10 90s Challenges Only Millennials Will Understand
We hear every day that being a Millennial is challenging.
From people calling us the trophy generation to dealing with recessions, housing crises, and mockery for our love of avocado toast (I’ll take avocado toast over a mortgage any day!), it’s true that our generation has been beset by its fair share of challenges.
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But nothing compares to the challenges we went through as kids, especially when it comes to technology.
I came across a 90s trivia challenge on TikTok that had a teenager being stumped by such ancient technological marvels as fax machines (a machine for facts?) and collect calls.
Though fax machines and collect calls aren’t only connected with the 90s, the decade still had plenty of transformational technology… many of which came with its own challenges and struggles.
Today we’re sharing 10 of our favorite technologically frustrating 90s challenges that only Millennials will understand (okay, Gen X might relate to a few of them). Enjoy this walk down memory lane, because we guarantee Gen Z won’t have any idea of what we’re talking about!
1. When You Skip, The Music Skips
With many athletes today enjoying everything from gym workouts to long runs with music that streams, it’s hard to imagine that just a few short years ago we could barely even walk with music.
Until the release of the anti-skip CD player, many portable music players could barely be jostled before the music started skipping out of control.
2. Be Kind, Rewind
Now when we want to start a movie or TV show from the beginning, it’s as simple as clicking back to Netflix’s main menu.
In the golden age of Blockbuster and home video rentals, we had to hang out by the VCR and wait (if you were a good person, that is) for the video to completely rewind so the next person who got it could enjoy it right away.
3. Gaming By Candlelight
As charming as the advent of the Gameboy and Gameboy Color were, two of the most popular gaming devices in the 90s, there were some limitations – and it’s one anyone who stays up late reading bathed in the glow of their cell phone just can’t relate to.
Gameboys weren’t backlit, which meant that unless you had the awkward lighting attachment, you could only play games when there’s another light on.
4. Switching Out Disks To Keep Playing
It’s funny to imagine that any video game you could want today can be downloaded or streamed straight to your console. In the past, the biggest games required multiple floppy disks that had to be switched out mid-game to keep the fun going.
5. One Device At A Time
Though we may notice slower internet speeds now when multiple devices are connected, it was nothing like the early days of the internet and dial-up connections when our parents’ phone calls meant we couldn’t do anything online.
6. No (Virtual) Pets
The Tamagotchi and virtual pet obsession got so big in my elementary school that they were quickly banned. Of course, we didn’t actually stop bringing them to school – it just meant that it was harder to e-feed them on their regular schedule.
7. Getting Dumped By Chat
Before there was ghosting on dating apps, there were vague away messages on AOL instant messenger. It was a popular way for us to chat with friends, but its presence felt even bigger when the people we wanted to chat with were suddenly… “away.”
8. Shake and Shake and Shake
Before we were spoiled by the instantaneous development of selfies, and after the slow burn of taking photos to get developed, there were Polaroid cameras. Though they’re still around today, they were much more popular – and had a lot less competition – in the 90s, when we were all obsessed with shaking them to help them develop.
Did it actually do anything? No, despite all of our best efforts. The shaking was tied to a much earlier form of Polaroid instant development, and by the time we got to the sealed film packs, it just wasn’t necessary.
9. Blowing On Cartridges
Many of the early Nintendo systems relied on chunky artifacts called cartridges. When inserted into the console, the game was supposed to start… but that wasn’t always the case.
That is, until we blew on the cartridges and magically revived them. Though this idea was later debunked, it’s a common bond that all Millennial gamers share.
10. Coins For Calls
Back in the days before unlimited text messages (and even before text messages cost a quarter to send), we could use real quarters to make phone calls. Kids would use them to call their parents to pick them up from school (or if they got lost on a long run during an especially summer and had to call to have their parents pick them up from a 7-Eleven…).
If you didn’t have coins, your only chance was to try calling collect, which meant the recipient had to accept being billed (or you could use the space to record your name to just scream, “MOM I’M AT THE 7-ELEVEN” and hope that sufficed).
While being a Millennial now is about making it out to brunch and taking advantage of rideshares, let us know below if there are any 90s tech challenges we missed out on!
BUT FIRST LET ME TAKE A SELFIE
These IRLAs are for those of us who’ve been blamed for all of the bad over the past decade without getting nearly enough of the credit for the good. We survived the worst economic crash since the Depression, so excuse us if we post a selfie. Housing prices are impossible (thanks, Boomers), so let’s just get a rideshare to go out tonight. Go ahead. Indulge yourself, and let Gen Z take the blame.
Because avocado toast won’t eat itself.