Re: "you were seriously stuck up a gum tree"
A couple odds & ends follow:
Dejanews was 1995, not 1985. 3AM typo. Mea culpa.
DejaNews wasn't "the google of the time". That was AltaVista or InfoSeek (the WorldWideWebWorm had promise, but never really went anywhere).
I personally never found anyone (on 6 continents) who couldn't convince a local college or uni to give them a dial-up UUCP link. Squeaky wheel & all that.
I didn't say anything was free. YES, telephone calls cost money back then. Even most local calls. And you were tethered with a cord between the wall-mounted telephone and the handset. (Cool kids had a really, really long cord so they could hide from their parents while talking).
You can customize how vi starts up with ~/.exrc (or ~/.vimrc).
Vim allows column ("block") copy and paste.
Yes, Usenet is still alive & well, despite the best efforts of the spambots and the bunny set. Either ask your local Uni for a text only feed, or talk to EasyNews, GigaNews or Altopia (in no particular order) about your particular needs/wants. Hint: text is cheap (free for some folks with minimal needs), binaries can cost money.
IRC still works. Can be quite handy for real-time help with all kinds of things, from coding to stuck fermentation in your plonk. Or just plain old shooting the shit with like minded people.