11 Things From the ‘90s That My Teens Just Can’t Understand

My three kids love to remind me that I was born in the 1900s. So, a few years ago when Top Gun: Maverick came out and we were all going to see it at the theater and I told them they should watch the first one they said, “We’re not going to watch something from the 1900s!” Of course I laughed. Silently though, because they clearly don’t need any more encouragement. 

It’s not uncommon for them to ask me to tell them a story about the way life was back then, and while they all admit those days look and seem magical when they hear my stories or see videos, there are a few things they can’t seem to wrap their head around no matter how well I try and explain it to them.

I loved being a teen and college student in the 90s. (Katie Bingham Smith)

11 things that are hard for our teens to understand from the 90’s

1. The Internet wasn’t readily available

Trying to explain the sound that used to come from my huge desktop computer in the ‘90s is almost impossible. And my kids can’t understand why it would take so long to connect to the Internet either.

It’s so readily available now, unless you’re in a dead area (but our kids know all of the dead areas and avoid them like the plague) they can’t grasp the fact the Internet and phone go through a landline because, to them, the phone line and Internet are pretty much the same thing.

2. Blockbuster

This one makes me sad because there was something about going to Blockbuster, or any video store, on a Friday night in the ‘90s that was magical. Even if you came home empty handed, it was fun to go in, see who was there, try and decide what movie to get and whose card you were going to use. I don’t know, sitting on the sofa and looking through Netflix or Amazon Prime for a half hour trying to decide what to watch just isn’t the same. 

“Top Gun” came out in the “1900s” and my kids cannot wrap their heads around the fact I was alive in that century.

3. Cassette tapes/ VHS

My kids have seen a few of my cassette tapes or VHS tapes and they stare at them in wonder. My youngest has even taken a hammer to one so he can try and make sense of it. Kids these days will have no idea the patience it took to fast forward or rewind one of those babies to your favorite part in the movie, or your favorite song. 

4. Having no idea who was calling

Before there was caller ID, we just picked up the phone even though we had no idea who’d be on the other end. Would it be for our mother? The school? The boy we had a crush on that we’d hoped would call? A telemarketer?

Back then we had blind faith and the sound of the phone ringing was so exciting we’d fight with our siblings over who was going to answer it. Now, my kids refuse to make phone calls because “it’s so much easier to snap someone.”

5. Writing notes

Instead of snapping or texting or instagramming, we took an actual writing utensil to a piece of paper and spilled our deepest thoughts to our friends or boyfriend/girlfriend. The real trick was trying to pass it in class so the teacher wouldn’t catch you, or finding them in between classes to get your precious message to them.

6. TV Guide

How exciting was it to get this magazine and check out what was going to be on television. We always had our sitting on the coffee table for easy access and I remember my parents looking it over with my sisters, hoping that our favorite weekly program would be on that week. 

7. Commercials

Yes, I know everyone complained about them, but now that few of us have cable and do streaming instead, I kind of miss the commercials. It makes me feel more in touch with the world and now I never know what movies are playing at the theater. 

8. Having to write down, or ask for, directions

Remember having to stop and ask someone for directions? I don’t know about you, but I never remember directions this way. And reading a map? Forget about it. Not to mention I’m pretty sure reading a huge Atlas while driving down the road is just as dangerous as sending a text while driving.

I LOVE being able to punch something in my GPS. While I miss alot about the ‘90s, I don’t miss not having a voice to tell me when to turn while I was driving. It’s a wonder we made it anywhere. 

9. Hearing the audience laugh while watching a sitcom

While watching reruns of Friends the other night, my son kept looking at me every time the audience laughed. He told me how strange it was. It made me realize I’d never even noticed the laughter and I think it adds a lot to the shows of yesteryear. Of course he didn’t agree.

10. Getting pictures developed

Remember dropping your film off and waiting for days? Then when the one hour photo centers opened up, we didn’t care about shelling out the extra money so we could see the pictures we took before the dance right away. Funny thing is, we never took any selfies. 

11. Mixtapes

A mixed tape was the best gift to give, and  the best gift to get. Especially when someone gave you one with a custom cover they made with pictures or magazine cutouts. The hours it took to make a tape was worth it and my kids can’t understand why anyone would spend that long making something for someone. Especially if you had to constantly rewind it to listen to it again. 

I’m pretty sure I’ll always think there’s nothing like growing up in the ‘90s. If I had my way, we’d go back to those simpler days in a second, even though it would mean I’d get lost every time I left the house. 

More Great Reading:

This is Why High School Was Easier (and Better) In The 90s

About Katie BinghamSmith

Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine with her three kids. She is a Staff Writer at Scary Mommy, shoe addict and pays her kids to rub her feet. You can see more of her on Facebook and Instagram .

Read more posts by Katie

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