9 Things From My Childhood My Kids Will Never Experience

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…

1. Landlines
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…

Awkwardly 15

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.

Wikipedia who??

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.

Just Seventeen

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?


  1. Oh my gosh this takes me back! Confession: I still find the PJ and Duncan Byker Grove scene too upsetting to watch! And yes to the covering everything in wrapping paper. I once spent an afternoon covering all my shoe boxes in wrapping paper, before photographing my shoes and (after getting the film developed at the local photo shop, naturally) sticking the photos onto the boxes to make my shoe collection more “organised”. It was a tip Linda Barker gave me on Changing Rooms. Man, I miss that show!

  2. I did pretty much all of these, but number 2 made me realise I must be just that little bit older than you, as 12-16 for me was definitely still ‘sat on the stairs to use the phone’ territory for me. I didn’t get a computer until I was in the final year of my degree!

  3. So nostalgic! I loved the excitement of the landline – who is it?! why are they calling!? It must be important! Now communication is just so normal and expected – I kind of wish my kids would experience the excitement of communication a bit more than just feeling like it’s normal. I also miss 10p mix ups and wish I could just send Levi into the shop with 10p and it be a satisfying purchase. (are 10p mix ups a Northern Irish thing?…)

  4. I also remember leaving the house in the morning during summer holidays and playing/cycling everywhere…anywhere…all day and coming home in time for dinner – something this generation is not experiencing. And I survived a childhood with no child seats…not even seat belts!

  5. Ah, such memories.

    What about writing letters to friends – I guess email makes that quite similar.

    That dial up internet noise takes me straight back to being 14! I didn’t get my first mobile til I went to uni

  6. PJS BLIND MAN: The words that will be ever etched into my memory :-)
    I did ask someone at work a few weeks back ‘do you remember msn messenger?’… they were 18. And didn’t. Missing out!!
    Great post xXx

    1. UGH i hate it when you chat to these bloody millennials and they don’t know about such important things like MSN messenger or the Motorola RAZR. They don’t even know they were born, eh?!

  7. Alice, this is me. I was telling me colleague the other day that I can touch-type purely because of MSN. I vividly remember having ‘Femme Fatale’ as my MSN name – aged 14. I also remember the start-up screen on Encarta, that began with Nelson Madela’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. Weird.

  8. Aww I absolutely loved this post, it’s so my childhood! Isn’t it scary how long ago it all seems now?!
    I went to a museum and there was the exact pogo stick I had a child in there – is that when you officially become old? When things you had as a kid are old enough to be in a museum?!
    Do you remember using really drama laden lyrics as your msn name? Oh how cool we were.

    1. It feels like a lifetime ago!! This is why I like the science museum – all the old mobile phone ‘exhibits’ from my teen years ;)

      And yeah – my fave emo lyrics on MSN. Good times! x

  9. Oh my goodness this list is EVERYTHING! I found myself nodding and saying yes to literally every point!
    Thank you for coating my evening in nostalgia <3
    Peta xx


  10. Oh my, this just brought so much back. I’m older than you, so dial up was the sound of Uni and being able to talk to my Dad in America for ages in the evening. Now totally nostalgic for the 90s, whatever happened to mascara hair wands?! Taping the top 40 was everything on a Sunday.

  11. Ah this list is brilliant Alice- and Encarta 95 is a total blast from the past! I fear for young teens these days now there is no Just Seventeen to teach them about boners and fingering, and I still find it bizarre that Grange Hill was cancelled as it was deemed ‘no longer relevant’ to children, it was fantastic!

  12. Ahh this has made me so nostalgic! How has it changed quite so much so quickly! I remember at primary school when they had just one computer that you’d only be allowed on if you’d been really good that day. And coding was being able to move the carpet turtle thing 2 spaces forward and 90 degrees to the right. Haha! Alice xxxx


  13. Oh my goodness, this post is my childhood. I loved wrapping my school exercise books in cool wrapping paper and recording my favourite songs from the Top 40 every Sunday. And the sound of the internet dialling up sure does bring back memories of being excited to talk to my friends – who I’d probably only seen IRL an hour before – on MSN!

  14. I love this so much!! I was just talking to someone about Encarta the other day. I think it must be so hard to study and go to school now, I’ve just started studying and feel like I get distracted by instagram every 5 minutes, so glad it wasn’t there when I was growing up!

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