Remembering the 1990s

Stack of CDs
Stack of CDs

How was life like in USA during the 90s? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Thomas Johnson, Professor Emeritus at Bethel University, on Quora.

Before there was Netscape, which began arriving around 1995, we enjoyed a world full of things that were nearing the end of their lifespans -- and we had no idea. These were some of the things I really enjoyed in the 90's:
  • Bookstores were big in the 90's. Once they realized that people liked coffee and books, places like Borders put coffee bars right inside their bookstores. Borders disappeared in 2011 along with most smaller bookstores. Amazon was founded in 1994, but only sold books and was really not much of a real threat to retail.
  • CD Players were the thing through most of the 90's. When I brought students to Europe, the challenge was controlling the number of CD's they carried with them. In 1998, a student named Andrew brought no CD's at all. Instead, he had this thing called an MP3 Player and it was not made by Apple; Apple would not get into iPods until the next century (2001).
  • Newspapers on newsprint were important in the 90's. They were where job openings, used cars, apartment rentals, and escort services were advertised in huge classified sections that Craig Newmark killed in the early 2000's by offering something called Craigslist that became the darling of swappers and random killers.
  • Movies. In the middle of the 1990's, DVD Players started showing up, making VHS players outmoded, but Blockbuster made the transition to ensure that their business model of rental movies would remain strong. Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010.
  • Pictures. I have photo albums full of wonderful colored memories of the 90's. That was the decade of a sabbatical in small-town Italy, of the end of the Cold War with summers in Leipzig and Berlin everything saved in color due to Kodak film. Kodak has been in bankrupcy proceedings for most of the last decade.
  • Seinfeld. By the time Seinfeld had its famous final episode in May, 1998, people were actually starting to carry cell-phones around with them. it is said that most of the best Seinfeld plots would have been ruined if there had been smartphones in the 90's.
The 90's was really the last mostly analog decade. People really did go shopping with lists and did not stop to call home to see which brand of yogurt to buy (and there was no Greek yogurt at all). It was the last decade when most music broke on radio stations or MTV and when all readers read analog books and the paper New York Times or their home-town daily (which, if it exists at all, is no longer a daily). It was really fun to swap a CD you had burned containing your favorite songs. Napster and the whole idea of stealing music didn't really hit until the early 2000's.
It was a decade with a Democrat President and, for the most part, a Republican congress and they actually got along well enough to occasionally pass bi-partisan legislation. It was the last decade before 9/11/2001 and the only decade between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the War on Terror when it looked like war would not be the lead on the evening news.
I kind of miss the 90's.
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