Back to the nineties

In many ways I am all for the conveniences of modern technology. But sometimes I think back with nostalgia to how it used to be growing up in the nineties. No smartphones, no Google, no You Tube, but instead a lot of personal contact, hanging out in the library and compact cassettes!

Checking Facebook a hundred times a day, going into complete panic mode when you can’t locate your smartphone, chatting with a friend in Australia, watching cartoons with your nephew on an iPad, tweeting Johnny Depp, quickly finding a recipe, closely following the American elections and always and everywhere being able to watch cat video’s. Modern technology has made our world a lot smaller and in many ways I am all for it. But there are moments when I look back with nostalgia to how simple life used to be. Growing up in the nineties, daily life existed of situations which for teens today probably come across as barbaric…


Apps like Tinder might have made dating easier and more accessible, but unfortunately it is also more distant. When I started dating my husband in 1999 we were 17 and both still living at home. We didn’t have mobile phones. Not because we were too young or because it was too expensive, but simply because almost no one had one. I did have an e-mail address, but no internet connection at home. My only possibility to send emails was when I went to the library to ‘go on the net’ for a guilder per 15 minutes. So not a lot of mailing activity either. The only way to get in contact, was by calling each other; on a land line at the number of your parents. ‘Hi, this is Kim, is Robin maybe at home?’ Very scary; especially when we were still in the early stages of dating. ‘Will he be home?’ quickly turned to ‘Oh no, what if he is!’, leading to hanging up in fear before anyone picked up the phone… Scary, but a lot more real and direct than whatsapp. And also no stress when your date doesn’t instantly react, but does have time to like the picture of that cute girl…

Google? Say what?

‘Which other movies did that actor star in; I saw him not that long ago…’ Even before I can finish this sentence in my head, I’m already Googling it or opening my IMDb app, so I can fully satisfied with the answer get on with my life. That used to be quite different. I have been up for nights trying to remember that one name. Most information was simply not available without putting in some effort; picking up a book, visiting the library or ask others. Everything took so much longer and we thought it was perfectly normal. Thinking back, I can hardly believe we were so content with this limited access to information. But what I do miss is calling my grandfather about that particular actor; he would then reach for his big movie encyclopedia and look it up. A huge relieve followed when he found it; oooooh right!! ‘Was he also in that movie?! You taped it? Can I borrow it?’

Everything took so much longer and we thought it was perfectly normal.

The pen and the tape…

I will gladly admit I refuse to download; music as well as movies I still devoutly buy. Yes, I know it is easy and yes, I know it is free, but I simply don’t think downloading is fair. Furthermore I love the feeling of actually picking up a cd and going through my movie collection. Very old fashioned indeed… but then there used to be the compact cassette! For kids nowadays an alien object, I guess. Sides A and B, rewinding, walkmans, trying to pull out jammed tape and winding it with a pen… Besides buying official tapes at the record store (even singles with 1 track on each side!), recording your own tapes was a very important activity. Handing a mixed tape to the boy you were in love with was a big step. While blushing and stammering you would say ‘I made you a tape, especially track 3 (Kiss Me) is very good.’ Also special tapes were created for parties, one side with dance music and slow music on the other side. In the library we would borrow cd’s so we could secretly record them on tapes. By now I have replaced almost all my old tapes with cd’s, but certain songs still make me think ‘Oh wait, this is where the tape ends, time to turn over to side B…’

More fun memories of the nineties can be found here.

Originally published on on May 19th 2016

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