Not that I’m old or anything, but when I grew up in the 70s, mountain bikes didn’t exist. I had a banana seat bike with ape hanger handlebars.
Once I got my driver’s license, put the bike away. When I went away to university, I noticed people were using bikes to commute to and from campus, and I thought that was way better than walking, so I claimed my brother’s 10-speed drop handlebar road bike that he wasn’t using and started to use that and got to enjoy biking, and started to do road rides for fun.
Around the mid-80s I started to see these weird flat handlebar, fat-tire bikes around, and heard they were mountain bikes. Didn’t realize that you could ride trails with them.
In the 90s I saw more and more people on mountain bikes, and thought they would be fun, but as a poor way-too-long-in-university student, couldn’t afford one.
In 1998, after I got my first job after university, I thought I would finally buy a mountain bike. 1998 Norco Serengeti steel hardtail. Not too badly equipped - Alivio/Deore components and a Rockshox Jett 65mm travel fork. Linear pull rim brakes of course. Still sitting in the basement. Not ridden too much these days.
I asked the guys at Sportwheels where I bought it where people rode. They said a lot of people rode at Wrandees, but it was a little rough. Went there for my first ride, my idyllic picture of mountain biking being leisurely rides through sunny rolling meadows. Lasted 20 minutes in Wrandees - 10 minutes (mostly walking) in and 10 minutes (mostly walking) out.
Decided I needed to find easier trails, and got Tossed Salad’s trail book. Started working on easier trails and went from there.