It's not as different as you seem to think (though I would call it the days of MacOS 8 and Netscape 3.04). Fundamentally, the biggest changes are in terms of content and connectivity. By the late 90s, I was using routers to share dial-up connections over a network, so the only changes there are the hardware/software for the router, network speed, and provider of the line. Floppy disks were largely on their way out by 1997, with various interim solutions failing to take hold and CD-Rs gaining popularity (plus, there were networks); USB's rise was right around the corner. If anything, web browsers were faster back then because sites weren't so content-heavy and loaded with scripts. People had Geocities web pages instead of Facebook pages and sent each other stupid forwarded e-mail messages instead of stupid cat GIFs posted on Facebook. People infected their computers with malware from floppy disks used in lab computers and MacUser shareware CDs instead of malware from web sites and e-mail. The user sure hasn't changed much in 15 years.
If you think 1997 was so much different from 2012, you're the one with the short memory. Since the late 1990s, it has been rare to find a home, office, or dorm room without a computer. In 1995, at a tech school, only two other people on my floor of 40+ students had their own computer. Most people checked their e-mail on a dumb terminal in the lounge. By two years later, almost everyone had their own computer and the dumb terminals had all been scrapped.
Back up two more years to 1993 and even computers in homes were somewhat uncommon. Many students still wrote papers on typewriters (though they had some fancy electronic features). Home network connectivity was largely limited to AOL, CompuServe, or Prodigy, plus a few local BBSs that were largely abandoned by that point. If you had a pager (not even a cell phone, a pager!), people assumed that you were either a doctor or a drug dealer.
Let's go all the way back to 1982, 15 years before that far-off world of 1997. Home computing was in its infancy and was limited to only the most serious hobbyists. Most phones still used rotary dials. A cell phone was something rich people had in their cars, like the guy on the show Vega$. Schools made copies with mimeograph or ditto machines and everything was covered with purple ink. The Apple IIe that was practically standard in schools for the better part of a decade had not yet been released. The only "cable" television most people had was from the cable running up to the antenna on the roof. People shopped at home out of paper catalogs and called or mailed in their orders. Department store checkout registers did not commonly have bar code scanners. If you paid with a credit card (more likely a store card), you would be asked if you wanted your carbons.
30 years later, a cell phone in your pocket can replicate pretty much everything in that last paragraph. But even 15 years ago, the infrastructure was in place to support everything that you can do today. Computers and networks got faster, operating systems and browsers got more features, and life began to take shape around computing devices.
2012: "Oh boy, a 3TB hard drive! I need to update my Facebook status and torrent some HD movies."
1997: "Oh boy, a 4GB hard drive! I need to tell everyone on AIM and download some MP3s."
1982: "Oh boy, a second floppy drive! I need to call the one other guy I know who has a computer to make copies of Pac-Man and Space Invaders."