29 Culturally Significant Things That Gen Z Has No Idea About

"This one broke me: Rewinding a video."
'My kids had never heard a busy signal.'
Illustration:Jianan Liu/HuffPost; Photo:Getty Images
'My kids had never heard a busy signal.'

If you want to feel your age, nothing does the trick quite like talking to younger generations. “Oprah, who’s that? And why should I care about her favorite things?” “But where would you put a floppy disk?”

Our readers will vouch for that. We recently asked them to share the people, places and events that have elicited blank stares from the Gen Zers in their lives. See what they had to say below.

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

1. “My 21-year-old co-worker tried to tell me “Did you know Netflix used to mail people physical DVDs?” Like, yes. I did know that. It wasn’t that long ago!” ― Hannah Knaphus

2. “As a dating coach, I sometimes explain singles classified ads to Gen Zer clients. As in, did you know that people used to meet their partners by placing ads in the newspaper ― with no pictures, no extensive profile and no algorithm?” ― Jessica Engle

3. “The idea of Blockbuster on a Friday night and rewinding the tapes on Sunday!” ― Candis Ingram

Renting videos from Blockbuster? Never heard of it.
Andrew H. Walker via Getty Images
Renting videos from Blockbuster? Never heard of it.

4. “Dropping someone at the airport at the gate and standing by the window til the plane pulled away. The longer you stayed, the sadder the goodbye.” ― Sapna Upadhyay

5. “She thought Enya was an herb.” — Brittany Waters

6. “Baby Jessica. In the late 1980s, this 18-month-old fell in a well and the entire country was glued to our televisions for the next 56 hours. Spoiler alert: She’s fine.” ― Nick Leighton

7. “There is a very big distinction between Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan. Even though their names are similar, you can’t just swap them out at random, especially when you say you want ‘Michael Jackson shoes’ and expect Air Jordans. You’re going to get loafers!” ― Holly Walsh

Michael Jackson was a singer. Michael Jordan is a retired basketball player.
Luke Frazza/Getty Images; Don Grayston/Getty Images
Michael Jackson was a singer. Michael Jordan is a retired basketball player.

8. “My kid had a conspiracy theory that ‘Pilot’ episodes meant something suspicious. I had to explain that it’s just what we call the first episode of a series!” ― Shelby Cole Harris

9. “I had to explain to my kids that Freddie Mercury was actually famous way before the movie ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ as they thought he wasn’t well-known.” ― Candy Elliott

10. “My favorite incident was with my Gen Z son and his girlfriend. She had gotten a car, it was from the late ’90s. It had a tape deck in it, which they were so excited over, so I dug up a few old cassettes I had and gave them so they could try it out. I asked about it later, and they said that they didn’t fit, that it must only play the tiny cassettes. That didn’t seem right to me, so I went out to the car to check it out. They were trying to stick it in long ways ― it didn’t occur to them to try turning it the other way!” ― Hurst D. Angela

11. “Calling the weather line on the phone. Calling the movie line for show times. And calling home after basketball practice from the pay phone when it was time for Mom to pick us up. … let the phone ring three times then just hang up. She’d know it was time and you saved your money.” ― Vickie Jones Gogo

Ben Affleck talks on a pay phone, something Gen Z is confused by.
Archive Photos via Getty Images
Ben Affleck talks on a pay phone, something Gen Z is confused by.

12. “Hang on to your socks! They thought that President John F. Kennedy died in an airplane crash with his wife!” ― Jane Thayer

13. “How we were all into Gregorian chants for about six months. Then they just suddenly disappeared.” ― Jamie Viebach

14. “It’s been wild trying to explain Y2K and the hysteria that surrounded it to Gen Z. Try telling someone who was practically born with a super computer in hand that our generation was practicing survival skills for when our computers would destroy the world at midnight in the year 2000. ― @maryfairyboberry

Y2K hysteria is baffling to some Gen Zers.
FREDERIC BROWN via Getty Images
Y2K hysteria is baffling to some Gen Zers.

15. “I had to explain what a milkman was to my kids. My grandfather actually was a milkman. They couldn’t wrap their heads around the whole concept. I think they think I’m making it up!” ― Kathleen Collins Ward

16. “‘In Living Color.’ I even tried explaining Homey D. Clown to their blank expressions.” ― Karen Keene Parodi

17. “I’m a younger millennial, and while talking about music from 2010, I had to explain to a bunch of Gen Zers what VH1 was because they’d never heard of it.” ― Maryam Noman

18. “S&H Green Stamps! My siblings and I had so much fun licking and pasting these into the little books and then going to the store to redeem them for fun ‘free’ items with our mom. My kids were so bewildered by this… ‘Like, why?’” ―Leslie Blanchard

19. “That Jen Aniston and Brad Pitt were once married.” ― Jillian Kalbaugh

Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were married!
Kevin Winter via Getty Images
Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were married!

20. “I was telling a Starbucks barista I still have my red cup from when U2 did a collaboration with them. She answered me, ‘Who?’ and we went back and forth trying to explain that U2 is a band with Bono and nothing [registered]. I felt so old that day.” ― Kourtney Clara

21. “How there’d be a busy signal when dialing a phone number, like a radio station contest phone number. My kids had never heard a busy signal.” ― Laura Harris

22. “The fax machine went off in our office and scared the teen worker so bad she thought it was a bomb. After explaining what it was, we asked her if she knew what the typewriter was, and she asked if it was another fax machine.” ― Janet Stackhouse Meek

Gen Zers likely will never have to deal with the headache of a fax machine.
ullstein bild via Getty Images
Gen Zers likely will never have to deal with the headache of a fax machine.

23. “In a teacher’s workshop, I made a comment that referenced Jackie Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis. [There was] dead silence. NO ONE knew who I was talking about! Retired two years later!” ― Mary Shea Rys

24. “This one broke me: Rewinding a video. I asked my oldest to ‘rewind’ a show on on-demand, and she looked at me like I had three heads.” ― Rachel Rank

25. “Dial-up internet access. The internet arrived in the mail on a CD-ROM, usually from the company AOL. You received a limited number of minutes to access the internet per CD. Wi-Fi didn’t exist; the computer used a landline to ‘call’ the internet. My sister was familiar with the notorious screechy ‘dial-up’ sounds but didn’t associate them with internet access.” ― Penney Berryman

26. “I told my kids if I married this guy we would be like the Brady Bunch, but they had no idea who the Brady Bunch is.” ― Mary Catherine Roberson

Sorry, Gen Zers may not get your "Brady Bunch" references.
ABC Photo Archives via Getty Images
Sorry, Gen Zers may not get your "Brady Bunch" references.

27. “Me: Getting a haircut, talking about music and telling the stylist about Janis Joplin.

Her: Who’s that?’

Me: Mind blown.” ― Donna Farrell

28. “I recently responded ‘totally tubular’ and ‘gag me with a spoon’ to a ‘what are sayings that Gen Zers will never know?’ prompt on social media. To my kids’ horror, it showed up on their newsfeeds, and they accosted me in the kitchen to explain the meanings (and myself). I told them they were popular expressions during the Valley Girl days, when leg warmers, electric blue eyeliner and Hubba Bubba bubble gum tape reigned. The blank stares I got in response were in the spirit of a stereotypical Valley Girl.” ― Jodi Meltzer

29. “How we used to enjoy phone calls so much we would buy ringtones for the calls!” ― JL Trav

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