floppy disks  pay phones 

In the 80s and 90s my dad owned video stores. We rented tapes for Betamax and VCRs, we had "state-of-the-art" video game systems and their games for sale. We were cutting-edge. My job (for a buck an hour, plus the freedom it gave my parents to work the store with little guilt), was to demo the games for customers looking to buy them. Yep, I got paid to play Super Breakout and Pitfall and Kaboom, and Super Mario (the original), and Paperboy, and ... I had the awesomest job, like, ever.

When I tell my kids about it, they just laugh. Atari and Nintendo are so archaic, the idea of wanting to play something where your man is not much more than a blip on a screen seems more like punishment than playtime. 

"Guys, did you hear me, I got paid to play video games, do you not think I'm like the coolest mom?"


"What do you mean, nah? I had to take a picture of my Missile Command score and send it in, it was so high.  I was witnessing genius, brilliance, the stuff sci-fi is made of."

"Mom, you're cool, OK? *gives telling wink to sister, as if to say, Ugh Mom is so not cool*

But Gen Xers are cool, we were there at the beginning of the digital revolution, we were there for the start of something, something big, but the technology that was totally groundbreaking then, is totally arcane and obsolete now (embarrassingly so).

Here are a couple of those "modern" Gen X items that our kids would make fun of today:
(Warning, waxing poetic about these things will only make you feel ancient and out of touch.)

1. The clicker that came with your first cable box -- You know, the one that had a rotary dial or two up/down buttons, one for volume and one for channel.  Oh, and a 20 foot cord that you tripped over at least once a day?

2. Joysticks -- I'm thankful they aren't around anymore, as I prefer my kids get their carpal tunnel syndrome the modern way ... through texting.Flash cubes -- when I explained them to my kids they thought I was taking pictures from under a black sheet.

3. Fotomats -- "Wait, you used to be able to print and hold actual pictures in the olden days? Why?" said some child somewhere. "Yep, and we used to walk our pictures over to Instagram and Facebook way back then … it took much longer to post a status update," said I, in response.

4. Floppy disks -- It only took like 37 of them to save a single program, now my kids download 37 programs, ahem, apps in the amount of time it takes to get called in to see the dentist.

5. Answering machines -- I guess voice mail is similar enough. Though your kids will never know the joy of running home to see if that little light is blinking or the defeat when you realize there wasn't a message from (insert important crush here), or the panic when the tape ran out or got eaten by the machine or cut off the important part.

6. The cassette tapes that replaced our awesome 45s, LPs, and 8-tracks and the CDs that replaced our awesome cassette tapes -- My kids think CDs would make good coasters.  I think that's a sign that they don't understand the point of a coaster.

7. Microfiche or what I like to call retro-Google -- What a time suck that was, now you can just say what you're looking up into your phone and it will magically appear, well, after you repeat it multiple times to Siri, or Robin, or Scott Baio or whoever your personal phone assistant is.

8. That little plastic adapter circle that would allow you to play your awesome 45s on a regular record player. I'm looking at you Freeze Frame.

9. An electric typewriter --  Remember how advanced the electric one seemed? Those letters not clumping together in the center was truly triumphant. My kids may never know that people used to type with more than two fingers and spell words in their entirety.

10. The tracking button -- someone with the right touch for the tracking button was an asset to any household. Also, someone who had the right magnetic energy to get the antenna to work -- indispensable ("Uncle Bob stays, no matter how drunk he is.")

11. Dial up internet - Our kids will never know the joy of hearing that screeching sound and knowing in a short 15 minutes they'll be connected. PS - If it takes 20 seconds for something to load, my kids start to cry.

12. Beepers -- Well, unless your kids fall in with a crowd of retro drug dealers who can't afford phone plans.

13. Flash cubes -- When I explained them to my kids they thought I was taking pictures from under a black sheet.

14. Pay phones -- Thank goodness.  Weren't those things cesspools even after you wiped all the germs on your shirt? My kids would naively say, "You had to pay to make calls?"

15. Video stores -- Where someone like me could make a living -- well, make enough to buy a bubblegum flavored ice cream at Baskin-Robbins. (Please tell me there are still Baskin-Robbins'?)

Jenny Isenman AKA Jenny From the Blog, is the humorist behind the award winning, The Suburban Jungle.com. An on air lifestyle expert, card carrying Gen Xer and columnist at HuffPo and TheStir, her goal is to you keep herself sane and to teach dolphins to read. She is failing at both. Join her … and the INSANITY on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

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