You’ve Got “1998”

A Tuesday morning laugher? Or me recovering by blogging about it? You decide.

Last night, we watched Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks romancing each other by email in 1998’s You’ve Got Mail:

We had downloaded it from Sky Cinema perhaps to watch with visiting friends.

Indeed we ended up doing so… and while we were drinking.

Suddenly, I was back in the 1990s again. It was almost eerie. Immediately I remembered another Meg Ryan film I’d seen in 1995… and someone else’s then reaction to it:

[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

In the 1990s, Ryan was something of a version of Doris Day: American cinema goers seemingly could not get enough of watching her fall in love and get married in films. You’ve Got Mail was yet another of those. It revolves around Ryan in New York falling for a stranger – Hanks – living nearby due to an ongoing exchange of heartfelt anonymous emails using late-1990s internet powerhouse, AOL’s America Online.

I bought my first computer in 1994. I’d chosen the brand – a Compaq Presario – on the advice of a colleague: “Windows are the future, no one buys Apple Macs…” the economics professor told me. (Not a bad projection for an economist.😂) I recall it coming pre-loaded with America Online, which I then signed up for.

I was hardly alone in doing that. For a time, it seemed half the country had it too. Our universe had changed:

[Excerpt from Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

AOL became so huge so fast, its ponderous dial up and connection troubles became a common problem and complaint. Simply there were too many users trying at the same time to see if they had “got mail.” The connection sound the modem made as well is now also legendary. You young people with your wifi and broadband have no idea what we often endured in ye olde days.

[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

I remember also how we often indeed wrote love notes personal emails as if they were letters. Live chat as you see in the film also existed. But there were then no such things as 👍🏼🤷🏻‍♂️🔥😜 emojis.

Another part of the film: bookstores. Huge chains, central in the film, were then a thing. Ryan unfortunately of course owns a small indie bookstore she inherited from her of course book-loving of course now deceased mother of course struggling to compete with them. Tom Hanks is of course one of the directors of a large chain called “Fox Books.”

“Fox Books” looks surprisingly like the then real-life Borders Books.

[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

Back then I spent a lot of time and money in bookstores in general, including, in, uh, that real-life chain.

Ryan is also of course obsessed with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Hanks is of course initially unimpressed by it. Finally, though, he gives in and reads it…

[The famous opening to Pride And Prejudice, by Jane Austen. Photo by me, 2018.]

…but in paperback, as there were in 1998 no such thing yet as Kindles or e-books.

In 1998 also, the web was not yet all about businesses and consumer products. itself was still in its infancy – and then sold pretty much just books and (maybe) CDs which is short for compact discs that contained music. There was also no such thing yet as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat or all the apps we now take for granted.

I don’t know how we survived?

[A reasonably well-known view. Paris, France. Photo by me, 1994.]

Time goes by.😂


In the end, You’ve Got Mail‘s huge “Fox and Sons Books” puts Ryan’s “The Little Shop Around The Corner” bookstore out of business.

But she and Hanks, who has of course learned so much from her about loving books, of course live happily ever after.



In all likelihood, if there had been a sequel made a few years later, “Fox Books” would have been put out of business by much as Borders Books basically was in real-life. Borders folded in 2011. (Unlike Barnes and Noble, Borders came too late to realize digital was a large part of the publishing future. Borders also didn’t have the U.S. college bookstore market Barnes and Noble did.)

America Online, eventually better known as AOL, still kind of exists, having been largely swallowed up by newer and more innovative internet providers amidst the advent of broadband and the end of dial up.

And the universe continues to change…

Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂