The Quirks of Growing Up In the 90s: Before Wi-Fi & Smartphones

Step into a time machine as we journey back to the 1990s, an era that seems almost alien to today’s youth. This was a time before smartphones, high-speed internet, and instant gratification.

A time when children played outside until dusk, phone calls were a mystery, and the internet was a luxury. There were things in the 90s that were commonplace then but would be unthinkable now, and here are some of them.

1. Dial-Up Internet

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In the 90s, the internet was a luxury, not a given. Dial-up internet was the standard, a system that used telephone lines to connect to the web. This meant that while you were online, your phone line was occupied, making it impossible to use the phone and the internet simultaneously.

The connection was often slow, with speeds typically ranging from 28.8 to 56 Kbps. Downloading a single song could take hours, and if someone picked up the phone during this process, your connection would be lost.

Today’s youth, accustomed to gigabit speeds and constant connectivity, would find this level of patience hard to fathom.

2. Parental Interactions for a Phone Call

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Before the era of mobile phones, making a call to a friend was a more complex process. You would dial their home number and often, a parent would answer. This meant you had to politely ask if your friend was available, navigating the potential awkwardness of speaking with their parents.

In some cases, you might even have to engage in small talk while waiting for your friend to come to the phone. Today we are used to direct, immediate communication through texting and social media.

3. Unsupervised Play

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In the 90s, it was not uncommon for children to return from school to an empty house. Parents often worked late, and after-school care was not as prevalent as it is today. This led to hours of unsupervised time where children could play freely, often outdoors.

Kids would explore their neighborhoods, play in local parks, or just hang out with friends until their parents returned home.

This level of independence and unstructured playtime is less common today, with many parents preferring organized activities or supervised playdates for their children. Today, such a scenario would be considered dangerous and irresponsible.

4. Mystery Phone Calls

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Before the advent of caller ID, receiving a phone call was always a surprise. When the phone rang, there was no way to know who was on the other end until you picked up. This led to unexpected conversations with friends, family, telemarketers, and even pranksters.

It was a time when you could receive a call from a long-lost friend or a wrong number.

Today, with caller ID and contact lists on mobile phones, we often know who’s calling before we answer, removing the mystery and spontaneity of phone calls that was a hallmark of the 90s.

5. Independent Bike Rides

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In the 90s, children often had more freedom to explore their neighborhoods. One of the most common ways they did this was by riding their bikes. Kids would cycle to school, to friends’ houses, or just around the neighborhood, often without adult supervision. 

This was seen as a normal part of growing up, a symbol of independence and trust. Today, with concerns about traffic and safety, such independent bike rides are less common. This level of independence would be unthinkable for many parents today

6. Long-Distance Calls

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Before the advent of Internet calling and unlimited call plans, making a long-distance call was a significant expense. Calling someone in another city, state, or country could result in a hefty phone bill. This made long-distance communication a luxury, often reserved for special occasions or emergencies.

Today, with services like Skype, WhatsApp, and FaceTime, we can make international calls for free, making the concept of “long-distance charges” almost obsolete.

7. Analog Cameras

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Before digital cameras and smartphones, photography was a more deliberate and patient process. People used analog cameras, where you had to carefully compose your shot, as each click consumed a frame of your film roll. After taking the pictures, you had to wait to get the film developed to see how your photos turned out.

There was a certain thrill in this wait and the surprise of seeing the developed photos. Today’s youth, accustomed to instant previews and endless digital storage, would find this delay in gratification hard to comprehend.

The 1990s were a unique blend of simplicity and complexity, freedom and restriction. As we look back, it’s fascinating to see how much has changed in just a few decades. While some aspects of the 90s may seem horrifying to today’s youth, they also offer a glimpse into a bygone era that shaped the world we live in today.

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‘Why is everyone drinking water out of a garden hose?’ – Gen X vs Boomers

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Image Credit: Tiktok @thedadbodveteran.

In an era dominated by smartphones, video games, and limitless entertainment options, it’s easy to forget the simple pleasures of childhood. However, a video has sparked a wave of nostalgia as it delves into his experiences of when children found solace and joy in the great outdoors.

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Original Article Source:

Martha A. Lavallie
Martha A. Lavallie
Author & Editor | + posts

Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.