Cassette Tapes, Dial-Up, And 14 Other Things My Kid Won't Believe Existed

by Sa'iyda Shabazz
Originally Published: 

As an older millennial, I grew up on the cusp of the old and the new. I remember life before social media, before the internet, before smartphones. But as a parent to a child who is still just a toddler, I realize that so many of the things that were integral to my childhood would be completely out of place in his life.

There are so many things that are part of his everyday life (tablet!) and he would never be able to wrap his head around the fact that those things didn’t even exist when I was a kid. He doesn’t even believe that I used to watch some of the same televisions shows that he did.

As he gets older, the differences in our childhood technologies and pop culture references will only grow further apart. Pretty soon, he’ll ask me about the ’80s, ’90s and 2o00s the same way I ask my parents about the ’70s. I feel like every day I add something new to the list. Here’s what I have so far:

1. Dial-Up Internet

There’s no way that he’s going to believe that you had to use a phone line to get on the internet.


2. Home Phone Lines

Coming off the last one, he’s also not going to believe that I had a phone that was hooked up to a landline in the wall. You didn’t actually take your phone with you when you left the house. Yes, I know landlines are still offered, but honestly, who still uses them?

3. Beepers

Now totally a thing of the past unless you’re a doctor, beepers were great, until you needed to find a phone to answer the page.

4. Pay Phones

Random phones in the middle of the sidewalk that you could use to call people? And you only needed a quarter? No way!

iStock / cosmonaut

5. Answering Machines

Before voicemail, there was a tape recorder that recorded your message, since you left your phone at home attached to the wall. The challenge/fun was trying to get to the answering machine before your mom if there was a message you didn’t want her to hear.

6. Cassette Tapes

When I was my son’s age, cassette tapes were the best and most portable way to listen to music. I used to carry a Walkman in elementary school, and I thought I was too cool.

7. CDs

Around third grade or so, CDs became more popular, so I switched formats. I had a large CD collection until fairly recently.

8. VHS Tapes/VCRs

One of the biggest things I miss is my massive Disney VHS collection. VHS tapes were clunky and a pain the ass (endless rewinding), but they were great. Unless you wanted to watch Titanic because the movie is so long that it’s on two tapes.

9. Video Stores

There was nothing better on a Friday night than going to the local Blockbuster to rent a video. It was a huge pain in the ass when the person before you didn’t “be kind, rewind!”

iStock / EwaPix

10. Butterfly Clips

They were the coolest hair accessory when I was a tween. I didn’t usually wear them in my hair, but I used them to decorate my sneakers.

11. Sanrio

Sure, Hello Kitty is always going to be a thing. My son loves the fruit snacks. But characters like Keroppi, Pekkle, and Badtz-Maru are pretty much unknown by this generation, and you don’t see the Sanrio boutiques in the malls like you used to.

12. TRL (Total Request Live)

Remember when MTV played music videos during normal hours? Yeah, me too. Kids today will never know the rush of standing outside of the MTV building in Times Square hoping to catch a glimpse of your favorite celebrities, even if for just a second.


13. Dunkaroos

Peak 90s food, these were one of the best lunchbox snacks ever. They were just tiny cookies you dipped in frosting, but nowadays, the school would surely send a note home about them being inappropriate. Whatever. They were delicious.

14. Beanie Babies

This craze was out of control. And we actually thought they’d be worth millions! Now they’re just collecting dust in someone’s attic.

15. T.G.I.F.

Sure, shows like Full House and Boy Meets World have had comebacks in recent years, but nothing will beat old-school T.G.I.F. shows like Family Matters, Sister, Sister, Step by Step, and Perfect Strangers. We’d wait with such excitement for the shows to start every Friday night. The good ol’ days.


16. Saturday Morning Cartoons

There was nothing better than getting up on a Saturday morning and parking in front of the TV with a big bowl of sugary cereal to watch shows like Gummi Bears, DuckTales, TaleSpin, Pepper Ann, and Recess. Most of the major networks had their own variation of Saturday morning cartoons, but let’s be honest, ABC had the best shows.


It is disappointing that I didn’t end up hanging on to more of these items because the only way he’ll be able to see them now is in the Smithsonian. I am always reminded by that line from the movie Clueless: “The way I feel about the Rolling Stones is the way my kids are going to feel about Nine Inch Nails, so I really shouldn’t torment my mom [about Mick Jagger] anymore, huh?” Ugh, growing up. As if.

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