Kids today. They have so much tech at their fingertips. Smartphones, streaming TV, 3D printers, high-end consoles, the Internet in your pocket – all these things make for a cool childhood. Not that a nineties childhood wasn’t cool. But you’d have a hard time explaining to a kid today how nineties technology worked. Technology such as . . .
So, imagine a Game Boy. But you had to put a headset on, like a modern virtual headset. Except this one gave you headaches. And they only had like twenty games. And they were mainly bad games. And one of them was based on the movie Waterworld.
Well, kids, you’d send something like a text message code to your friend and they’d get it on a little device which they wore on their belt. They would then have to find a pay phone and call you. It was a pretty good system.
Next time you’re out and about, keep your eyes peeled for payphones. There are a surprising number still around, and your kids might get a kick out of having to feed quarters to a machine to make calls. And having to memorize phone numbers. Or they may just look at you funny.
Everyone knows that smartphones are for watching videos and doing internet things, but they also have some useful utilities like unit converters and dictionaries. Well, in the nineties, we also had devices that were all about those utilities. Personal digital assistants, or PDAs, came with things like calculators, dictionaries, currency converters, unit converters, address books, note-taking programs, and more. But they didn’t have anything fun, like games, so PDAs quickly became expensive paperweights. And punchlines on late-night TV and in cartoons.
Low data storage devices are always going to look silly to future generations, but the bendy and oddly mechanical nature of floppy disks makes them look especially odd to today’s kids. And there’s the fact that you’d label your disk on the sticker with a pen, like some kind of Neanderthal. But floppy disks are still Save icons in many programs, so maybe kids should know what they were used for. Fun fact: when you have something that imitates older design just for show, you have a skeuomorph. Examples of skeuomorphs include the floppy disk icon in your word processor or an envelope icon for your email app.
Were you really a nineties kid if you didn’t stick a sandwich or other food item in your VCR? Tapes took up a crazy amount of space and gave rise to the phrase “Be kind, rewind.” Also, does anyone know why Disney tapes needed those extra-large, puffy containers that didn’t fit on your tape shelf?
But maybe yours was a family that upgraded early from VCRs to laser disks. Laser disks had a sharper image than VCR. That is, they had 425 TVL lines, as compared to VCR’s 240 TVL lines. Which means you could see full widescreen movies at home instead of the chopped-up square version that VCR showed to you. VCRs offered an extra-bad picture; laser disks only a kind-of-bad picture.
And if your movie was too long, you had to get up in the middle and change over to the second laser disk. Unless you shelled out for a laser disk player that held multiple disks and changed them for you. And you’d still want a VCR anyway because if you wanted to record stuff from the TV, only VHS could do that – laser disks couldn’t.