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The first time I worked with the Internet was about 30 years ago. I was curious enough to care about something which was back then so new and fascinating.

I kind of remember that there was a word or phrase with the meaning of ‘which was back then’, but I don’t know what it was exactly.

First, maybe we can use only the word ‘then’ in such a context, can we?

The first time I worked with the Internet was more than 2 decades ago. I was curious enough to care about something then so new and fascinating.

Or, maybe ‘back-then’ is better, is it?

Another way to go is to go with not such expression:

The first time I worked with the Internet was about 30 years ago. I was curious enough to care about something so new and fascinating.

But if we want to imply that back then it was more new and fascinating compared to nowadays, then maybe that option is not good enough.

Otherwise, what word or phrase best fit in such a context?

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  • "which was" is a superfluity. You could easily leave it out. "those days" would also work well in place of "back then." "...Those days/Back then I was curious enough to care about something (which was) so new and fascinating."
    – user405662
    Jun 11 at 9:35
  • @user405662 "which was" is a superfluity. It is there for the style, it creates a nuance of pensiveness. Yes, it can be omitted but shouldn't be.
    – Greybeard
    Jun 11 at 11:04
  • 1
    Yes, you can use "whiz-deletion" to delete "which was". Jun 11 at 14:32
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    which at the time was x.
    – Lambie
    Jun 11 at 16:18

3 Answers 3

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You could use "at that time" or "at that moment" ....

The first time I worked with the Internet was about 30 years ago. I was curious enough to care about something which was, at that time/moment, so new and fascinating.

Based on your choice, you could even change "At" to "During" ....

The first time I worked with the Internet was about 30 years ago. I was curious enough to care about something which was, during that time/moment, so new and fascinating.

By commenting, users @Jim & @aparente001 have rightly indicated that "that" can be changed to "the" too. Both are available to use, but user @Michael Lorton claims that "that" is better when distinguishing between now and long ago, which is the case here, assuming that OP thinks that the Internet is no longer new or atleast no longer fascinating.

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    Or at the time
    – Jim
    Jun 11 at 15:25
  • @Jim with the commas?
    – Sasan
    Jun 11 at 17:16
  • @Sasan - Yes. It’s parenthetical.
    – Jim
    Jun 11 at 17:23
  • "At the time" is the most common way to do this. Jun 12 at 4:33
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    I have made the correction , @Mari-LouA .....
    – Prem
    Jun 12 at 9:23
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back in the day

Back in the day is an American idiom used to refer to an earlier time, especially one the speaker remembers fondly.

Grammarist

However, the idiomatic expresson is usually seen fronting the sentence as an adverbial phrase...

From your sample sentence...

Back in the day, I was curious enough to care about something so new and fascinating.

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  • Now I am thinking on an expression I have heard i.e. "That was back in the day"....also "those were the days, my friend" Jun 11 at 20:12
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    The adverb ‘back in the day’ in my sentence for the adjectives ‘so new and fascinating’, not for the whole sentence.
    – Sasan
    Jun 11 at 21:24
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There is a barely perceptible illogicality in this formulation, and this is because of the defining (also called "specifying") nature of the part "which was back then so new and fascinating". In other words, you shouldn't write down such sentences because they amount to nonsense.

The basic statement is the assertion of a sufficient curiosity in order to do sth. This sth has to be defined next. It is "to care about X".

  • I was sufficiently curious | to care about X.

"X" can be "something" and that makes for an acceptable statement, that can have more than one purpose. To simplify "new and fascinating", let's restrict our attention to "fascinating", which has truly the advantage of being gradable. So, we can say this, which specifies further "things" and makes the sentence a more edifying utterance.

  • I was sufficiently curious | to care about | something fascinating. (1a)

  • (or) I was sufficiently curious | to care about | something which is fascinating. (1b)

(diversion) As such, that is, as a defining, specifying or (still equivalently) restrictive addition (no comma is used before "which"), the sentence is syntactically well constructed; however, were the clause to be non restrictive and merely descriptive (no comma), the result, if still grammatical, is, in the absence of context an ambiguity.

  • I was sufficiently curious | to care about | something, which is fascinating.

The second version can be "specialized" to the past and we obtain this.

  • I was sufficiently curious | to care about | something which was fascinating.

The idea of fascination is absolute in "1"; if we relativize this idea by the addition of the time adverbial "then", both versions "1" can be specialized to the past and are equivalent.

  • I was sufficiently curious | to care about | something then fascinating.

  • (or) I was sufficiently curious | to care about | something which was then fascinating.

In this final formulation you classify the thing among those that were fascinating but which are not necessarily so any more; in so doing you are saying that the curiosity was sufficient for things that were bound to lose (more or less) their status of fascinating thing; but there does not exist the slightest criterion enabling one to connect the sufficiency to the change of category. I believe that that is what makes this sentence an undesirable construction.

This rather imperceptible effect of inappropriateness would not be felt in formulations such as the following.

  • I was sufficiently curious to care about something, a thing then fascinating.

  • I was sufficiently curious to care about something, and that thing was fascinating then.

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  • This is not a relevant answer to my question.
    – Sasan
    Jun 11 at 15:33
  • @Sasan On the contrary, I think it is and I will maintain it unchanged. There is no point, in my opinion, in determining alternatives to the parts of a construction which as an initial assemblage is fundamentally flawed.
    – LPH
    Jun 11 at 16:07
  • @Sasan Frankly, what you're essentially looking for is just synonym(s) for back then. The extra baggage which was, as I've pointed out, isn't central to what you're looking for and could be elided for purposes of brevity and clarity.
    – user405662
    Jun 11 at 16:15

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