The Quick Report

20 Things Only 90s Kids Will Ever Understand

The 90s weren’t really that long ago, but they were a very different decade than the 20s. If you grew up in the 90s, there are some things only you can understand: your younger friends might look at you sideways when you reference some of the shows and movies you grew up with!


Team of Businesspeople Looking at a Computer Monitor

If you’ve never heard of “Y2K,” then you probably were born after the year 2000. The short version is that people thought the two-digit year system going from “99” to “00” would wreak havoc on global computer systems. Thankfully, it did not.

CD Players Being Awesome

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You can just play any song you want any time you want from your phone these days. Back in the 90s, the closest thing to that was owning a CD player and having a ton of your favorite band’s albums stashed in a CD folio!

Recording Music on the Radio

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If you didn’t have a CD player, you weren’t out of luck, though! A lot of people still used tape players in the 90s and would turn on the radio to catch their favorite songs. They could just record the songs onto a blank tape in their tape deck and have free music to listen to whenever!

Color Changing

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Everything in the 90s had to be color changing. Color changing clothing, mood rings, mugs, you name it. If it could have its color change, you can bet it would shift and shimmer in the sunlight or when exposed to heat.

Light Up Everything

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If it didn’t change colors, it had to light up. You’ve probably seen a few kids wearing light-up shoes, which were all the rage in the 90s. It was common to see kids as old as 13 wearing these novelty shoes back in that decade!

Watching Cable TV

silhouette of 3 people watching show on TV
Photo by Aneta Pawlik via Unsplash

There was a point in time when you didn’t get to just watch any episode of TV your heart desired. You had to turn on the TV, flip through different channels, and try to find something decent to watch. Oh, and you paid a premium to access those channels and had to watch commercials, too.

The Macarena

men and women dancing on stage
Photo by Frank Rolando Romero via Unsplash

This objectively awful song and its terrible accompanying dance were both everywhere in the 90s. You’d see them in schools, on TV, and in extremely depressing clubs. The song was, for whatever reason, a gigantic hit. It’s the chicken dance for millennials and it’s just the worst.


man in brown and white plaid button up shirt standing on brown rock during daytime
Photo by Brooke Cagle via Unsplash

Yes, many Gen Z rock fans have listened to Nirvana. No, they don’t fully appreciate how insanely popular grunge music was in the 90s. The genre was so big that there were Nirvana knock-off bands, bands that cribbed from the knockoffs, and even bands that stole from those third-string grunge posers. It was something else.

teal and brown electric guitar
Photo by Simon Weisser via Unsplash

Speaking of grunge dominating rock radio for over a decade, that also brings us to another uniquely 90s thing: rock music was actually popular in that decade. That’s not to say the genre is dead or anything, it’s just nowhere near as culturally relevant as it was thirty years ago.

Hip Hop Being “Alternative”

a microphone that is sitting on a stand
Photo by Bogomil Mihaylov via Unsplash

And on that same note, hip hop was considered much less mainstream in the 90s than it is now. The genre was still coming into its own throughout the 90s, and wouldn’t achieve the kind of mainstream cultural cachet it enjoys now until the mid-00s.


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You know how stressful it is to own a small pet that needs lots of specialized attention? Tamagotchi is kind of like that but as a fun game for children. These little LCD screen game systems were massively popular throughout the 90s and somewhat presaged the appearance of Pokemon.

Beanie Babies

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Everyone had at least a few Beanie Babies in the 90s. These cute little plush toys were even sold at gas stations. A lot of people thought they were going to be valuable collectibles thirty years later, but most of them are basically worthless now.

Reading Maps

person holding red round medication pill
Photo by GeoJango Maps via Unsplash

Since the internet became easier to access from handheld devices, physical maps have become a thing of the past. How did people find their way around before they had GPS devices in their pockets? Well, they pulled out a roadmap and just figured it out.


Computer nerds, in the '90s

The internet was around in the 90s, but it wasn’t exactly easy to access. You needed to have a home computer, which was expensive in that decade. You also had to connect to the internet via dial-up, a connectivity system that traveled over phone lines and was slower than you’re imagining.

The Internet Being Niche

a laptop computer sitting on top of a wooden table
Photo by Ted Balmer via Unsplash

Perhaps the strangest thing about the 90s for people today is that the internet existed but was niche. Most people weren’t “on the ‘net,” and those who were identified as enthusiasts. The general public neither understood nor really liked the idea of “surfing the web” until the late 90s.

Renting Movies

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Some legends persist that there’s a lone Blockbuster Video still operating in Bend, Oregon. If you weren’t alive in the 90s, here’s how it worked: instead of watching movies on Netflix, you had to go to a physical retail location and rent a VHS tape that contained the movie you wanted to watch.

Rewinding Tapes

black cassette tape on white textile
Photo by Stephen Holdaway via Unsplash

When you got that tape home, you crossed your fingers that the last person who rented it was kind enough to rewind it to the start. See, the tapes were literally long strips of magnetic tape inside a plastic housing, and they needed to be returned to their wound position in order to start at the beginning of the movie.

Saturday Morning Cartoons

turned-off gray CRT TV on table
Photo by PJ Gal-Szabo via Unsplash

Once again, there wasn’t such a thing as streaming video in the 90s, so if you wanted to watch cartoons you needed to find them on TV. The most reliable time to catch cartoons was Saturday mornings, and many 90s kids have fond memories of their favorite shows airing weekly in that excellent time slot.

Read More: The Top 10 Geeky Shows from the 1990s


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One such show was Yu-Gi-Oh, an animated series concerning a trading card game played by extremely dramatic high schoolers. The series had a tie-in card game that remains popular to this day, but it’s never even gotten close to its apex of popularity in the late 90s.

Read More: 10 Scandals That Defined the ’90s


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Speaking of 90s popularity, nothing beat Pokemon when it landed in the US in 1998. The franchise had an anime on TV, video games on the shelves, and a trading card game that sold out instantly. It remains the biggest media franchise on the planet.

Read More: 10 Hilariously Outdated 1990s Tech