As a child of the 90s living in a world that has turned digital literally in the blink of an eye, I look back as waves of nostalgia washes through me. I feel as if I am standing on the cusp between two worlds, one of which is the world that we know today and the other world is what we knew before social media and the Internet took over. I look back with some sadness that that world no longer exists, but at the same time with relief that I was able to witness a world in which my every being is not dictated by what Alexa says or the latest TikTok craze. In this blog post, I want to share with you the 10 best things about being a child of the 90s.
VCR and Video Tapes
I remember having literally scores of video tapes in an old cabinet in the living room of my childhood home. I remember selecting one to watch and then having to stick it in the VCR and wait five or ten minutes for it to rewind back to the beginning. And then, sometimes the video tape might stop, so you had to pull it out and untangle the strips of film, and then the process would begin again.
Plastic Cameras and Photo Albums
In the 90s, we had these plastic cameras that you could buy at your local Walmart. I remember using those plastic cameras, taking a dozen or so pictures, and then dropping them off at a box. We would then wait a week or so for the pictures to develop. During that time, we had no idea how the pictures would turn out. We had no idea if they were any good. Chances are, most of the pictures could have been blurry and would have to be scrapped. But still, it was always a treasure to be able to open that paper envelope and riffle through the photos, not knowing what to expect.
My parents kept so many photo albums filled with hundreds of pictures. Flipping through those photo albums is like taking a walk down memory lane. Today, everything is digital and all the photos are in digital album. That is all good, but it isn’t the same as having photos that you can literally touch. Digital photos don’t feel as if they really exist because they are just digital. With the wrong click of a button, a digital photo can disappear into the place where all deleted objects go (have you been there yet?). But with actual photos, they have the ability to withstand time. They may get a little grungy around the edges, but they are there to pass on to your children.
My idea of a good time when I was younger was getting on the huge, bulky 95 computers and playing pinball or creating a “masterpiece” using Paint. Sometimes my teachers would give us indoor free time and let us have it on the two computers in the back of the classroom. There might have been less than five things that we could do on those computers, but it didn’t matter. Because the games were still pretty fun. I remember drawing things on Paint with friends, creating an odd assortment of shapes and colors. But have you ever tried drawing with a mouse? It’s pretty difficult and not the same as using a stylus on a tablet as kids can today.
Brittany Spears and The Spice Girls
If you grew up in the 90s, then you grew up listening to Brittany Spears and The Spice Girls. In fact, my very first CD I ever owned was the song You Drive Me Crazy by Brittany Spears. I used to love her music, her lyrics, and her voice. I used to wish desperately that I could emulate it but unfortunately I wasn’t gifted the singing muse. And then, there was also The Spice Girls. I remember my friend telling me about them and I, like most girls of the 90s, loved them. But I never had a favorite Spice Girl.
Growing Up with Harry Potter
If I talk about the 90s, then I cannot fail to mention Harry Potter. Harry Potter was my entire childhood. I first started reading the books when I was in seventh grade. Well, that was technically not the ’90s. But, Harry Potter was first published in the 90s, in 1997. Also, the character of Harry Potter was born in 1980, so he also grew up in the ’90s, though about a decade earlier than I did. Even though I didn’t start reading the Harry Potter books until I was in seventh grade in 2001, it still definitely counts as being a part of the ’90s (as well as ’00s).
And growing up with the Harry Potter books while waiting for each book to be published was the best. The anticipation, the fascination, and the wonderment were all feelings that I experienced as we waited for bated breath, waiting to see what would happen next. I would reread the books that were already out, counting down the days until the next book was out. I would read the books late into the night, telling myself one more chapter. Even today, I still read the books because they are just so darn enjoyable and it’s like taking a step back into memory lane. Kids today who are discovering the books for the first time will never get to see what it was like to have to wait for the books to be published. Kids today just purchase all seven books and read them back to back with no waiting in between.
And then when the seventh Harry Potter book was published in 2007, it felt like not only the end of an era, but the end of my childhood as I had just graduated from high school. I felt as if I had come of age at the same time as Harry Potter. It was a bittersweet moment for the books that I grew up with to be over at the moment that my childhood was also over.
(See also: 7 Reasons Why I Always Wanted To Go To Hogwarts)
I feel as if kids today spend way too much time inside watching TV, playing games on their tablets, or playing on their Nintendo Switch. When I was a kid in the 90s, we didn’t have tablets and our games weren’t portable. They were connected by wire to these ugly, gray boxy consoles that you could play Mario on. And we definitely had a TV, but it was the huge, boxy kind, quite unlike the small, flat screens ones today. But as a child of the 90s, the best fun could be had was from simply playing outside. My best memories were from being outside. I remember playing in the sprinkles outside in the front yard (sometimes with clothes, sometimes with a bathing suit). I remember riding my bicycle up and down the street, pretending that I was flying. And I remember exploring the backyard of my childhood home, looking for treasure.
CDs and Mix Tapes
One of the biggest technological devices in the 90s was the CD player. Before the invention of the iPod, you would find people with headsets on and carrying a CD player, rocking out to their favorite songs. You would find people with an album full of CDs. Some of those CDs would be mix tapes. And if you were lucky enough to be gifted a mix tape from someone, then you had gotten the best gift.
Baggy Jeans, Cropped Tops, and Colorful Blazers, Oh My!
In the 90s, you often caught people wearing baggy jeans that flared out at the bottom, cropped tops that showed their midriff, and colorful blazers, amongst others. I loved those jeans from the 90s and was disappointed when they were eventually replaced by the skinny jeans. Those jeans were definitely my favorite from the 90s and I loved wearing my favorite pair.
Butterfly Clips and Crimped Hair
In the 90s, girls and women wore butterfly clips in their hair. They had crimped hair. Think Topanga Lawrence from Boy Meets World. I used to fantasize about having crimped hair, but never got to wear my hair like that.
When I was a child at school, I remember learning how to search for books using the old cataloging system, or the Dewey Decimal System. I remember actually taking a test on how to search for books using this system. But then a year or two later, the system seemed to just magically go away as the school librarian turned to computers to catalogue books. Needless to say, I was disappointed, as I didn’t really get a chance to use my newfound knowledge.