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Early Memes

Last posted Dec 08, 2009 at 05:56PM EST. Added Aug 30, 2009 at 12:41PM EDT
21 posts from 11 users

When I was a small child in the late 80’s wandering around my parents’ offices, I noticed that many people had faxed around a poorly drawn picture of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes with a speech balloon reading, “God put me on earth to accomplish a certain numer of things. At this point, I’m so far behind, I will never die.”

Other instances of the Calvin cartoon had replaced the phrase with, “I have exactly one nerve left and YOU’RE GETTING ON IT”

Some had taken either of those phrases and used a picture of Bill the Cat from the old Outland cartoons.

In the 80’s there were fax memes. I’m willing to bet that there have been HAM radio memes and even telegraph memes to some extend.

There have been memes as long as there has been human culture. With each advance in communication, memes have manifested.

Aug 30, 2009 at 12:59PM EDT
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PS: I can’t find that the Calvin fax meme ever made it’s way onto the internet, but I would love to find it.

Aug 30, 2009 at 01:00PM EDT
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I wonder if sometime from now, a thread like this shows up, and someone pulls up “All your base” as an early meme.

Aug 30, 2009 at 02:02PM EDT
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Can you consider the Che Guevara meme old? I know you consider the Nighthawk meme old, Chris.

Aug 30, 2009 at 05:28PM EDT
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Read about the japanese monkeys that learned to wash their potatoes by imitating one in their group to get an idea of what prehistoric memes might have looked like. Also read about Kelloggs experiment in the 30s with bringing up a baby chimp with his son to learn what copycats we are compared to chimpanzees! (hint: his wife ordererd him to stop the experiment because the boy only imitated the chimp)

Probably more than ingenuity or planning, our ability to copy each other has given us culture. Our failure to imitate each other exactly all the time gives the variance needed for selection (although trial and error are problably needed as seeders).

Aug 30, 2009 at 06:01PM EDT
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@Jostin,

Yes I consider the Che meme old, but that’s not the problem. It’s a great meme that is very relevent to art history. The original image was very iconic. Warhol’s was image was influential as well. The image inspired many others to copy it, as all great works of art do.
The same goes for Nighthawks, and to a lesser extent “that’s what she said.”

But all of this happened well before the internet. And this is a site about Intenet Memes. There may be new instances created online today, but if the meme was already huge prior to or outside of the internet, it should not be classified as an Internet Meme.

Aug 30, 2009 at 06:12PM EDT
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Hmm, more criteria to consider when submitting a meme.
I just realized how often Wikipedia gets it wrong.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Internet_Memes

Aug 30, 2009 at 06:16PM EDT
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@ Chris

Okay, I understand what you mean by that. Oh well, it’s an awesome meme nevertheless and I’m just happy I got through to making an entry of it. I’ll get to work on the internet meme I’m supposed to be working on in a couple of minutes, so expect another entry from me on the way (you already know what it is).

Aug 30, 2009 at 06:17PM EDT
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Hmm, I should get to work as well. I’ll look for photos, if I can get computer access in the next 20 minutes.

Aug 30, 2009 at 06:20PM EDT
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I remember when a video of a chimp scratching it’s butt, sniffing it’s finger, then falling out of the tree it was sitting in spread through e-mails some time in the 90’s. I wouldn’t be suprised if that chimp made it’s way to YouTube by now…

I’m not sure if it is quite memetic enough, but it was viral nonetheless

*A-ha!! Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeprCmg3Crg

Aug 30, 2009 at 11:43PM EDT
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@ thevinnler

Here’s the first video uploaded on Youtube of that: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nx4UEe98EkY

It’s in Greg Rutter’s Definitive List of The 99 Things You Should Have Already Experienced On The Internet Unless You’re a Loser or Old or Something.

Have fun.

Aug 30, 2009 at 11:52PM EDT
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Ah cool. I noticed that many people have uploaded that video. The link I had just happened to be the first one I found.

Aug 30, 2009 at 11:56PM EDT
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I found this pearl on page 10.
Need moar early memes.

Dec 08, 2009 at 01:59AM EST
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Kilroy is like the first widespread IRL meme. Personally, I love Kilroy.

Dec 08, 2009 at 05:18PM EST
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ummm… im not sure, but CHEEEEEEEEEEEENN from touhou might be an early meme. i believe it started from the M1 comedy contest. not sure though

EDIT: Crap, do you mean like memes that are really old?

Dec 08, 2009 at 05:56PM EST
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Skeletor-sm

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