Recently, the online elite was amazed by a Finnish Internet Café video promo from 1995, which really should open our eyes for how quickly the world has changed. Back then, computers were clunky, fast internet connections were extremely expensive and there was no Wi-Fi.
Since we can assume the charmingly corny video probably didn’t serve its purpose back in the day, as an insert on MTV, we really think you should give the thing four minutes of your time.
This show-reel for Finnish capital Helsinki’s internet cool has everything, including but not limited to: a very nineties Drum’n’Bass soundtrack, some American sounding dude trying to look excited in the slushy snowfall in downtown Helsinki.
The list goes on, with Finnish people miraculously containing their otherwise enormous enthusiasm over the promise of the information super highway, in a deap-pan, Kaurismäkiesque fashion.
Even that’s not all: you also get to see people hunching over enormous computer monitors with matchbox-sized (presumably) Real Player clips of ice hockey, some beer-serving robot thingy and extremely important-looking yuppies working on their laptops. Let’s not kid ourselves: portable computers were silly expensive up until the mid-00s!
The good folks over at Nyt.fi, the cool section of Finland’s largest daily newspaper, did some digging on the origin story of CompuCafe (in Finnish). Briefly put: the first iteration of the joint opened in the Kluuvi shopping mall in Helsinki as early as September 1993, as a result over wild brain storming over a beer.
After all, computing was and remains mind-blowing, and it’s easy to understand the urgency with which the stakeholders wanted to make the internet a place you could get to easily. Printed “yellow pages” of cool sites were included, of course.
Restaurant entrepreneurs got involved with developing the concept, and CompuCafe relocated to a fancy new location a few blocks away, at the intersection of Annankatu and Eerikinkatu in Kamppi. However, the business model turned out to be hazy: use of CompuCafe’s equipment was free of charge, and not everyone bought coffee and other beverages.
CompuCafe’s business dwindled and closed in 1995, but the legal entity of the Kamppi location remained registered as a Finnish company until 2005.
Helsinki dwellers will recognize the place by its later tenants, Pickwick Pub, Hostina and currently, Ølhus Stockholm.
The story and fate of CompuCafe shares some similarities with that of @Cafe in New York City, recently documented by Vox.
If all this won’t satisfy your retro cravings, you can dig further into the hilarity of early personal computing in the short but epic faux 80s series Computer Show on YouTube.
On the other hand, this tech nonsense might leave you thirsty for a beer in Helsinki. If that’s the case, look no further than our guide to Kallio, the definite bar district.