Sunday, January 30, 2011

You've Got Mail (again)

This movie is one of absolute my favourites. A classic Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan rom-com. Seeing it again after a long time made me sit back and look beyond the plot. This time around, I felt that the movie was a time capsule, a historical mark to how different or similar things were just before the turn of the century.

Internet connectivity
When I first saw the movie, I didn't have internet connection at home and didn't even have an email address. Back in 1998, dial-up was the way to go to access the internet (at least in the Philippines I think). Yes, complete with that tell-tale screeching noise heard in the background as the modem connected to the internet via the phone lines. Connectivity was only fast enough to send email. Things that are very easy to do these days like video-conferencing, or even viewing photos, were impossible those days (or people needed to have the patience of Job to wait for photos or big files to finally come up). 

Fast forward to 2011, I've subscribed to three email services, I've posted photos onto a photo-sharing website, and I blog.

Certainly a novelty back in 1998, Starbucks Coffee first changed Filipino palates and coffee sensibilities in 1997 (1). For me, I first heard of the complexities of ordering a drink in Starbucks in You've Got Mail. At that time, chocolate frappuccino was an unheard of beverage; today, it's the ONLY one I buy in one of the Starbucks branches peppering Metro Manila. Calamba City even has one now! I never thought I'd see a branch so far into the provinces!

Big, bulky, and black. These were my first impressions on laptops when I saw them in You've Got Mail. They literally sat on people's laps... but not as long as they do these days because today's laptop is feather-light compared to those overweight heat-generators.

Laptops are even going passe with the introduction of netbooks and tablet PCs. These are today's ultimate mobile computing devices. Then there are the nifty mobile phones which feature internet connectivity. Who'd need to access the 'net on a computer when it can be accessed using a cellphone?

Social networking
In the movie, the characters used code names in emails and chats: Shopgirl and NY152. That practice was more common back in the heydays of mIRC chat rooms (first released in 1995 (2)). It was a time when internet abbreviations such as ASL (age, sex, location) and EB ("eyeball", which means meet up personally) abound; a time when anonymity allowed people to retain a sense of privacy while voicing out opinions they won't normally say in the open. 

Nowadays, social networking sites are so common. I got introduced to Friendster in the 2000s, I think, and to Facebook in 2008. These sites remove the necessity to ask for someone's ASL as people announce their profile details anyway. Photos are readily accessible as long as they've been uploaded into the website. Plus, there's no need to actually travel to an EB because of video-conferencing. In short, everyone's connected to so many people albeit only in the web. As a result, people spend hours in front of their computers waiting for comments to arrive about their status updates.

What a fancy store Fox Books is! You've Got Mail was shown when Powerbooks was barely two years old (3). When I saw the interior of Fox Books, I was reminded of the Pasay Road, Makati branch of Powerbooks, where bookworms hung out over coffee and pastries in a place whose ambience resembled a modern library. It was time when Starbucks was a place to see and to be seen; Powerbooks was where to read and to eat (very expensive chocolate cookies).

Today, Powerbooks is still a force to be reckoned with in the Philippine book market but I haven't seen any coffee shops inside the newer branches. Plus, new players have joined in.

Credit cards
Kathleen Kelley flashed a blue Visa card at the grocery store. Credit cards weren't a novelty anymore in 1998 but in the Philippines, these were most likely status symbols. Hence, it amazed me that middle class people in the US could afford a credit card back then.

So many developments have transformed the world of communication, book-selling, food, and information technology in those 13 years since the movie first played. I'm sure that with the pace right now, technologies deemed novel and high-level in the movies today will seem obsolete in another five or ten years.