I remember when we got our first computer in the late 80s - it was an IBM PS/1 that ran via DOS (see the image).
To create banners and greeting cards and the like, it came with a program called "Print Shop" and used very basic graphics - nothing like the Adobe products I use today!
It also came with MS Works, which is still similar to the current MS Works, as you could make basic word documents as well as spreadsheets and other similar typing documents. I remember in 4th grade, in '94, I would type up an entire newspaper for my class at school (with stories written by my friends) in the document program and print it off on our continuous feed paper-using printer.
This machine also took floppy disks and we had quite a few! There was the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade game (which I couldn't past the Venice crypts level), Classic Concentration and of course Wheel of Fortune. There was also a game with a little man that you had to navigate through a maze-like room on the screen, but not get attacked by certain objects like passing boulders or snakes or guards (I can't remember the name of this game, but I LOVED it, as it included strategy puzzle-like thinking and timing).
And also included on this wonderful old school computer was the online pioneer, Prodigy (or Prodigy Classic, as it's referred to nowadays).
Originally, I remember it had various subject pages where you could read stories and play games - I spent time playing around on the Baby Sitters Club and Sesame Street pages. There was also the classic (and probably the most popular and remembered game on Prodigy) Mad Maze. Screen by screen, choosing to go left, right, forward or backward, you navigated your way through various mazes to progress in the storyline (you were like a knight traveling around the kingdom and fighting off monsters). At the end of each maze there was often a quest or monster to defeat and whether or not you moved forward was determined by what decision you made (there were often like 5 different options that lead to various outcomes), if you made the wrong decisions too many times in a row you'd eventually die and return to the last maze you saved at. I eventually got to the monster near the end of the game that I honestly couldn't figure out how to beat, as it seemed every option I tried was wrong.
You can actually still play Mad Maze via an Internet Explorer emulator here, however make sure your pop-blocker is turned off, otherwise the game won't work.
By the mid-90s Prodigy had progressed a little bit, keeping up with rival AOL, and implemented an e-mail function and a variety of message boards (or bulletin boards - BBs - as they were called).
I was active on a few of these BBs - first the X-Files one, as at the time (5th grade) I was pretty much obsessed with the X-Files. I remember reading various fanfics that people would post, and I think I even wrote a few. I remember some of us Roleplayed, creating characters and then building a story off each other's posts - someone would make a post to start the story, then someone else would submit their portion, etc. I remember my character was JJ Walker - Scully's niece who was partnered with the very HOT Alex Krycek, who was also JJ's boyfriend. Being that Krycek was a renegade, my character was his mole inside the FBI, working with both Mulder and Scully on the X-Files, however, since she was related to Scully, she and Krycek often had immunity, despite Mulder's hatred for Krycek, Scully wouldn't let him go after them once JJ's cover was blown and she became full renegade.
Yeah, I had quite the imagination for being in 5th/6th grade.
The summer between 8th and 9th grade I became very active on one of the Music BB's and clicked with a group of people on there (some names that come to mind were Jammer, Hydra, Erin, and Christien who was a chick). Yeah okay, so we kinda picked on people who were waaaay too into whatever MTV played back then (thing Spice Girls, Britney, Christina, Nsync, etc) and there was always some drama. Don't ask - I don't know what I was thinking, as most of these people weren't exactly the nicest and royally freaked my mom out when they somehow got our phone number and party-called the house one night, after I had told them I didn't want in on their little party chat (they got the number by looking up the A-name on our accounts, as Prodigy assigned a letter for each member on the account - mine was the C-name - and putting dad's last name into the online directory).
That summer Prodigy also finally implemented the one thing AOL had on them - Instant Messaging. While AOL's was a bit better in the sense that you could lock in a screenname and create a buddylist, Prodigy's worked (despite the fact someone could easily take your regular screenname - mine was Peaches0182 by the way!). I remembering making full use of this function, chatting with online boyfriend.
By the time 1999 came around, Prodigy had launched Prodigy Internet, which allowed for use of viewing full webpages. Remember the days of Geocities and Expages where anyone could make a free page for themselves? I did - online boyfriend had a Geocities page with a friend of his (The Beefy Kingdom - again, don't ask! lol..), and I had an Expage (Land of the Peach!) which hubby figured out my password to and would constantly "hack" into it and delete everything I had on it (this little "war" of ours lasted a good week or so). I used to get so mad at him over it, lol...
Looking back, while it was still a distraction, it wasn't nearly to the degree that it is today!
Haven't computers and the internet come a long way from those days???