What were the 90s like to live in?

I’ve always wondered what it was like to live in the 90s, was it easier than it is now?

In my world, the biggest difference between now and the 90’s is without doubt the rise of the internet.

I got on-line in 1996.

Also the coming of mobile phones, but much less important to me.

We have done this thread already but I suppose we can do it again although you are starting to make me feel old. It seems like only yesterday.

I consider the 90’s to mean the mid to late 90’s. The early 90’s were an extension of the 1980’s and very different than the later part of the decade. The Cold War ended in the very early 90’s and culture started to change rather quickly after about 1994 or so.

Culturally it was much the same as it is today except cell phones were just starting to catch on by the end of it and smartphones had yet to be invented. Social media was primitive at best but you could do most of the things you can do now even on the web as long as you were technologically savvy.

It was very different economically however. I work in the tech sector and the number of jobs available was ridiculous. I could post my resume online the phone would start ringing literally within minutes and would not stop for days. Most of those positions have long since evaporated or been moved overseas. Other industries were not that extreme but it was a general boom time rivaled only by the post-WWII era.

Entertainment and food options were already beginning to grow by then although they are much more ubiquitous and diverse now. Still, you could find examples of most things available today in some form as long as you knew where to look. Popular music seems to have mostly stagnated since the late 1990’s. There are new faces but few truly new innovations.

The only thing the average person today would be shocked by if they went back to the late 1990’s would be the technology and perhaps a few social changes like prohibition against gay marriage. The late 1990’s were also less PC than today although there was a strong PC wave that hit in the early 90’s that is roughly the same as the recent one.

Here is the earlier thread on the same subject.

It’s hard to put myself in mind of the 1990s even though they weren’t that long ago. They were a very different time in my life, too - I wasn’t really an adult in the 1990s (I went to college in 1999), and I moved from the UK to the US halfway through them. A few thoughts:

The decade was very much split. At the start of the decade, communism was collapsing and the Berlin Wall came down. It felt very much like a really good time to be alive. That didn’t really last, though. In general, the first half of the decade was one of malaise. There was a substantial global recession, the US auto industry was starting to splinter under the weight of its incompetence and union contracts, we were constantly being warned about new super-diseases, and (at least to my recollection) people really started to worry about the environment and global warming for the first time.

The second half of the decade was fucking awesome. The economy was on an apparently limitless climb, the Internet was making everyone rich and also a genius, cloning started to look like a technology whose time had come, and so on.

Nobody you knew had home Internet access at the beginning of the decade. I remember sending “electronic mail” for the first time during IT class in 1993 or so, and thinking it was an interesting if ultimately pointless exercise. I’m not sure if it was actually necessary, but the teacher told us to limit our messages to five lines of text. By the end of the decade, almost everyone had Internet access (though generally only via a computer). I even got a broadband connection for the first time in 2000.

Kids stayed the hell off the lawn back then.

Beepers were the cell phone of the early and mid-90s.

It was easier for me because I was a teenager.

One thing we take for granted is the internet. For example, now if I have a health issue or a car problem I just Google it and get a good idea what is wrong. You couldn’t do that in the 90s. Even though the Internet existed it wasn’t nearly the scale it is now. I take for granted having the wisdom of crowds available to me like I do now.

Note: this probably belongs in IMHO…

Anyway, for me, the only real difference was the lack of some technology that I now can’t live without (like the web and cell phones).

I didn’t get access to the web until 1997. Before that, all I had was dial-up internet and Usenet discussion boards.

Cell phones were available, but very expensive. When my wife was pregnant in 1996, I got a pager so that she could reach me 24/7.

TV was standard definition. You rented VHS tapes from Blockbuster. DVDs came out in the late '90s, and I started buying some of my favorite movies. (Then bought them again in widescreeen format, then bought them again on Blu-ray.)

All of my music was on CDs. There was a lot of great alternative music that came out in the '90s. It’s still probably my favorite era of music.

Cameras still used film. Each film cartridge held 24 or 36 shots. You took the film cartridge in to be developed and get prints, which cost about $10. The camera battery lasted for months.

I went to a bookstore at least once a week. Among other things, I bought paperback collections of The Straight Dope written by this Cecil Adams guy. :wink:

Other than that, it wasn’t all that different from today. I was younger then and made a lot less money, so if anything, my life was a lot less comfortable. (For example, we really didn’t have money for vacations.)

It was just like a movie,
It was just like a song;
When we were young.

Moved to IMHO from General Questions.

samclem, moderator

The biggest difference not already mentioned, at least for US culture, is the rise in awareness of terrorism. It existed but was not front and center like it is now; most US people thought little about it.

The rise of grunge.

$5 of gas actually got you somewhere.

Payphones still cost a quarter.

There were still payphones (so you could return pages on-the-go).

The cassette tape was still in wide use.

TLC was still “The Learning Channel,” and actually had educational programming.

MTV still actually aired music videos.

I hardly remember anything about the 90s. Our first daughter was born in 1991 and we were pretty damn busy for the next twenty years or so.

I do remember owning a minivan at some point in there.

To expand on this, the first time I ever encountered a web browser was at the university computer lab while I was in grad school. This was in 1997, and would have been a slow broadband connection.

I didn’t get access to the web at work until around 1999. As I recall, my whole building (comprising several hundred people) shared one slow broadband connection (probably a T1 line).

(I finally got web access at home in 2000, via 56K dial-up. I got broadband internet at home in 2004, and got my first smartphone in 2011.)

That’s how I feel about the 2000s. My son was born in 1997, and just went off to college last fall. My wife and I looked at each other after we dropped him off and said to each other, “Now what?” :confused:

I was in my 20s in the 90s. When I graduated from college in '91 there was a recession happening and jobs were a bit difficult to come by, so I worked in a couple of low wage jobs before getting my first real corporate job (with my own desk and everything!) in '94. Soon after that, I bought my first home PC. That’s just about when home PCs started become much more common - up until then it was mainly hobbyists and tech geeks.

My first ISP didn’t support graphics, only text - which was fine because “web pages” were just starting to appear, and a high-speed modem meant 256 kps over the phone line. I soon signed up for AOL - they were still sending out the software to everyone’s mailbox on 3.5" floppies, I think. It was really the mid-90s when the internet started to explode.

At the beginning of the decade, Wikipedia was called “the library.” If you wanted to know what time a movie was showing at the theater, you no longer had to find a newspaper - you could call a number on your phone and work your way through a menu of options to hear show times.

If you have a group of friends caravaning a long distance in multiple cars, you had to plan out where you would meet in case you got separated. “If we lose you, we’ll stop at the Rest Area past exit 67” because hardly anyone had cell phones until the late 90s.

It was a great time of my life, because I was making good money and had no one but myself to spend it on. I got married in 2000 so the 90s are even more of a stark contrast for me than most other people.

It was a weird time. The Internet was an interesting tool, not a way of life. Major streets were lined with payphones. My Little Pony was still considered to be for girls only.

There was plenty of web around then - after all the Internet bubble was at the end of the '90s. I was using Mosaic in the early '90s, and was able to get to Intel’s web site in 1995.
Companies were much freer with money. Our work Christmas event in 1998 I think was at a posh restaurant, SOs invited, and both the employee and the SO got logo sweatshirts. People were buying our computers as fast as we could make them.
Usenet was still very active, in fact getting far too active to keep up with. In the early 1990s traffic was very reasonable.
And houses were cheaper. We bought ours in 1996 and it has tripled in value since.

To answer the last question first: No, not necessary, not even necessarily polite. Email was one of the first serious applications of computer networking, and as such possbly predates the Internet depending on how you define it. Email in the modern form, of course, post-dates the Internet, but not by much; it was invented in 1972 by Ray Tomlinson, who died just recently. (Specifically, Tomlinson invented sending messages across a network and the username@hostname email address syntax, @ sign and all.)

My point is, by the 1990s all this basic networking stuff existed and was being used seriously in research labs and large companies and all your major world governments. What that decade brought was, initially, a massive expansion of who had access to all this pre-existing infrastructure. That was the major theme: An expansion of access resulting in entirely new communities and user experiences being formed, as online social systems (IRC was invented in 1988, for example) which were once the domain of a very exclusive, very culturally homogeneous crowd were discovered by entirely new kinds of people.

I came online around 1996 as well. I remember the Web then: It was smaller, the content was staler, and it was a lot more difficult to get anything beyond simplistic webpages with styled text and a few images, both due to page load times being absurdly long thanks to dial-up and because browser technology was for shit. A postage-stamp sized video file with literally multiple pixels and more than one frame per second was just about the limit of what was practical unless you were one of the blessed few with a (fractional) T1 line or that mythical beast the travelers call ISDN. Don’t expect a single site to host more than one of those massive beasts, either. (I exaggerate, but only barely.)

Politically, it was pretty good. The wars were all distant, none of them involved us in a serious fashion, and the worst thing the sane righties could find to scream about was the President getting slippery over a blowjob. Aside from the occasional Waco or Oklahoma City, and the abortion clinic bombings, and the gay-bashing, and the insane conspiracy theories being spread in the right-wing universe, it was largely pretty quiet.

I’ll probably add more to this thread later.