Sony Walkman TPS-L2. Photo credit: splorp via flickr

100 Things Your Kids May Never Know About (Revised and Updated)

Geek Culture
Sony Walkman TPS-L2. Photo credit: splorp via flickr
Sony Walkman TPS-L2. Photo credit: splorp via flickr

Those of you who have been following GeekDad for a while may remember the original version of this list. It was published back in the Wired days and was inspired by an article on the BBC News website where a kid was asked to swap his iPod for a Walkman – with predictable results! I thought that the Walkman was just the tip of a very big iceberg so I rallied the GeekDad troops to think up some more and within no time at all we had a list of over 100 Things Your Kids May Never Know About.

The rest, as they say, is history… The post quickly went viral over Twitter and Facebook and was easily GeekDad’s most popular post ever and, as it was posted near the end of the month, the most popular post on for two months running, clocking up over 2 millions page views. The producers of the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire even took a bit of it to use as one of their questions.

In the intervening five years so much has changed – we are now at a point where the ‘classic’ iPod isn’t even for sale anymore and many more kids actually know what a Walkman is thanks to the Awesome Mix Vol.1 from Guardians of the Galaxy. So we thought now would be a good time to revisit the list for another generation and see what’s changed – look out for extra comments in italics.

Moore’s Law can hardly keep up with the pace of change and our ever-increasing quest for simpler, smaller, faster and better widgets and thingamabobs will always ensure that some of the technology we grew up with will not be passed down the line to the next generation of geeks. So it’s up to us to tell them all about the good old days of modems and typewriters, slide rules and encyclopaedias.

Oh, and one more thing before we get into it… #getOffMyLawn!

Audio-Visual Entertainment

VHS Heave... or Hell. Photo credit: makelessnoise via flickr
VHS Heaven… or Hell. Photo credit: makelessnoise via flickr
  1. Inserting a VHS tape into a VCR to watch a movie or to record something. DVDs superseded them, only to be replaced by Blu-Rays and even they’re on the their way out now.
  2. Super-8 movies and cine film of all kinds. It’s all stabilised hyperlapse and head-cams these days.
  3. Having a still or video camera that’s a device designed for only that purpose. Your DSLR can record video, your phone can take photos, and your glasses can do both!
  4. Playing music on an audio tape using a personal stereo. See what happens when you give a Walkman to today’s (well, at least 2009’s) teenager. This idea has since spawned a multitude of similar ideas and YouTube channels.
  5. The number of TV channels being a single digit. I remember it being a massive event when Britain got its fourth channel. (Ed. Note: In the US, at least we had UHF channels, which seem to have evolved to the stuff on cable and satellites that sits in the 200-300 range now)
  6. Standard-definition, CRT TVs filling up half your living room (depth-wise).
  7. Rotary dial televisions with no remote control. You know, the ones where the kids were the remote. Even the concept of the remote control is dying out now with voice and gestures taking over.
  8. High-speed dubbing. No need to duplicate that tape for your friend, just email them the mp3. Dang it, even “mp3” makes me sound old – aac? ogg? Flac? What are the kids using these days?
  9. 8-track cartridges. (Ed. note: Or reel-to-reel. We recorded the Star Wars radio play on reel-to-reel tape.)
  10. Vinyl records. Even today’s DJs are going laptop or CD. 5 years later and you can do it with just an app. The hipsters will try to tell you that vinyl is making a comeback and some artists even think it’s cool to release music on cassette tape – they are all wrong. (Ed. note: No, they’re not. We just pre-orded the aforementioned Awesome Mix Vol. 1 on vinyl!)
  11. Betamax tapes / MiniDiscs / Laserdiscs / HD DVD – even Compact Discs.
  12. Scanning the radio dial and hearing static between stations. Digital tuners either work or they don’t. Same goes for analogue TV signals.
  13. Shortwave radio.
  14. Actually buying music. Why bother when you can just stream it from Spotify or Pandora?
  15. 3-D movies meaning red-and-green glasses. And not having to pay extra for the headaches.
  16. Watching TV when the networks say you should. Can you say “Netflix”? Recording and time-shifting your TV viewing is one thing, calling up whatever you want when you want it is something else entirely. Can you imagine a world without streaming TV and movies?
  17. Waiting for the television-network premiere to watch a movie after its run at the theater.
  18. Actually going down to a Blockbuster store to rent a movie. Blockbuster? What’s Blockbuster?
  19. That there was a time before ‘reality TV’. People actually needed to have some kind of skill or talent to become famous.
  20. That there was a time before the ‘YouTube Channel’. You couldn’t always just post a stupid video of yourself running around being stupid and actually make money from it through advertising because millions of stupid people watch it.
  21. Computers and Videogaming

    ZX Spectrum Photo credit: smin via flickr
    ZX Spectrum. Photo credit: skin via flickr
  22. Wires. OK, so they’re not gone yet, but it won’t be long. Inductive charging is the next big thing, and between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth we can pretty much send anything anywhere.
  23. The scream of a modem connecting.
  24. The buzz of a dot-matrix printer.
  25. 5- and 3-inch floppies, Zip or Jazz Discs and countless other forms of data storage. Just stick it in the cloud and email them a link.
  26. Using jumpers to set IRQs.
  27. DOS.
  28. Terminals accessing the mainframe.
  29. Screens being just green (or orange) on black.
  30. Tweaking the volume setting on your tape deck to get a computer game to load from a cassette, and waiting ages for it to actually do it.
  31. Daisy chaining your SCSI devices and making sure they’ve all got a different ID.
  32. Counting in kilobytes. There aren’t even that many things that are still counted in Megabytes.
  33. Wondering if you can afford to buy a RAM upgrade.
  34. Blowing the dust out of a NES cartridge in the hope that it’ll load this time. Just download the ROM to your favorite emulator.
  35. Turning a PlayStation on its end to try to get a game to load. Games are moving away from physical discs and going digital just like music and movies before them.
  36. Joysticks. You could almost say controllers in general – touch, motion and gestures are taking over.
  37. Booting your computer off a floppy disk. Except Raspberry Pi users now do this, but from an SD card instead.
  38. iPads (and tablets in general) have only been around since 2010!
  39. Minecraft was only released in 2011!
  40. Multiplayer games meant 1-4 players (maybe 8 with Micro Machines) huddling around a single screen, and not racing the world in Mario Kart or battling armies in Destiny or Warcraft and the like.
  41. 8-Bit being the absolute pinnacle of gaming power, not just a trendy retro look.
  42. The Internet

    Early NCSA Mosaic Screen Photo credit: ghbrett via flickr
    Early NCSA Mosaic Screen. Photo credit: ghbrett via flickr
  43. The fact that it hasn’t always been around!
  44. NCSA Mosaic.
  45. Finding out information from an encyclopedia.
  46. Using a road atlas to get from A to B.
  47. Doing bank business only when the bank is open and shopping only during the day, Monday to Saturday.
  48. Phone books and Yellow Pages.
  49. Newspapers and magazines made from dead trees.
  50. Actually being able to get a domain name consisting of real words.
  51. Filling out an order form by hand, putting it in an envelope and posting it.
  52. Not knowing exactly what all of your friends are doing and thinking at every moment.
  53. Carrying on a correspondence with real letters, especially the handwritten kind.
  54. Having to delete something to make room on your hard drive – now you can just dump it into the cloud somewhere.
  55. Archie searches / Gopher searches.
  56. Concatenating and UUDecoding binaries from Usenet. Now it’s all Magnetised Torrents from the Pirate Bay.
  57. The fact that words generally don’t have num8er5 in them.
  58. Correct spelling of phrases, rather than TLAs.
  59. Waiting several minutes (or even hours!) to download something.
  60. The time before viruses/botnets/security vulnerabilities due to always-on and always-connected computers.
  61. When Spam was just a meat product — or even a Monty Python sketch.
  62. Finding the funds to make your dream game/gadget/film/whatever by begging and borrowing from your friends and family, rather than just setting up a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign to do it for you.
  63. Gadgets

    Negative film from my childhood Kodak Disk Camera Photo credit: Chris Devers via flickr
    Negative film from my childhood Kodak Disk Camera. Photo credit: Chris Devers via flickr
  64. Not carrying around a thing in your pocket with more computing power than the ones that sent people to moon. With almost instant access to any game, movie, TV show, book, or piece of music you fancy.
  65. Remembering someone’s phone number and not knowing who was calling you when the phone rang.
  66. Recording a song in a studio. Now you just need an app!
  67. Typewriters. Again here, the hipsters will try to tell you they’re making a comeback…
  68. Putting film in your camera: 35mm may have some life still, but what about APS or disk?
  69. Sending that film away to be processed, and having physical prints of the photographs come back to you. Or the lost art of developing and printing them yourself.
  70. Using a stick, and not a laser, to point at information on a wallchart.
  71. CB radios.
  72. Getting lost. With GPS and Sat-Nav on your phone, your location is only a click away. Assuming you can get a signal of course.
  73. Answering machines / Fax machines.
  74. Pay phones, Party lines and even landlines in general?
  75. Rotary-dial telephones and phones with actual bells in them, as opposed to ringtone recordings of a phone with bells in it.
  76. Having to manually unlock a car door. You don’t even have to put your key into the ignition and turn it in modern cars.
  77. Vacuum cleaners with bags in them. This one got a lot of flak last time around, but have you actually used a bagless one? I’m constantly amazed by the amount of dirt I empty out of mine every time I use it.
  78. Taking turns picking a radio station, or selecting a tape, for everyone to listen to during a long drive. And actually looking out of the window during that long drive. Nowadays, everyone is just plugged into their own thing.
  79. Everything Else

    1970s Lego Set. Photo credit: ansik via flickr
    1970s Lego Set. Photo credit: ansik via flickr
  80. Privacy.
  81. Some toys actually being suitable for the under-3s.
  82. Relying on the 5-minute sport segment on the nightly news for all of your sportsball highlights.
  83. The days before the nanny state.
  84. SPOILERS! It used to be pretty easy to avoid them.
  85. Starbuck being a man. I supposed this one should now include something about how it sucks to be a Stark? (Ned, not Tony!)
  86. Han shoots first.
  87. “Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.” But they’ve already seen Episode III, so it’s no big surprise. My daughter has this particular one spoiled by a plush toy with a sound chip in it!
  88. Marvel used to only make comics.
  89. LEGO just being square blocks of various sizes, with the odd wheel, window or door.
  90. Spending your entire allowance at the arcade in the mall.
  91. Chalkboards in schools.
  92. Neat handwriting.
  93. Trig tables and log tables.
  94. “Don’t know what a slide rule is for…”
  95. Hershey bars that came in silver wrappers or a Marathon bar (what a Snickers used to be called in Britain).
  96. Sliding the paper outer wrapper off a Kit-Kat, placing it on the palm of your hand and clapping to make it bang loudly. Then sliding your finger down the silver foil to break off the first finger.
  97. Writing a check. Or, if you ever receive one, actually having to go to a bank to deposit it (instead of using your phone).
  98. Cash.
  99. When the morning ‘Newspaper’ was delivered by the ‘Paperboy’. And that there was an ‘Evening’ edition too.
  100. Finding books in a card catalog at the library.
  101. Libraries as a place to get books rather than a place to use the internet. Does anybody even do that anymore now that the internet is in your pocket?
  102. A physical dictionary – either for spelling or definitions.
  103. When Christmas wasn’t a summer holiday – #noEarlyXmas
  104. When a ‘geek’ and a ‘nerd’ were one and the same.

My thanks go out to all of my fellow GeekDads and Moms, past and present, for their contributions to this list. What do you think of the list? Got anything to add? Please let us know in the comments.

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13 thoughts on “100 Things Your Kids May Never Know About (Revised and Updated)

  1. I probably would have added the Kodak 110 film in with the obsolete films, but otherwise a great trip down memory lane!

  2. I made my daughter cry when I installed a rotary phone in the basement (connected to a land line), which I had to install a DSL filter inside, fit fine beside the 2 bells internally. She didn’t know how to run her finger around the dial…

  3. The thing I miss most about rotary phones was learning how to dial 999 (British for 911) in the dark.

  4. Great list, but #27 is still a heavily-used tech, at least for people working in IT jobs like mine. It’s also not likely to go anywhere soon. People will be SSH’ing into remote servers for a long time to come.

  5. As a library employee I have to say, people still come in for books. No it isn’t just the elderly. And yes encyclopedias are outdated information source. (We just had the discussion about not carrying them at our branch any more. General opinion was that they are available at the 4 larger branches and don’t get used enough at ours to be worth purchasing anymore.)

    I still have a VHS player at home and my 5 year old niece is in love with it. I’m the one gripping about the quality. Happily she is gullible enough to believe me when I say something is broken.

  6. “Blowing the dust out of a NES cartridge in the hope that it’ll load this time. Just download the ROM to your favorite emulator.”

    I actually know quite a few middle school aged kids who instead of blowing on an NES cartridge would much sooner tell you not to and inform you why that is bad for the cartridge. NES and cartridge games are still very popular in my area.

    But then, I also have never even been in a car that did not have manual locks or keyless ignition, so maybe its just me and then people I know 🙂

  7. Most stuff has been replaced by apps.
    Recording studio, map, encyclopedia, etc.

    Probably the 70s and 80s has gone through more during the revolution.

  8. Sorry, but I have to disagree with #88, I know several teachers who have very neat handwriting.

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