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29 Things a 2000s Kid Will Never Understand

Bring back the penny candy and the typewriter! Although you can keep the VHS tapes.

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Burning your butt on a metal slide

Kids’ playgrounds today may be slickly designed marvels of safety but pity the child who will never know the thrill (terror?) of rocketing down a steep, metal slide. In the summer. In shorts. Feel free to reminisce: here’s how happy nostalgic thoughts make you healthier.

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Waiting until 8 p.m. to call grandma

You think phones are complicated now? Just try and keep track of the per-minute price of peak versus after-hours, long-distance versus local, and business versus personal calls. And if you were ever tempted to just call someone without doing all the math, you were swiftly punished with an $800 phone bill.

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“Juice” was anything that wasn’t soda or booze

Want a juice? Here’s some Kool-Aid. It’s good for you. It’s fat-free. Drink some now as a nostalgic way to celebrate the first day of summer.

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The satisfying click of a typewriter

Click, click, click… chiiiiiing! Modern keyboards—especially tiny pretend ones on touch screens—can never compare to the tactile joy of banging out your novel (literally and figuratively).

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Flipping through a card catalog

Finding a book in the library used to require a trip to a huge file filled with rows of cards. You had to decipher their beautiful but strange system, golf pencil clenched tightly between your teeth, write it down, and then remember the Dewey Decimal System. But your reward (the latest book in The Babysitter’s Club series?) was so worth it! Want to rediscover your love of libraries? Here’s how one author found hers again.

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Dialing zero on a rotary phone

Imagine: Operators used to be people, not automated voices! All you had to do to summon one of the magical helpful genies was to whip your finger around the telephone dial. (And then listen happily to the beautiful whir.)

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Waiting two weeks to see if you got a good picture

With endless takes, it’s no wonder youngsters today take so many gorgeous selfies. As long as you have the patience—and the right photo-editing tools—anyone can be a master photographer. Back in the day you had to line up your shot through an itty bitty plastic square, press the button and just pray that in two weeks when your film was developed you caught something good. (And don’t forget to wind the film before your next shot!) Here’s how to make those old photos last longer.

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And then the joy of one-hour photo stores

When you had to wait weeks to get back 24 (or, if you were rich, 32) pictures meant you had pretty much already forgotten the vacation they memorialized. But while it was fun being surprised by memories and entertained by weird shots, the day that one-hour photo services were invented was the best day of your life.

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“Smoking” bubblegum cigars

Adults used to think it was cute when little kids pretended to smoke or chew with fake bubblegum tobacco products. Then we learned about lung cancer. Yeah, maybe it’s best this one went away.

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“Be kind, please rewind!”

Some video stores used fines to remind you to rewind the VHS tapes before you returned them while others just guilted you into being a good renter with their cheery stickers. Either way, it meant you spent endless hours (fine: minutes) jamming the rewind button hoping to make it go faster.

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The horror of an unspooled cassette

There was nothing more horrifying than putting your favorite cassette tape into the player, punching play, and hearing the garbled screech of the machine eating it. If you were very careful—and very patient—you could pull it out and careful tape it back together before winding it back up with a pencil. Maybe you were listening to one of your favorite 90s bands whose hits you’re still enjoying.

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Looking up information in an encyclopedia

School children with a report due on Monday often spent the weekend with a table full of open encyclopedias. Upside: They were more accurate than Wikipedia. Downside: You only got one measly paragraph on the Boer Wars to work with and it was the exact same one everyone else was using. Or you gave up and just used the giant volumes to hold up your blanket fort.

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Having at least 20 phone numbers memorized

Do you know your best friend’s phone number? Your mother’s? Your own?? These days all you have to know is the name and your smart phone does all the hard work for you but a generation ago kids were drilled daily on important numbers. Grandma’s phone was considered as important as the nuclear codes and you practiced until you knew them all by heart. Perhaps after your phone call, you’d go watch one of these classic shows that are still on Netflix.

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Cranking up the car window as fast as you could when it started to rain

How fast could you use the crank to manually roll your window up? Depended on how fast the storm was coming in (or how fast your brother was running for the front seat).

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Poring over mail order catalogs

Amazon and other online stores are the Tinder of shopping—fast, cheap, and instantly gratifying. Mail-order catalogs, on the other hand, were a serious commitment. You had to decide exactly what you wanted, make sure you wrote all the item numbers correctly, calculated the correct total, tax, and postage, and then you sent off your hard-earned money in an envelope and hoped for the best (in six to eight weeks).

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The art of a well-dictated voice mail

Ever hear a Millennial leave a voice mail? Probably not because most of them hate them with a fiery passion. Leaving a well-crafted, coherent, informative, and non-rambling voice message is a dying art.

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How to fix a CD with your breath

A scratched CD was a worthless CD but ingenious teens didn’t give up if their favorite album got a little banged up (probably because they forgot to put it in their giant protective CD binders). A blast of moist breath and a rub on your shirt was often all it needed.

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Picking out a bag of penny candy

Gumdrops, jelly beans, taffies, chocolate-covered peanuts, sour cherries, licorice whips, lemon drops, and starlight mints were just a few of the hundreds of confections you could find on the wall of plastic bins at the store. And the best part? Each cost exactly one cent. Spending a quarter could keep you entertained for an hour. Which one of these candies was your favorite?

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Stringing the phone cord under your door so you could have privacy

Long, coiled cords stretched under doorways, and around corners were often the best way to spot teenage girls in the wild. These days kids can talk anywhere they want or text if they can’t talk. Before, you had to be a structural engineer just to get a little privacy.

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Staring at the wall of videos in Blockbuster for hours every Friday night

…only to discover the one you picked was all rented out and you’d have to start the arduous process all over again. Hopefully you caught some of these classic movies and not their remakes which weren’t as good.

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Flying off the merry-go-round

When was the last time you saw an honest-to-goodness merry-go-round on a playground? They’re gone, along with metal slides, concrete pads, tall climbing structures, and all of the other beloved injury-causing equipment. It’s probably better this way but seriously how fun was it to spin until your fingers slipped off the bars and you went soaring? (At least until you hit the pavement, because soft-surface playgrounds hadn’t been invented yet.) When it rained, you probably stayed inside and played these classic board games.

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America’s Funniest Home Videos was life

Specifically AFV was your life, probably because at least one of your relatives had sent in that video of you blowing out your fifth birthday candles so hard you passed out in the cake. These days funny home videos are still funny but they’re a lot easier to come by thanks to that little thing called YouTube.

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Looking up your neighbor’s number in the phone book

Not only could you find any of your neighbor’s numbers in the phone book but you also knew the difference between the white and the yellow pages. We were all alphabet ninjas.

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Prank-calling your crush

In the days before caller ID or ever *69, you could make any phone call you liked with impunity—and boy did you. How many times did you call Josh, giggle, and then hang up in eight grade?

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Balancing your checkbook

If you get cranky waiting for the chip reader to authorize your credit card, just remember the days when people had to write out checks, tear them carefully out of the book, and then subtract them from the running total in the register in the back. If you were really hip you had a fancy checkbook cover. See if you also still use words coined during your childhood.

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Listening to an entire music album

People used to get excited when a favorite artist dropped a new album—not just for the one song on heavy rotation on the radio but also for all the undiscovered gems they would find. Some artists even hid bonus tracks for the truly devoted. Now everyone’s playlist is a giant mixtape.

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Writing down directions

First there was the map. Then there was your dad. Next came Mapquest. And then, glorious day, GPS systems and Google Maps on phones. Gone are the days of trying to find north and/or decipher your terrible handwriting while you beg a gas-station attendant to save your lost butt.

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The delight of pouring a toy into your cereal bowl

Eating cereal was fine and all but the toy was the real draw for many previous generations of kids. And they were good toys! Sticker books, matchbox cars, small dolls—basically anything you could cover in plastic and shove in a box was fair game. Are you a Millennial? Here are the ten scents that will instantly transport you to your childhood.

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Singing along with the modem tones

Beeeeeep….boooooop… SCREEEEEECH. Call it the meditation on a modem: Sitting blank-faced in front of your computer, immobile, humming along with the modem as it connected you to the world. That is, until your dumb brother picked up the phone line. Not as good a memory as these 90s tunes you loved.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.