At the dawn of the Internet, we all made some mistakes. Below, comics reveal their first AOL handles.
My punk band in high school was called Nude. We thought it was funny that the posters would say "Pete Holmes, Steve McCabe and Aaron Bonner-Jackson:NUDE." That, and we thought ahead so far as to consider that our "fans" would be called "Nudists." Punk rock is all about branding. So, naturally, my AOL username back in 1995 was NudeRocks@aol.com. Because we rocked. What I didn't know was that 'rocks' is slang for testicles. Maybe you didn't know that either. I've never really heard it used in real life, even to this day."Ow, my rocks!" But in the nineties, in every chat room I entered, I got a LOT of attention from people who have heard it used in real life. And lets's just say the "rocks" users are a sultry, forward bunch of gross-out-style horndogs. Much more so than say softer, gentler "nuts" users (as I was). Suffice it to say I learned my lesson. If you'd like to chat about it later you can reach me at NudeNuts@peteholmes.com.
My first email address was email@example.com. I came up with this after many, many unsuccessful attempts to make my screen name a variation on "Ghostbuster" or "PeterVenkman." In my frustration of being rejected so many times, I looked on my desk and saw a book I was assigned to read in high school, the Herman Hesse classic "Narcissus and Goldmund." I heard the book was good. I didn't read it and since Narcissus was too hard to type, I settled on the other guy. Unfortunately I spelled it WRONG! I left out the D! So I was GOLMUND, a name I had no connection to, that was misspelled, and which meant nothing. So for years afterwards I always had to explain what my screen name meant. I'm an idiot.
I remember my first AOL screen name like it was yesterday. This is partially because I still use it and was just checking it yesterday, but also because -- like a lot of today’s futuristic citizens of the Internet -- it was my very first screen name and email account. It’s the one I used to dip my toes into the world wide web for the very first time way back in the ‘90s, the one I used to write those first cryptic emails to mysterious yet enthusiastic new pals in Malaysia, the one I used to access my first glimpse of that picture of that one kid with all the puke coming out of his nose, and the one I used to stay up late into the Cleveland night chatting away about everything and nothing at all with other w4m truckers and their admirers.
The anonymity of the Internet being what it is and the fact that every variation of the name Dave Hill was already taken, using my own name for my very first AOL account wasn’t an option, so I was forced to get creative. At the time (and today still) one of my favorite people was Barry White, so I had hoped to use his name. But that was taken too, so I had no choice but to use the next best thing, MrLouRawls. With the exception of the day the real Lou Rawls died and I was inundated with roughly 7000 emails from people both sending condolences and hoping to contact the singer of “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” and so many other hits from beyond the grave, it has served me reasonably well to this day.
In keeping with modern times and in an effort to get people to stop mocking me for still having an AOL screen name (something I still fail to understand, dammit!), I have since upgraded to a more modern account I will not mention here because I am now extremely famous and can’t risk such a breach of privacy. But for whatever reason, I’ve still held onto my AOL screen name and check it every few months or so like clockwork. And while it’s certainly not the best way to get a hold of me these days, if you, like me, ever wondered what it’s like to be hauling an 18-wheeler full of irritable livestock for 72 hours straight, high on speed and doing your damndest to keep your eyes on the road in spite of the tears, by all means get in touch.
My first AOL screen name that I can remember was vlcmrcks. You may notice that as the slogan for the cool, hip, young surfing-skateboarding-cool-dude clothing brand Volcom, but without the vowels. I just wanted people to know I was cool and young but wasn't going to blatantly advertise for them. My next screen name was cffeebnandtealeaf.
The year was 1994 and my dad brought home the first family computer. It was an Apple. Thanks Dad. He brought it inside and set it on the table, he said, “Nick, I can’t set it up, I’m too old.” I grabbed his hand and said, “I can do it Erik.” He said, “Call me Dad.” I said, “Alright Dad.” Back then we didn’t have High Speed Internet, it was straight into the phone jack, 28K. If you had call waiting you were fucked. I got the computer set up and online. My dad said, “You're too young, you can't have your own screen name. But you can use mine...” It was salmon with an e-r-d at the end... Salmonerd.
It was the mid 90's, and I was on the road with an improv group in Indiana. It was the last night of a two-week road trip. Everybody else in the group decided to go see the hilarious Dead Man Walking, but my friend Wendy and I stayed back at the motel and got the kind of high you get at the end of a two-week road trip in Indiana. So when the great Eddie Pepitone, who was my road roommate at the time, came back from the movie, I was just lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling, silently philosophizing, with the TV on. He started flipping through the channels, and every time another show came on I would say something derisive. "Oh, great, it's this show. Oh awesome, that guy is sooooo talented." Then after I was quiet for a moment, Eddie said, "Back in a moment with more from the Prone Cynic." We decided a funny show would be a guy who just said shitty things about everything, lying down. The Prone Cynic. So when it was time to choose a screen name, I picked Pronecynic. I also used it as my e-mail address. It was a terrible idea - people's brains don't process that there are two words there. I would write it out for people and they would read it back like, Pro...neck-nick? Pro..neckinack? Terrible. Really damaged my career.
My first AOL screen name was sunrx12, and it really stuck with me, based on the fact that I still employ it as a username for many website accounts today (o hai ProFlowers). Like everyone else on the planet, when I picked this screen name, using your real name was not "on trend" yet, and the Internet was still a vastly unexplored chasm, into which people disappeared regularly while exploring lost Geocities or whatever, so it was best to keep some level of anonymity about it.
And I really did, because sunrx12 has no deeper meaning, and reveals nothing about me. I was basically one step above a Russian spambot or a CAPTCHA. I was trying to set up an account fast, and didn't have time to put proper thought into the name, so I thought I like the sun, it's been good to me for the most part. "Rx" was a paltry attempt at "rox" (remember the splashy career "rox" had in the 90s?!), capped off with the first two numbers after zero. BOOM. Ready to make my Internet debut. I do remember many disappointing AIM convos with randos where they were like "So wut doz sunrx12 mean?" and I'd have to make something up to seem more interesting. The truth hurts, kids! We're all shams trying to make it in this virtual attention game.
This article was originally published May 2013