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It must be fun for children these days, growing up in the exciting digital age. Taking my two to school this morning I looked at the bank of computers they have in their classroom and the iPads their teachers were working off; with memories of the blackboards and chalk dust at my old school I thought – yeah, you lot have it pretty good.
But there was something I found so thrilling about growing up in a time where tech was on such a cusp: I still remember the absolute delight of my dad bringing home our first computer and finding my way around it, having only ever used the old Macintosh Classic and accompanying dot matrix printer at school before. I LOVED that machine and thought it was so magic how I could write stories on it – how ironic that 22 years on I’m still taking as much pleasure as doing the exact same thing on a Mac, only this time the computer is a MacBook, it has a retina display and is pink. 9 year old me would be chuffed.
And so I got to thinking about my own children’s upbringing, and how it will differ to my own. No dot matrix, no clunky CRT screens, no dial-up internet.
There are so many things I remember enjoying so vividly in the 90s that they’ll never experience. Here are 9 of them…
Does anyone else remember chirpily answering their phone with their landline digits? “462773” I’d shout in the receiver before inevitably yelling “MUUUUUM!! It’s for you!”. In contrast, if our landline ever rings my kids jump six feet in the air because they literally never hear the noise of a proper phone ringing. They’re much more au fait with FaceTiming all and sundry on an iPad.
2. Having to communicate with all your friends via a 56k modem /MSN messenger
I still get a buzz from the sound of a dial-up modem: from the ages of 12 to 16 it signalled the beginning of my evening social life. I was only ever allowed an hour each night after 6pm, which was when the cost of dialling-in went down to 1p a minute, and had to jump off if mum needed the landline to call anyone. MSN messenger was most definitely the hub of all our adolescent communications: you could conduct entire relationships on MSN without ever having to speak to the boy in question at school, brilliant! Try getting away with that now in the high-pressure world of Tinder.
Plus, I spent so much time on MSN messenger that I now have a touch typing speed of 80 words a minute. The internet really does make you more employable…
3. Awesome Kids’ TV Shows
This week I turned my TV on to realise that I had no signal, and I had no idea how long it had been down. I watch Cold Feet on ITV once a week and aside from that all my TV viewing – and the childrens’ – is on-demand. We have Netflix, Amazon Prime and NOW TV, and between those three we are never left needing any more screen-based entertainment. Which makes me sad, in a way: my kids will never know the pain of having to sit through Newsround before finally being able to watch Byker Grove, or pretending to their classmates they’re too cool to watch Blue Peter before rushing home to sit square-eyed in front of it while eating their Findus Crispy Pankcake and oven chip dinner.
Was anyone else left with an irrational fear of paintballing after watching Byker Grove? “DUNCAN I CAN’T SEE”. Classic yet terrifying kids TV, thanks BBC.
4. Even better, weekend TV
Say what you will, there’s no way Take Me Out will ever beat the brilliant trifecta of Saturday night TV past: Blind Date/Noel’s House Party/Casualty. Good times.
Also: Eurotrash. Enough said.
5. Encarta 95
Remember the days where we just had one CD-ROM to do ALL our homework from? Ah, Encarta 95 was such a trusty companion and was so modern compared to actual book-based Encyclopaedias.
6. Covering school books in wallpaper/brown paper/wrapping paper
Apparently kids no longer have to protect their decade-old school books by decking them in the funkiest wrapping paper they can convince their mum to buy? All the information they need for school is probably on iPads these days, though soon enough I’m hoping they’ll develop a chip to be inserted directly in a child’s brain at the age of five, thus negating the need for school and those unnecessary heavy books altogether.
7. Just 17 Magazine/Mizz Magazine/Shout! Magazine/Bliss Magazine/Sugar Magazine
Magazine publishing isn’t what it used to be. And that’s all I have to say about that. Apart from: how will Elfie ever be able to sleep at night as a 14 year old if she’s not safe in the knowledge that yes, she can cope with a model boyfriend?
8. Recording your favourite music from the Top 40
Ahh Sunday evenings spent sitting by my massive two-tape deck Sony hi-fi, finger paused on the record button, waiting on tenterhooks for my favourite songs to be played so I could pinch them. It’s almost disappointing how much comparative effort goes into creating Spotify playlists, isn’t it?
9. Blockbuster VHS
Picking up a video from Blockbuster was one of the things I used to do that made me feel like a ‘real’ grown-up: drive into town in my little Cincequento, laminated membership card clutched in my sweaty palms, pick out a VHS (usually Wayne’s World) and a packet of M&Ms before rushing home to spend the night in front of the telly. It’s what all good Friday nights were made of, basically.
What do you think your kids will never experience from your childhood?