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Let Us Now Remember the Best Memes from the '90s

The following are some of the oldest memes we culled from the Internet’s backroom of dusty archives.
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There were already memes as far back as the ‘90s. We just didn’t know what to call them collectively. A meme (pronounce: meem) is any idea that is passed from person to person (especially on the Internet) by means of imitation and often for humorous purposes. Examples of memes are images, catchphrases, or pieces of media.

Memes gained popularity with the launch of websites 4chan in 2003 and 9GAG in 2008. These social media platforms allowed users to share and upvote images, catchphrases, GIFs, and other media. The following are some of the oldest memes we culled from the Internet’s backroom of dusty archives.

1| “All Your Base Are Belong To Us” (Circa 1992)

This catchphrase was the result of a mistranslation from the 1989 Japanese arcade game Zero Wing, which was adopted by Sega Mega Drive in 1992. It gained popularity sometime in 1998, and officially became a pop culture icon in 2000 when DJ and computer programmer Jefferey Ray Roberts remixed the video game’s music with the techno dance track “Invasion of the Gabber Robots.” It included a voice-over phrase of “All your base are belong to us”.

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The meme is often used as a declaration of superiority or victory over opponents.

This catchphrase has become one of the most timeless memes not only on the Internet, but also in various media. It is a popular meme with very strong staying power. It has been used in TV shows, movies, radio programs, books, posters, comics, articles, various social media platforms, and more.

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It is also a popular meme used in political commentary. In January 2019, U.S. Democratic representative in Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used the catchphrase when a surprising number of Republicans backed her proposal to impose higher taxes on the ultra-rich.

2| Dancing Baby (1996)

Everyone in the ‘90s with access to a computer is probably familiar with the Dancing Baby video. The original video features a 3D-rendered baby dancing to 1974 hit, “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede. It was created in 1996 by Michael Girard and Robert Lurye as a product sample source file for an animation software. Then, web developer John Woodell converted it into a highly compressed GIF animation, propelling it across the Internet because of its convenient file size.

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The Dancing Baby became so popular that it was used as a screensaver on many PCs. In 1998, it made its way to mass media when it was featured on the popular show Ally McBeal as Ally’s recurring hallucination of her biological clock. In 2000, it was parodied on The Simpsons, in which Homer, while browsing the Internet, sees a Jesus Christ dancing like the baby.

3| Godwin’s Law (1990)

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ILLUSTRATOR: Roland Mar Tanglao

“As an Internet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison with Nazis or Hitler approaches one,” said Mike Godwin of his chart, where one (100 percent probability) is the point when discussion ends.

The meme is aimed at people’s penchant for arguing on the Internet. Godwin was such a good observer that his meme still rings true up to today. Taking a trip to the comments section of any article or post on social media proves this.

4| Hampster Dance (1998)

Intentionally misspelled, this GIF is also a single-purpose website. Basically, it’s a single web page featuring a GIF animation of rows of dancing hamsters. The simplicity and obnoxiousness of the meme is what made it popular.

The meme was used as a way to trick someone into clicking a link that was supposedly interesting, but instead showed rows of orange hamsters dancing. Used as a clickbait, Hampster Dance became one of the earliest forms of Internet trolling.

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Rickrolling (2007), another popular meme, is a spinoff of this trolling trick, luring web users to watch edited videos of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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