If you've ever tried to explain to someone born after 2000 what the '90s were like you've probably been met with puzzling looks. Sure, kids today know what the 1990s were like because of movies from the time and reruns of old TV shows, but when you get into the details of how regular daily life was like it sounds like the ~1950s~. Heck, even explaining how things were like can make you think, Wow, how did we ever get anything done?
And recently, I asked members of the BuzzFeed Community who were kids, tweens, or teens who grew up in the '90s, to tell us what things about that decade would be absolutely something that kids today couldn't truly understand.
Well, I got a lot of responses. Below are just some of the comments that will truly take you back to a very different time that feels like both yesterday and forever ago:
1."I think what kids wouldn't be able to grasp is the somewhat lack of internet. Nowadays, absolutely everything is online and done through broadband, but when I was growing up, the internet was in its earlier stages. Not everything relied on it and if your mum wanted to use the phone, then you'd have to get off the computer and do something else for the next hour or so because the internet was a dial-up system."
2."In the '90s, before everyone had internet, you would occasionally see leaked videos of major celebrities selling toothpaste or whatever in East Asia or some other far-flung part of the world. It seemed ~scandalous and embarrassing~ for them when these came out. Now, it’s not anything weird to see a major celebrity on TV or online schilling some app for your phone or who knows what else."
3."Literally having to go to the library and look up information in a reference book if you wanted to know something that you didn't know. And having to be okay with the fact that it was possible those reference books could be outdated or wrong, or just not have the information you needed."
4."Airport security. Being able to greet family flying in at their gate. Also not having to arrive hours early to get through security, being able to leave your shoes on, and not having to toss your drinks or lotion."
5."I love telling kids about recording a TV show on your VCR. Especially when you weren’t going to be home and didn't know how to program your VCR, so you recorded eight hours of TV, just for the 30-minute episode that you wanted."
6."There really wasn't a great variety of things to watch on TV (even if you had cable). So everyone watched basically the same shows and they had just huge viewing numbers — not unheard of for very popular TV shows to get viewerships of over 20 million people. And shows with very low viewerships would get numbers that would be considered successful/big now."
7."How 32-inch tube TVs were really the bomb in the '90s. They weighed 125 lbs and were awkward to lift. And the pictures were blurry compared to today."
8."Needing to remember phone numbers or having a phone numbers list (contact profiles on mobile phones makes this much less necessary). Using landlines, so you might answer the phone and it’s someone asking to talk to your parent or sibling."
9."When I was 2, I watched Bambi at some people’s house. I loved it so much that every single birthday and Christmas after that I asked for Bambi on VHS. Except that back then you had to wait for Disney to bring back certain films from The Vault every few years on VHS. I was 8, when we were in a store and finally saw the VHS of Bambi! We could NOT afford any frivolous purchases at the time, but still, my mom grabbed the tape, tossed in the cart and told my father, 'We're getting this no mater what, this is all she ever asks for as a present.' Now you can stream it, buy it online, probably still find it in DVD some places, etc."
10."Phone books. You had to have the yellow pages and the white pages and you definitely used them all the time! If someone recommended a great restaurant to try and you wanted to order their carry out, for instance, you’d pull out the white pages and find the number that way. If they weren’t in there for some reason or if you had an old copy, you were basically SOL."
11."Travel agencies. You couldn’t simply get online to book the best flight, hotel, etc."
12."You couldn't always buy the latest and trendiest clothing. I grew up in a small town and the closest big city that would have every store was Chicago, which was a four-hour drive away. I had to make due [sic] with the less than a handful of 'cool' stores at my local mall and the Delia's catalog that my parents would only occasionally let me buy one inexpensive top or sweater from."
13."You want to see Romeo + Juliet in 1996? First get home and check the days and times of showings in the newspaper. Then call round all your friends individually to see who wants to go and what days they're available. Then ring them all again to confirm. Then meet at the cinema at a specific time in a specific place. Then hope you're in time to get seats together. Then hope you told your dad the right time to pick you up, because if there were too many trailers you have to leave early or risk his wrath."
14."Calling the college dining hall to listen to their recording about what was for lunch."
15."Taking pictures, for sure. So many photos with my moms thumb in the way or super blurry — no way to know before you got them developed. These days it takes less than a second to see the photo you took (then again actually developing pictures today is wildly expensive and it's hard to find anyone who still does it)."
16."Directions! I got used to giving directions to my house (go down X street, turn left on Y, make the second right onto Z, etc.) at a young age because you couldn’t just type and address into a phone or computer and have it tell you how to get there. For a business you hadn’t been to and needed to find, you would look them up in the yellow pages and call, a person would answer and tell you how to get there."
17."So many, but the one that really jumps out to me is that my kids had no concept of what commercial break is on TV. They have only watched movies or streamed Netflix. YouTube does have ads but you can skip them. I still remember my confused son running in the first time he watched cable to say something was wrong because 'it keeps going Scooby-Doo, then commercials, then Scooby-Doo, then commercials again!'"
18."When a movie came out in theaters, you had to wait a half a year to a year before it was on VHS. And then another year before you could watch it on TV."
19."Begging your parents to buy your favorite artists or boy bands new album release on a Tuesday afternoon, because music didn’t drop on Fridays like it does now. Waiting for world premieres of new music videos on TRL. We couldn’t just pull it up on YouTube or Spotify. We didn’t have this much entertainment at the tips of our fingers at all times!"
20."Always having to come up with designated meetup time and spot in case we got separated or wanted to explore different places. There weren’t cell phone group chats to check in with. It was 'meet at the Sbarro’s in the food court at 2 p.m.'"
21."Using pay phones. Now since we think of germs so much the idea of them sound gross. Back in the '90s most people didn't have cell phones so you would carry around extra change in case you needed to make a call. Also if you were somewhere you haven't been before and knew you would need to make a call you would look around for it and make a mental note of where it was."
22."Renting a VCR from Blockbuster just so you could watch the movie that you also rented from Blockbuster."
23."Just the idea of lost media in general. For kids nowadays, most everything can be streamed somewhere online or bought on Amazon. If a TV show was canceled or a movie you once watched was out never released on VHS or was no longer produced there was no way to watch it. It also really bonded you with your siblings because most of the time, they were the only one who also watched that particular movie or show a lot so no one else knew what you were talking about."
24."Finding money on the ground. Happens less and less as the years go by now. It’s all digital. I look to the ground when I walk so I don’t accidentally make eye contact for a split second with a man because in 'man-language' that means, 'Please come talk to me even if I turn stiff and look around you instead of at you,' but the huge bonuses were finding a $10, or a $5, or a couple ones!!!"
25.And lastly, "Literally never knowing where anyone was at any given time. If I wanted to talk to my best friend, I called her house phone. If she wasn’t there, I just had to wait for her to call me back. If a friend was unexpectedly absent from school, you had to wait until you got home to call them and find out why. If your parents were running errands, who the hell knows where they were or when they’ll be back."
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.