When I think about how much things have changed in the last twenty years, I get quite nostalgic.
With every click of a Buzzfeed “Things Only 00s Kids Will Remember” article, I am transported back to my days of playing Sailor Moon on the playground, shopping for the newest Lip Smacker™ lip glosses at Target, and toting my see-through train case around like it was a purse of some sort.
I think about how normal it was to see a DDR machine in any arcade I’d visit (because seeing one now is like seeing a dinosaur or some sh*t) and how much time I’d spend each day after school browsing threads on GameFAQs’ message boards.
I think about how cool I thought I was hiding my copy of Kingdom Hearts in the front pocket of my hoodie each and every day at school after its release (fourth grade was hard, okay?) and how hard my mom had to look to find my first Tamagotchi. (That lady put in work!)
The 90s and 00s were a wild time to be nerd, and part of me aches knowing that we’ll never get back to that. So instead of wallowing in my sadness, I decided to take that nostalgia and use it as fuel to transport us all back to the era of instant messenger and emo music.
This is by no means a complete list, but it is indeed a few of the things I found to be a crucial part of my development as a nerd in the 90s and 00s. So pull up an inflatable couch, grab some Warheads, and get comfortable because I’m about to take you back to a much simpler time…
1. AOL Trial Discs
No list about being a nerd in the 90s would be complete without mention of an AOL trial disc. Every time we went to Best Buy, we would stock up on these little guys. That was definitely the “making a different email address for free Amazon prime trials” of our era. And I can’t tell you how many of these discs we had laying around our house, but I can tell you that they definitely held us over until my mom finally decided to pay for AOL. I can almost guarantee you that we still have a couple of these discs hidden away somewhere in my parents’ house.
BLOCKBUSTER muh’f*ckin VIDEO. Oh, how I miss, thee! I mean, yeah, compared to Netflix and Redbox, you were nowhere near as efficient, but you were a legend. An era. A force. You sonned all these other movie rental methods of today, and for that, we will NEVER forget you. And how could I? I spent almost every Friday night from 1997-2001 at Blockbuster. It was a very important part of my childhood!
I’ll never forget what it was like to sit in the aisles struggling to choose between which “You’re Invited to Mary-Kate and Ashley’s” VHS to rent for the week. I’ll also never forget standing in front of the video game wall each week, having to make some of the toughest decisions of my childhood. And just when I thought the hard part was over, I remember being torn between whether I should impulsively purchase candy or a cheap toy when I got to the register. Looking back, maybe Blockbuster and I didn’t have the healthiest relationship. It was quite masochistic to be honest, but for some reason, I kept coming back each week for more.
3. Cartoon Cartoon Fridays
As I type this sentence, I can hear the “Cartoon Cartoon Fridays” jingle blasting in my head. After Blockbuster this was probably my second most visited place on Friday nights. And for good reason too. I mean, when we will ever get back to such an amazing block of television programming (cartoon, or otherwise)? Each and every Friday, we got new episodes of The Powerpuff Girls; Cow and Chicken; Ed, Edd, and Eddy; Dexter’s Lab; Courage, The Cowardly Dog; and Johnny Bravo all on the same night! I don’t know what we ever did to deserve such greatness, but it’s definitely an era that we’ll never get the chance to relive. I mean waiting around for Steven Universe to come off of hiatus every couple of weeks is an emotional experience in itself, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the experience that was “Cartoon Cartoon Fridays.”
4. Free Online Games
I was hesitant to include this on my list of 90s nerd nostalgia, but I went ahead and did it because I realized that all those years spent playing billiards with my cousins on Yahoo! Games were a formative part of my childhood. And the fun didn’t just stop at billiards! I played checkers, air hockey, whatever I could get my little dial-up internet connection to access. I played alone. I played with friends. I played with family. I didn’t care with whom I played, I just knew that I needed to play. And no matter how many video game consoles we had in the house, I still used the likes of AOL, Nick.com, Disney.com, and others to scratch my internet gaming addiction. So for everyone out there that can’t stop playing games like League of Legends and Fortnite, thank their forefathers next time you’re waiting for your next match to start.
5. Harry Potter Midnight Releases
These. Right. Here. Harry Potter was an era. I mean, it still kind of is, to be honest. But the book releases are something that we can definitely never recreate. In a time before Amazon Prime pre-orders and everything else that would make these little shindigs obsolete, we had midnight release parties at our local retailers. I suppose these release parties still exist for popular video games, but people in the 90s and 00s REALLY loved their midnight release parties. It was an integral part of our culture, much like saying “whatever” and wearing too many layers. And while I didn’t attend every midnight release party due to me not getting into the series until after The Goblet of the Fire, I did attend a couple of release parties in my day.
I can just see it now. Droves of people lined up inside (and outside) of Barnes & Noble, waiting to get their hands on the next installment of the legendary series. Some people not even able to get in the door. Some people not even able to get a book. And if that sounds horrifying, I promise you it wasn’t.
If you went to a decent party, there’d be different stations set up to do things like “make your own wand” and get your face painted. And if you got hungry, it seemed like Professor McGonagall herself had cast an “Endless Sandwich” spell on the scones and coffee at Starbucks. People chatted amicably with the people next to them in line, decked out in their Hogwarts robes, house colors proudly on display. Now that I think about it, Harry Potter fans were some of the original cosplayers.
And the fun didn’t stop at the release party because when you got home, that’s when the party truly started. Of course, you had to stay up and finish the book that same night to avoid someone spoiling something for you on a Harry Potter forum in the following days. I remember taking the party home with me and continuing it beneath my covers, as the night turned to day and my internal clock went with it. I spent many a night in the bed curled up with a Harry Potter book because everyone knows that the bed is “where the magic truly happens.”