The early 2000s definitely felt like simpler times. No one really knew what a smartphone was and most people probably only had one giant computer sitting around under a cloth somewhere at home for everyone to use.

But even then, technology was changing so much and so fast that it transformed the very way people communicated and stayed connected with each other across the world.

In the past two decades alone, we went from making up our own language to save word count when sending SMSs to having real-time HD video conferences while WFH.

So for the sake of nostalgia, let’s take a walk down memory lane and revisit some of the most memorable things Malaysians did to get in touch with each other when we were just getting connected.

1. Collect prepaid top-up cards


You don’t really need history books to tell you that the prepaid mobile number changed the world just as much as the cellular phone did by giving everyone access to instant communication at affordable prices.

In contrast to postpaid subscriptions where you’d be tied to paying bills every month, prepaid numbers gave users the flexibility of purchasing their own airtime or “credit” depending on their needs.

Just like how it is today, all you needed to do is buy specific amounts of credit to reload or “top-up” your account to call or send messages.

But back in the day, top-up cards were a novelty of their own and came in so many different styles and special edition printings that people can’t help but keep ‘em around as collectables.

2. Getting creative with SMS

Before we had WhatsApp, Telegram, iMessage or any other free internet-based instant messaging applications to send our GIFs, stickers and memes, people had to get creative with the Short Message Service or SMS to really get their feelings, moods or reactions across to the person on the other end of the line.

This was when emoticons, emotes or emojis really took to becoming one of the primary means for people to express themselves in “smileys” to save time and effort.

But there were always those creative few who’d expend time tinkering with the simple text-based format to turn numbers, letters and symbols on a square black-and-white (or green, or blue or red) screen into art on a digital canvas.

The festive seasons were one of those times when you’ll see the most clever and imaginative designs as friends and family send each other the best Hari Raya, CNY, Deepavali or Christmas SMS wishes.

3. Danced to caller ringtones


Caller ringtones were the bomb for those with the appetite for personalization as well as the considerate few wanting to keep callers entertained while they wait for someone to pick up the phone.

Instead of hearing the usual, boring ol’ dial tone before the line connects, callers get to hear some music to dance to before going on-call.

Back in the day, almost everyone had their Hotlink 012 or 017 numbers locked and loaded with a welcoming tune to delight their callers.

The only downside is that you’d maybe get a bit tired of hearing the same song over and over again every time you rang someone up.

4. Sending picture MMS

The Multimedia Messaging Service or MMS was a step up in the way people chatted on the phone. With it, we were able to send each other digital files like pictures, videos or even web links.

MMS opened up a whole new world for people to regularly share selfies, cute cat videos, voice notes or whatever they want across the globe.

5. Staying up late for cheap calls

Love birds and those living far away from their friends and families in the 2000s would definitely have fond memories of staying up late into the night in order to have long, endearing conversations with their significant others.

Before there were truly unlimited free calls and internet packages, people would take full advantage of the limited free or discounted call rates offered to them to giggle and gossip from midnight till the break of dawn.

Now, everyone has the power to always stay connected 24/7 anywhere and anytime.

6. The Nokia 3310


You can thank the early mobile adopters for all the classic memes documenting the legendary “Nokia 3310” and how the durable device can stay functioning no matter what you throw at it (or even throw IT instead).

Though technology became cheaper through the years, mobile phones were pretty much a luxury back in the day, and for most people, there weren’t too many device options for them to choose from either.

It’s a far cry from the offerings we have today where Malaysians can enjoy a variety of mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers and even smart TVs at affordable installments and 0% interest.

7. Dialing up the internet & chilling at cybercafes

Ahh, the good ol’ days of dial-up internet… When the computers made weird noises every time you connect to the “worldwide web” and everything takes forever to load up on the screens.

Kids today would never know the pain of not having broadband 4G and LTE download speeds or have the sentiment of hopping on a LAN connection at the local “cyber-cafe” for work, chatting on message boards or simply playing video games with friends.

Now everyone across the country, and even those sailing offshore, can receive the most optimal coverage and always stay connected through the latest 5G services, mesh WiFi and WiFi 6 wireless connectivity, and enjoy crystal clear voice calls with things like VoLTE technology supported by VoWiFi.

8. Heading to the Post Office to pay bills

Having to go to the post office to pay your phone and internet bills used to be such a hassle. The queues were always too long, and the place was always packed.

Nowadays, millions of customers from all over the world can simply take advantage of dedicated 24-hour services, advanced AI-powered chatbots, and enjoy real-time billings, rewards tailored to your user experience, service management and much more with just a simple click.

Businesses also have access to simple and secure one-stop platforms for on-demand, real-time and end-to-end visibility of all of the professional solutions they need.

9. Flipping through phonebooks & Yellow Pages


Just like the outdoor phone booth, phone books were once a crucial commodity in our telecommunicative lives.

Physical directories like Yellow Pages were one of the only ways you could look up someone’s phone number or an address for businesses, services and government offices.

It was also one of the few ways entrepreneurs, from the cities to the kampungs, could advertise the products and services they provide directly to consumers far and wide.

Things are much simpler now with the internet, and it’s never been easier for everyone to find or advertise themselves and what they offer to the world.