10 Things I Miss About the 1990s Decade

I consider myself lucky.  I grew up in the 1990s.  In some regards, that’s also unlucky; as it was a strange time when hyper-color shirts met fluorescent Crayola crayons, and had a litter of children known as The Spice Girls.  But in other ways, it was an innocent time between the end of the Cold War and 9/11.  For a decade, America reigned unchecked, the internet flourished, Barry Bonds looked normal, and people still called the internet the "world wide web."  It was an interesting decade to mature in, as each year was dramatically different from the last.  These are ten frivolous memories I wouldn’t mind reliving. 

Jerry Rice card action packed 1994
One of 427 different Jerry
Rice Cards I own.  Today's
Value? 36 dollars.  
Deion Sanders bling jewelry
Only Mr. T can dress
like that, Mr. Sanders.
10.  Baseball Cards.  Around 1987, baseball cards (and football and basketball) blew up in popularity.  Instead of just Topps and Fleer, other brands showed up en masse, and by 1995, there were at least 20 brands making cards, some of which cost over $5.00 for a pack of 10 cards.  The market was flooded and over producing was rampant;  it’s no wonder the card market imploded on itself.  But for a few short years, collecting, trading, finding their value in Beckett, memorizing stats on the back of the cards; was all innocent, playful investing.   Near the end of the nineties, to entice reluctant collectors, manufacturers offered memorabilia like game used jerseys, or ivy from Wrigley Field, or pieces of bats technologically inserted into the card.  I still remember buying box after box, trying to get Deion Sanders’ gold necklace, but never getting anything better than some “Just for Men” black hair dye Emmitt Smith card. Most of those cards today have the same value as an AOL CD-ROM, with 540 free minutes online! 
Emmitt Smith "Just For Men"  commercial grey hair
Joining the Cardinals will make anyone go grey.  

TLC scrubs overalls body suits
Would you want a scrub who wears
overalls, TLC?  
9.  Ribbed body suits and UnionBay overall shorts.  I looked so good in that outfit, I almost replaced Left-Eye in TLC, after her passing.  Uh…never mind. Adolescence was a difficult time, ogling at girls in body suits made the transition go much faster. 
8.  CDs.  Yes, I miss CDs.  Digital music on a disk.  Actually having a music collection that you paid for.  Then having that entire collection get stolen from the back of your car; multiple
Weezer Pinkerton CD cover
I bought this Weezer CD five times:
lost once, stolen three times.  
times.  Realistically, nothing beats the sound of a record on an analog stereo; but CDs came close.  I love my iPod, and all my digital music, but the two-inch speakers, or ear-buds, dramatically fail in comparison to my 300 disk Pioneer CD player and Kenwood Stereo with 12-inch speakers.  I still buy a CD from time to time, and I feel like a dirty old man.  But I don’t care.  I might even read the band’s lyrics (although I don’t post them on Facebook like they are an original poem) and look through the liner 
notes.  I guess I’m weird.

7.   $1.00 gas.  I’m no economist, but I’m guessing that when a gallon of gas was selling for under a buck in 1998, it was the lowest inflation adjusted price of all time.  Fast food had just started a dollar menu, a 32 ounce Big Gulp was a buck, and a gallon of gas was a dollar.  We didn’t care about the environment, or carbon footprint, we just drove around town with the windows down and doing burn outs.  Gas was so cheap, some people even huffed it; those people haven’t added much to society since then.  Rising prices have made us rethink our lifestyles, but they haven’t helped anyone’s bottom line.  (Cue crazy bicyclist rant…now). 
black Honda Prelude 1993
This is what your Prelude looked like before it was stolen.
Afterwards it was missing an engine, rims, and oddly-all
your windshield wiper fluid.  
            6.  The Honda Prelude.  Whether you were a truck guy, a sports-car guy, or even a European luxury snob guy, you also wanted a Honda Prelude in the 1990s.  Faster than a souped-up Civic, and Sportier than the your parent’s Accord, the Prelude was what every kid wanted as a first car.  And if mom and dad bought you a Dodge Neon instead, you simply stole the Prelude.  Everyone was stealing Preludes in the 1990s.  They were the garden gnomes of thieves.  If you were lucky enough to get away with shoplifting a few times, than the next step towards a productive career in Armed Robbery, was to jack a Prelude.  If Ali Baba was alive today, he would actively be pursuing 40 1990s Honda Preludes. 

5.  Sierra Games.  Maybe you will remember them by their MS-DOS series titles: King’s Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest (later SWAT), Leisure Suit Larry, You Don’t Know Jack, The Incredible Machine, etc.  My favorite was a stand alone game called Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist.  It was called the “Blazing Saddles” of computer games, and it’s fitting.  All Sierra Games forced you to be attentive, look for clues, and laugh at yourself.  They were also hard to beat.  I called the Sierra 1-900 number probably ten times trying to beat this game; then I had to explain that bill to mom and dad who thought the bill was for something a whole lot dirtier than a PG-13 video game.  Although, my grandpa would answer the “old people questions” at the beginning of the Leisure Suit Larry games so that we could see pixelated nudity in all its glory.  It was glorious at the time, even if Joey (some kid on the bus) could draw the female form with more detail.  Thankfully, I learned to talk to real girls.  Some gamers never did.
Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist screenshot
Not only was he a pharmacist, but also a gunslinger.  Nobody in the game industry is this creative or daring anymore.  
I can forgive the steel guitar and twang, just bring
back that charm, and fun songs Garth 
4.  Garth Brooks: The 90s started with M.C. Hammer, and ended with Limp Bizkit, and had every style of music in between and more extreme.  VH1 thought we were all worshiping Nirvana, but they weren’t even in my top three Seattle grunge bands.  Tupac and Biggie Smalls’ related deaths were sad, but I wasn’t heavily into rap.  Course I wasn’t into country music, either, that is, with exception to Garth Brooks.  He was entertaining, jovial, funny, and likable, and his music was better than everything else on the country station (often better than on any station).  When “The Thunder Rolls” “Friends in Low Places” “The Dance” or “Standing Outside the Fire,” came on the radio, I immediately stopped paying attention to everything else, and listened like I was wearing too tight Wranglers with a fresh chaw in my mouth.  For some reason, I felt invested in his life, and when he became Chris Gaines, and then divorced his wife, I lost interest, and so did he.  After a decade that sold over 100 million albums, he hung up his tiny fuzzy microphone and Stetson hat.  He was, and is still, my only interest in the country genre. 

AOL instant messanger 3.  AOL instant messenger.    They introduced chat rooms to the masses: where guys pretended to be girls, kids pretended to be adults, and losers pretended to be something else.  All these groups mingled and created a new culture with chat-speak.  It was unregulated, unruly and frivolously unnecessary.  I don’t remember everything my friends and I did online in those early days, and I probably don’t want to; many FCC violations probably occurred.  Most chat rooms held about 20 people, and my immature friends and I thought it was fun to offend every person in the room until there was only just us.  I guess it was the beginning of flame wars and trolling, but back then, it was hard to see anyone online as anything other than a screen-name.  Thank God the internet has matured so that constructive criticism can occur on sites like Youtube.com or political news threads. 

2.  Wasting money on film.  I have a soft spot for 35 mm film.  I took courses in college about using an SLR camera and even how to develop black and white prints.  Completely useless skills in today’s world.  But film grain has a certain beauty that digital still hasn’t captured.  Remember finding an old roll of film and getting it developed and seeing tons of old memories?  Or paying $7 dollars for a roll of film with nothing but color splotches on it?  The best part of film?  After a vacation or huge event, there was either one printed packet, or one album to look through with friends.  You could do it quickly or slowly, but there was usually no more than 100 pictures.  Not 1000 like today, cause we didn’t waste film on duckface photos or 65 reaction shots to the thrilling “It’s a Small World” ride at Disneyland. 

Airborne rollerblading movie poster
Rollerblading never looked so good
as when it was filmed with
1. Playing outside.  Even though computers got better each year, and a new gaming platform came out every 6 months (thanks Sega CD, and 32X for wasting my money), we still found a way to get outside the majority of summers, weekends, and afternoons.  At lunch for my freshman and sophomore years, we played 10 on 10 football, every school day.  My buddy Brian and I carved whole dirt paths with jumps in his forested backyard to become expert BMXers (my hand-me-down Huffy was not interested in this experience and gave up on me).  Others perfected moves on snowboards, skateboards or rollerblades. Even the druggies played hacky-sack or Frisbee.  The world was slowly going digital in the 1990s, but many of us clung to an analog way of life.  This cognitive dissonance has made us a true hybrid generation.  One that feels somewhat lost without our digital aids, but one that also likes abandoning electronica, and going back to the woods and living like Thoreau’s Walden Pond; if only for a few days…gotta update our social networking statuses with our camping photos. 
Narrowly missing the cut:  Seinfeld, Disney Afternoons, grunge music, actual research for papers/projects, Techno, Spuds McKenzie, Mortal Kombat, mix-tapes (1980s as well), Beepers (pagers), No Fear shirts, Starter jackets, Nike Air “bubble”, Chris Farley, The Coen and Farrelly Brothers movies, and Josta soda. 

Let me know what you missed about the 1990s, unless it was Beanie Babies, digi-pets, Pok√©mon, or boy-bands  as I think you missed the point of the decade.   


  1. My hypercolor shirt rocked! I was sad to see my removable faceplate CD player go when I sold my car. There is a certain amount of attachment that occurs when you install something yourself. Or watching American Gladiators, but I think this was a little of the same as #9.

  2. Chisti, I almost added American Gladiators; it was good stupid American entertainment. It just didn't cling to me, or sadden me, when it went away. Like America's Funniest Home Videos, it felt like more of a guilty pleasure than something I got attached to. I agree about the CD faceplate; I had an Alpine.

  3. Libraries. Researching in libraries instead of the worldwide web, er internet. I am still hopelessly outdated about c.d.s, though, I have a collection and would still buy them, have big speakers in surround sound in our house, and am looking to replace our broken cd player with another one -- or will I be able to find any?

  4. Mom, you know CDs will play in your dvd and blu-ray players right? I hooked both up to your stereo system, so they would sound just like they were coming out a CD player. Although, they still make CD rack units for about 80 dollars, if you want to waste your money.

  5. I miss good punk rock. I miss good ska music. Yes, ska bands...It seems pre 911 bands like NoFX, Less Than Jake, Rancid...lost their market.. Their frivolity led to their downfall in popularity. After 911, wrist-cutter punk like Dashboard Confessional and Blink 182 got really popular. Both of whom I admittedly enjoy, but if it is one thing I miss...it's the risk and danger that some of the late 90s punk bands took. (There is a newish band called F****d Up in this genre who is quite good...gives me hope).

  6. I miss the thrill of an album coming out on Tuesday. Yes, it is true that albums still come out on Tuesdays, but being able to download an album in the comfort of your own home will never replace the excitement of going into the record store on Tuesday (or Monday if you knew the right place to go) to pick up the new Outkast that you hadn't heard up until that moment. Then you unwrap the disc, put it in your car stereo and drive around experiencing something fresh and new. Of course being able to stream the album before you can buy it is a good thing on occasion, but as a whole it really takes the fun out of the new release day experience.

  7. You failed to mention Doom my favorite pc game! I still remember the cheat codes! Idkfa idbehold etc... Good memories thanks!

  8. What about T.G.I.F.? T.V. shows the whole family could watch.

  9. Gina, I remember holding the left shift key, so that my computer would have enough high-RAM to run DOOM (If Windows 3.1 opened, it wouldn't operate DOOM). DOOM was a fun memory, but I have no desire to go back and play it. Goldeneye 007 for Nintendo 64 was a better FPS that I wouldn't mind having a few hours to play again.

    Katie, I too miss new-release Tuesday. Although, hearing a little before buying was a nice evolution of music. I remember when the little "Headphone booths" showed up at stores, and you could hear the album before buying it. Great idea. I would never have bought "Tiny Music" by STP, or "One Hot Minute" by RHCP, among many others. At least hearing music first saves some of us from buyers remorse. But I know what you are saying. Part of buying on Tuesday was telling others not to buy on Wednesday. Word of mouth advertising is almost gone.

    Life is a Mystery, after living in a house with three "PUNK-rock" roommates, I will never, ever, ever miss punk rock ever again. My roommates used to say that part of the mystique of PUNK, was sucking at singing and playing instruments, and song writing. And I used to reply, "noise doesn't equate music, it equates annoyance." But that's the only thing my roommates were really good at, annoying me.

  10. Meredith, I remember the commercials for TGIF more than the shows. Family Matters was okay, the rest I don't miss... We were an X-Files house, so we missed most of ABCs Friday programing. And during football season I was at the High School games, regardless of the fact that I didn't watch the team at all, and only mildly cared whether we won or lost.

    I also remember my parents not liking the "attitudes" of the teenagers (and the Olson twins) on TGIF...so that was part of the reason we watched bloody aliens and deranged deformed incest weirdos on X-Files. So that I would emulate those behaviors instead of bratty teenage angst.

  11. Old comments should be uploaded soon. Trying an easier commenting method.

  12. What about calling cards and the woes of long distance. ;)

  13. I miss CDs too. A. CD collection told a lot about a person.