondered why my email address is that (it wasn't that difficult to work out), there's the fascinating origin story. Don't blame me, you clicked on a blog that promised to be absolutely pointless. You chose to waste your time.

When that email address was hijacked by spam a couple of years ago, I realised it was a bit reckless to only have the one, and signed up for a Yahoo! one just because I was too lazy to do the research and find out what sort of email services people are using now it isn't 2001 any more. I just used a boring variant of my name again, but closed it after a while when my perfunctory weekly checks only involved clearing out a full bin of spam. If you can tell me a reliable, non-spammy email service that doesn't want to take over my browser or demand I have a mobile phone (how many times can I fob off that Gmail request?), I'd be grateful.

There, that was more interesting than photos of some beach or temples wasn't it? What has my life become?

Sigh. Alright then, what are your embarrassing old email addresses? Let's all share our amusing stories in the comments below! Like I care about your life.

Next week: The history of my passwords, past and present!


  1. I think I've had four e-mail addresses, not including work or university ones.

    My first foray on the internet -- I don't remember knowing anything about it when my brother showed it to me for the first time -- was going into chat rooms. My brother thought it was funny if I just said stupid stuff all the time, so that's what I did. Then we got AOL and an username with my surname in it and everyone in the chat rooms laughed at me. :(

    On AOL you could search the userbase for words in their profiles and for some I got speaking to a middle aged woman from the next village over (I can't remember if she found me or if I found her). We spoke about all sorts -- mainly quite adult stuff like philosophy and things -- and after a few weeks she said she was going to stop speaking to me because she thought that actually I was my dad pretending to be a teenage boy because I was too smart to still be in school. Thanks?

    Sometime around then I got a surnameless MSN (exactly the same as Hotmail, but with a slightly rarer address) but because it wasn't very professional I then went on to get a gmail with my full name. You know that one. MSN gets loads of spam, so I try to just sign up for everything with that one and although a few people still e-mail me there (mainly my mum and brother, actually) most now target my gmail account, including an increasing number of spammers, sadly.

    I also have a Yahoo! account that I never use but got so I could play chess and post photos on Flickr.

    1. I'm not sure why, but I hardly get any spam in my Gmail (maybe just one per week), even though I used to use it all the time for everything. By contrast, when I've opened a brand new Yahoo! and kept it to myself, it's been flooded with spam from week one, they're just terrible.

      I forgot to boringly chronicle my first experience of 'the internet,' which was on a primary school day out at the local college, it was one of the futuristic activities we got to try. My friends all looked up things like football and the Spice Girls, I remember typing "poo" into Yahoo! search and clicking on something called 'The Dog Poo Page,' which just had clipart of dog poos on it. A killjoy man saw me laughing and reset my computer.

      28 years old I was (11).

  2. How things have changed.

    1. With vintage 'classics' like that, you could never really claim the internet has gone downhill.

  3. Just found out I also had the seldom-used back-up fallopianpilgrimage@yahoo around 2003. A title I came up with but never found a subject for.