Everything '90s Kids Did That Wouldn’t Fly Today
The 1990s was a fascinating time to be young and growing up. The world was changing around us so rapidly that we could barely keep up. Just think, in 1990, the best way to get a hold of someone far away was a long-distance phone call. By 1999, you had instant email — both of which now seem like archaic technologies.
In the '90s, we were in-your-face and unapologetic about it. We wore what we wanted and didn’t have to worry about being shamed on social media for it — only in printed photos at the class reunion. If you think about it, the '90s really weren’t all that long ago, but so much is different from 2021 that those of us who grew up in the final decade of the 20th century look back at the things we did then and laugh.
And don’t pretend none of these 35 things didn’t apply to you!
Being Gone All Day Without a Cellphone
Somehow, our parents trusted us to be off on our bikes, unable to reach us until we got to a phone at a friend’s house.
Or they simply told us to “be home by 6.” Oh, the horror!
Wearing a Pager
Walking around with a beeper on your belt marked you as either important or someone engaged in, uh, unsavory sales of mind-altering substances.
Having a ‘Funny’ Answering Machine Message
You thought it was amusing, but nobody who called you ever did.
Soon they stopped calling you entirely. Sorry.
Blowing Into Video Game Cartridges
What the hell made it work? Was it blowing out the dust? Warming up the leads? Magic?
Gen X’ers, try blowing into a Gen Z’s game cartridge in 2021; they’ll look at you like you’re nuts.
Determining Which Spice Girl You Were
Somehow, one of the first “Which [Fill in the Blank] Are You?” tests revolved around the Spice Girls. Were you sweet like Baby Spice or a bit naughty like Ginger Spice? Flashy like Sporty?
The Spice Girls are seldom heard from these days, so this “fun” activity also largely disappeared.
Making Friendship Bracelets
The plastic bracelets were all the rage in the '90s and were supposed to signify a lifelong friendship — that is, until you both liked the same boy.
In the days before you could “un-friend” or “de-friend,” you had to take away the friendship bracelet you had given your best pal.
Imitating Austin Powers
Mike Myers struck comic gold with his swingin’ British spy Austin Powers in the late-'90s, and we all had at least one person in our circle who tried to channel Myers by going “Yeah, baby!” in a very bad English accent.
We collectively apologize.
Calling a Friend Long Distance
Friends move all the time, just as they did in the '90s, and the only way to keep in touch was either old-fashioned letters or long-distance phone calls, which cost a pretty penny.
This was long before cellphone “minutes” relegated long-distance charges to the dumpster, right alongside Walkmans.
Rewinding a VHS Tape
There was one thing that made watching movies almost unbearable: the need to rewind a VHS tape. If you were unlucky enough to rent a video that wasn’t rewound, you had to wait several minutes before you could start the film.
Can you imagine? Luckily, there were also speed rewinders that were sold separately from your VCR players for those too impatient to wait.
Waiting Patiently for MTV to Play Your Favorite Video
Man, if YouTube existed in the '90s, MTV would have tossed in the towel all but immediately.
It was a golden age for music videos, but unless you had already taped your favorite off the TV, you had to sit there hoping they played it.
Using ‘I Will Always Love’ as Your Wedding Song
Everything cliche was once new, and pretty much any '90s kid dreamt of Whitney Houston’s power ballad being the soundtrack of their big wedding.
Flash-forward 29 years, and if you push play on that song at your wedding, watch your guests head for the doors (or the bar).
Programming the VCR
Sweet, “The Sloppiest Pie Fights of All Time” is going to be on Tuesday at 7:30, but that’s when we’ll be at Grandma’s for her birthday!
There was no such thing as DVR in those innocent days. We had to program the VCR to record the show, and hope the machine didn’t eat the tape in the process.
Watching in Horror as TV Signed Off for the Day
If you didn’t have cable in the 1990s, you watched as your TV went to black after “regular” programming ended around 11 p.m.
Then, we either went to bed or, perish the thought, read a book.
Going Through Your Crush’s Trash
In the pre-Facebook days, to stalk a crush, those of us from the '90s had to rummage through their trash like the FBI in order to learn anything about them.
You kids and your internet cyberstalking don’t know how good you have it!
Calling Time and Temperature for Information
Wait, what’s the weather going to look like today? Let’s Google … uh oh, it’s the 1990s, which means we have to call a number to get the time and weather update.
Believe it or not, though, some people still do this today.
Memorizing a Phone Number
Speaking of phone numbers to call, you had to memorize anyone’s number you hoped to contact or write them down for safe keeping.
Or you could simply repeat the new phone number over and over aloud like Rain Main until you officially remembered it.
Passing Notes in Class
“Psst, can you pass this to Jenny three seats over?”
You’d whisper such nonsense while you were supposed to be paying attention to Mrs. Johnson’s lecture of the Bill of Rights, then send the missive to the recipient and hope you didn’t get caught — or that someone along the message chain read it first.
Registering for Classes on the Phone or in Person
Internet?! What internet?! Back in our day ,we had to either type in class numbers on a phone — or, even more arcane, stand in long lines and sign up for classes manually.
The '90s really were the dark ages.
Booking a Computer in the Lab
Before smartphones — hell, before laptops — if you had to write a term paper or research places to go on vacation, you had to reserve time at a library computer.
And pay for printouts. And photo copies. Yep.
Watching Saturday Morning Cartoons
Saturday morning meant two things: cartoons and cereals of extremely high sugar content.
Garfield, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Bugs Bunny and everyone else were on the air from 7 in the morning until 1 in the afternoon, making for six glorious hours of cartoons until you were screamed at to “go play outside.”
Having Pop Tarts for Breakfast
Times were tough for many of us in the dirty '90s, and there was absolutely no shame in munching on Pop Tarts for breakfast.
And sometimes also for lunch and dinner. And perhaps a midnight snack. Or in class.
Claiming Working at a Video Store Was the Ultimate Job
Video store culture was so in during the '90s that it was kind of embarrassing. We viewed working at the video store as the best job ever, if only for free movie rentals. Long before streaming.
It was a different time.
Filming With a Camcorder
Nowadays every smartphone can take video.
But back in the '90s, we all had at least one friend who lugged around a camcorder — the dorkier the person, seemingly the bigger the camera—to capture film to play at our class reunion in 2021.
Hanging Out at the Mall
You see, before social media, the best way to catch up with your friends was to meet up at the mall, and you’d be there all day, chowing down at the food court, window shopping at the Gap and maybe taking in a movie.
Then, your parents, thankful for the break, would pick you up.
Using *67 to Call a Crush
You can’t just call Hottie McHotpants because, well, then he or she will know it was you.
So, it was better to push *67 so that your phone number wouldn’t show up on caller ID … and still pray your crush doesn't answer.
Or Dialing *69 to Call Someone Back
In the '90s, if someone pranked you about chasing your toilet that was “running,” you could press *69 on your phone to call the prankster back.
Yes, it was much less sexy than its name implies.
Enjoying the Hard Rock Cafe Not Ironically
Jimi Hendrix’s guitar! Bob Dylan’s notes! The head of the bat Ozzy Osbourne bit off!
Yep, dining out at Hard Rock was something '90s kids bragged about to their friends — and it’s something we’re ashamed to admit in the 2020s.
Dancing the Macarena
We all knew the moves. We all thought it was cool to be in a gym full of people doing the same.
We were so very, very wrong.
Picking Up Another Landline Phone to Drop in on a Conversation
There used to be just one phone line for the entire house.
That means you had to wait your turn to call your friends — but you could have all kinds of fun picking up another connected phone to listen in on your older sister yapping about the guy with the mohawk she met at the roller rink who claims he’s “in a band.”
Logging Onto the Internet With a Modem
You see kids, back in our day, you had to use the phone line to dial up to the internet. Sometimes, you got a busy signal, but when you actually got through, the machine would crackle and whine when connected.
Us '90s kids still hear that sound in our sleep.
Printing Out Directions or Using an Atlas
Google Maps? Waze? Hell, we used maps from AAA, the Thomas Guide or had to, gasp, stop and ask someone for directions.
Nowadays, our cars are smarter than we are, but somehow, they still can’t fly like they did in “Back to the Future Part II.”
Paying a Video Store Late Fees
We just wanted to watch “Kuffs” with Christian Slater five more times before returning it to Blockbuster. Then, we promptly forgot about the rented tape for a week and ended up with crazy fines for bringing it back tardily.
Just imagine if Netflix charged you for not finishing a movie!
Stocking Up on Provisions for Y2K
Would all of our computers stop? Would planes fall out of the sky? Would it be Judgment Day and the robots take over?
We didn’t know, so we made bunkers and stocked up on canned goods. Then, nothing happened, so we guess the computers are safe until the year 3000.
Back in our day, making a Spotify playlist in seconds was called a mixtape. Yep, you physically had to sit there and press stop, play and record over and over and over to get it right.
But these apes weren’t just for enjoyment; they were an expression of artistry, man!
Calling Someone Collect
Us '90s kids still remember all of those commercials for various services to place a collect call, and we memorized every one of the numbers for those times we didn’t have a quarter for the payphone.