The Story of the Early Days of Chatting

chatting on phone

Chatting is one of the most favorite activities of today’s generation. Whether that’s texting through an SMS pack or chatting via WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, typing on mobile phones to chat with friends — and sometimes, strangers — has been around for a long time.

While scrolling through my Facebook feed late one night, the logo of mig33 showed up. Anyone who grew up in Bangladesh and is old enough to have used mig33 will know the nostalgia that surrounds it. This little app used to be ‘the thing’ back in the early days of internet in Bangladesh.

I remember I had a Nokia phone (didn’t we all?) that could open up a GPRS connection to connect to the web. There weren’t a lot of mobile-optimized sites back then. So, internet on phone meant you would really just browse a very limited number of wap sites. Other than that, you would chat with friends on chatrooms via the most popular app of the time, mig33.

Not a Fighter Jet

I don’t remember when was the first time I heard of the app mig33. But I remember that I had already heard of the MiG-29 fighter jet. So, when I first heard the name mig33, I thought for sure that it was another fighter jet that had become popular in Bangladesh for some reason.

When I got my hands on the GPRS-enabled Nokia phone, I wasn’t very convinced that internet on phones would be useful at all. There weren’t a lot to do. The mobile-optimized wap sites were boring. Some of the My Opera and other wap sites were full of 3gp porn. And anything above that would have sucked up a lot of costly data. Internet wasn’t as accessible and cheap as it is today.

mig33

Then I met mig33. It wasn’t a fighter jet. But it was the next fastest thing. 😉 I remember my phone wasn’t super powerful, so mig33 would run a bit slower than average. (Then again, I don’t know what the average phone speed looked like back in the day.) But being able to send and receive messages that fast certainly felt like the speed of a fighter jet.

Chatting has been popular from the early days of internet in Bangladesh. Over the years, it has evolved and changed the way we interact with even the closest ones. But, for all intents and purposes, has it become better? Or are there elements of the early days of chatting that have been left behind?

Funnily, though, I didn’t chat a lot on mig33. I remember there was some sort of a credit system — and a lot of people offering to sell credits via Flexi Load — on mig33. I never quite got the hang of how that worked, so I always felt missing out. I think, the credits were used to place internet calls? ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Oddly enough, despite all the people and all the chatrooms that were already available at my fingertips, I found something similar, albeit less-known, that got my attention.

GP-IM: You Know It. Or You Don’t

I was surprised to find out that a lot of people, even the heavy internet users back then, did not know about the instant messaging app provided by Grameenphone. I believe there was some monthly fee attached to it, and the app was pretty heavy, too. It would crash every 15 or 20 minutes on my phone, perhaps because it was running out of memory.

But man, that app had an attractive bunch of users!

Don’t get me wrong, there were still people who would use slangs pretty much all the time they were online. But most of the rooms were full of chatty, friendly, and regular people who would come online pretty much at the same time every day.

If it was 8 in the morning, I would know who would be online. If it was 5 in the afternoon, I would know who would be online. There weren’t thousands of people. So on the good end of that, a lot of people knew each other. It really was the first active community that I was a part of.

And no, I did not use my real name on GP IM. So, forget about recognizing me if you were one of the cool ones to have used GP IM. 😛

A Google search for “GP IM” or “GP IM in Bangladesh” does not return any relevant results. It’s like it was before the internet became a thing when we were regular on GP IM.

Also, there was a bug in the app that allowed any user to place calls to any other user. It used to be like if you hadn’t become friends with a user, his or her number would not be shared with you. I and a very few other people knew of a bug that allowed us to get the phone number of other people without being friends with them.

I didn’t misuse that glitch, though. I promise. 😉

Sadly, though, I don’t recall any of the topics that we used to chat about when we were in the rooms. I guess, that’s how chatrooms are supposed to be? Someone would come up with a topic and everyone would chime in. Without any of them realizing, the topic would move on from one to another. Before we knew it, it was way past midnight.

That’s how it started. Me staying up late at night. Little did I know that it would be the norm in the coming days! (Not chatting with strangers, but staying up late at night.)

Chatrooms Were Awesome

No, all chatrooms were not awesome. Any one person could ruin the entire vibe of a room. I’m sure there were a lot of people who were bullied by strangers online. But bad things happen everywhere. So, I’m just going to mark those off as exceptions.

Having said that, I miss the chatroom experience. Yes, there are Facebook groups, Facebook Messenger group chats, WhatsApp groups, and whatnot. But the majority of them are private chats, unlike what I — and I’m sure most of you, too — grew up with.

It was fun participating in a conversation with the people you knew. If you were bored, you could look up a different chatroom and talk to a different bunch of people. It was cool. It was interesting. For introverted people like me, who had little access to ‘people’, those chatrooms became quite an experience.

What Was Your Experience Like?

Assuming that you, too, grew up with the likes of mig33, GP-IM, and Yahoo Messenger, what were your early days of chatting like? I don’t doubt that today we have better technology in a cheaper, more accessible way. But are there things that you miss from your mig33 days? What are they?

Would you like to get those chatroom experience back someday?

A.I. Sajib is a passionate writer from Dhaka with a focus on writing about technology and daily life. Follow him on Twitter at @aisajib or find him on Facebook.

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I love writing about technology, life, and everything between. I love photographing people. I'm a Happiness Engineer at Automattic/WordPress.com. The best way to get to know more about me is through my blog at http://ais.blog

4 thoughts on “The Story of the Early Days of Chatting

  1. The Credit system of Mig33 was for gift, special emoticon pack and so on. No calls though. I was a heavy mig user back then. When I left mig, my ID’s level was 79. Those levels were a big deal at that time. I started with Yahoo Messenger, then moved to Mig33 for about 3 years. Then as you know it, Facebook. When I started regular at facebook, there wasn’t a proper chat system, more like Message service. Then there was a group chat for facebook group. Facebook tried to mimic the Chat room experience, failed miserably.

    But I will always be nostalgic for yahoo messenger and mig33. Things I did and things I didn’t, still makes me smile 😛

    1. I totally get what you mean. 😛 So what were levels good for, apart from showing off? 😛

      I do miss Yahoo Messenger chatrooms and GP IM (not so much on mig33 because it lagged terribly on my phone). But in all fairness, I miss the early days of somewhereinblog. Those weren’t exactly chat rooms, but the community was friendly, active, and on good days, comments would be rolling in like chat messages. 😛

      I do hope that chatroom experience comes back someday. :3

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