Over 25 years have passed since the 1990s came and went, but, with a haze of well-timed nostalgia, what was it about that decade that made it so special? Join me, as we go back to a time of cloned sheep, Rollerblades and the fear of the millennium bug. So what were the 1990s for you? For me, there were…
1. Some of the best films, ever!
The phrase, “I’m having an old friend for dinner…” would never be the same after 1991 when Hannibal Lecter gave it a much darker meaning at the end of The Silence of the Lambs. Of course this was the decade of , still regarded by many as one of Disney’s greatest moments and Tom Hanks gormless Forrest Gump – “Run, Forrest! Run!” And if you didn’t well up when Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack Dawson sunk beneath the sea to join the fated Titanic in 1997 you were either not there, or made of stone. And, let’s not forget Pulp Fiction (just what was in the briefcase?) or 1999’s Fight Club, but I am not allowed to talk about that…
John Travolta from Pulp Fiction
2. Also, some of the best TV, ever!
It was not just the big screen that was wowing us in the ’90s. How about spooky Fox Mulder in The X Files, which hit our screens in 1993? We wanted to believe and knew that the truth was out there. Or how about Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy the Vampire Slayer? A young Will Smith became a trendsetter as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and animated fans were able to welcome Peter Griffin, Brian the dog and evil baby Stewie (of course with an English accent) in Family Guy. South Park was just generally rude – ‘Oh my God, they killed Kenny!’
Of course, there was only one show that got everyone talking when The Rembrandts ‘I’ll Be There for You’ heralded Friends. The story of Rachel, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, Ross and Monica had us glued to our sofas for almost 10 years.
However, sometimes the adverts were better than the shows. Back in the 1990s there were some crazy commercials; bright colours, mad graphics and far too many jump cuts, like this classic example.
Shutterstock: 90s Nostalgia Adverts
Just for a bit of semi-nostagic fun, have a look at modern products given a 90s commercial make-over – it’s just like you’re back there on the sofa!
3. It was when we first ‘went online’
In an age when you sound massively old if you say ‘you remember the time before the Internet’ it was 1991 when many of us got our first view of the World Wide Web with America Online (AOL).
A dial-up service (ask your parents about the pain of waiting for an image to load line by line!) was the Internet provider for over 10 million people during the ’90s.
4. We played the most amazing games
Today mobile gaming is something we take for granted, but back then mobile gaming was limited to a pack of cards (Top Trumps if you were very lucky!). The Nintendo Game Boy changed that with its interchangeable game cartridges with classics like Tetris and Super Mario Land. Although it was released in 1989, it truly led a revolution in gaming through the ’90s.
Nintendo Game Boy
More traditional games of the era included ‘Elefun’ a battery powered elephant that blew ‘butterflies’ in the air for you to catch in nets. More likely, it blew paper butterflies all over your room, most of which would never be seen again. Hours of fun for all the family!
An eclectic trend of the ’90s were Pogs, which consisted of milk caps that you could lose at the hand of a skilled player wielding a metal ‘slammer’. You had to build a stack of caps which players would take turns to throw their slammer on the stack, if you were playing ‘for keeps’ you would retain any that landed face up. This usually promoted tantrums from players who were losing their cherished caps and calls from schools stating that this was a form of gambling and should be outlawed at all costs.
5. It was all about the music
If you find yourself singing ‘One time’ out loud whenever you hear ‘Killing Me Softly’ by The Fugees on the radio, you are truly a child of the ’90s. Or how about ‘Flat Eric’ rocking it out to ‘Flat Beat’ by Mr Oizo trying to sell you jeans.
Of course, one of the pivotal hits of the ’90s was Madonna with ‘Vogue.’ Yeah, we all ‘Vogued’ in the school yard. If you were one of the cool kids you may have been more into the Seattle grunge scene with Nirvana and ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.
6. But, what we ‘really, really want(ed)’…
Forget boy bands, the 90’s was the time of ‘Girl Power’ in the form of The Spice Girls who hit the scene with their Billboard hit ‘Wannabe’, I am sure we all still want to ‘zig a zig ahh…’ whatever that really meant.
It was a time of manufactured empowerment, but we didn’t mind as the discussions of the plus points of Sporty, Ginger, Baby or Scary and Posh Spice kept us amused around water coolers. Of course, the less said about Spice Girls The Movie the better, you either loved it or agreed with the critics. At least it won a Golden Raspberry for ‘Worst Actress’ – praise indeed!
7. It was all about the gadgets
If the ’80s were about mobile music with the ubiquitous Sony Walkman, then the 90’s were all about bringing it up to date. No more cassettes. With the Discman, you could use your shiny new CDs. Of course, the downside of them skipping constantly (despite the promised shock protection) meant we had to take care when we jogged.
One of the must-have bits of tech was a Tamagotchi, a pocket sized digital pet that required your near-constant attention feeding, disciplining and cleaning up after your digital friend. Of course if you neglected it, you would find it would die. However, unlike the family hamster, you could bring it back by pressing the A and C buttons. If only real life were that simple!
8. Of course, the best dressed people were all wearing…
Don your ripped jeans, a G-Shock watch and a Hypercolor T-shirt and you were ready to go out on the town. Of course your parents may well bemoan the state of your torn and worn denim (You paid good money for those?) or in my case sew them up, ‘good as new’ without you knowing! (Thanks, but no thanks mum!)
The Hypercolor T-shirt changed colour as it warmed up. Cue inappropriate hand prints and unfortunate patches under your arms!
9. ‘You Gotta Catch Them All’, the first time round
Pokémon was created, initially as a game before becoming a TV show a series of movies and trading cards. Most of us took on the role of Pokémon trainers trying to capture every possible character and battling our friends. It would be over 20 years before Pokémon Go was even imagined, but we were already hooked!
Pokemon Trading Cards
10. If you were important you had a pager
Well, it was likely you were a god! Whereas cell phones were available in the ’80s, a $4,000+ price tag put them out of reach of most of us. By contrast, in 1994, there were over 61 million pagers in use.
A pager sent short text and numeric messages. You had to ring an operator who would send the message to the pager. So, we became adept at creating codes we could use. A typical coded message between me and my girlfriend of the day may have gone like this:
|Hello||I love you||I miss you||Best friends forever||Hugs and Kisses||Call me now!|
Sadly the response I got was:
1134 2 09 – Go to hell… (You had to turn your pager upside down to get that one).
It was a relief when the first affordable cell phones appeared in the late ’90s. Who can forget the almost bulletproof Nokia 6110 or the Star Trek-like Motorola StarTAC.
While we are reminiscing about cell phones, let’s have a moment to remember Nokia, the everlasting phones with the massively addictive ‘Snake’ game. Happy days!
It’s all nostalgia
More than 25 years may have passed, but we can still hanker after the nostalgia, feeling old-fashioned about a ‘better age’ that feels like it was only yesterday. Damn, now we are starting to sound like our parents! Please, let me go back.
Featured photo credit: Shutterstock via shutterstock.com