Over, Over And Gone: These Things From The 90s Will Probably Never Exist Again

The 1990s. For many people now aged somewhere between their mid-thirties and fifties, it was the decade of their youth. And in general, it w...

The 1990s. For many people now aged somewhere between their mid-thirties and fifties, it was the decade of their youth. And in general, it was a special, almost magical decade. No longer really part of the “short” 20th century with its Cold War realities. But neither are they confronted with the fully digital post-9/11 atmosphere of the 2000s.

This decade, despite all the negative side for many people, at least in retrospect, was characterized by stability, positivity, and joy for the future, some technical and cultural peculiarities emerged that are likely to remain unique - and some have already disappeared for decades. In the following lines, we want to indulge in more than a little 90s nostalgia and pay homage to some of these things.

1. Linear Music Television

One can certainly think positively about today's digital music world with always-available Spotify and similar platforms. But anyone who had cable or satellite television in the 90s could enjoy a completely different form of music entertainment - namely the two channels MTV and VIVA. The former had been a permanent, culture-shaping institution

since 1981. However, MTV Central (German-speaking) only started in 1997 - while VIVA's first program was broadcast in 1993. The beauty of both stations wasn't just the endless chain of music videos, although that alone was an art form in the 1990s. No, it was the mixture:

MTV and VIVA saw themselves as unifying youth mouthpieces. The presenters were barely older than the average age of the audience and the various programs managed to address almost every youth subculture between mainstream, techno, rap, and metal.

Together, this resulted in a television format that is now largely extinct. Music videos are probably still being filmed. However, they are no longer mandatory. And even if there are no other role models for young people on YouTube and TikTok, there are no longer any “big sisters and brothers” uniting entire generations like there were back then with Heike Makatsch, Mola Adebisi, Steven G√§tjen, Sophie Rosentreter, and many others.

What happened to it?

After VIVA celebrated great success in the 1990s, the station was sold in 2004. Significantly fewer self-produced programs were shown on the train. The operation of the second channel VIVA Plus ended in 2007. Due to the ownership structure, VIVA and MTV became sister stations, which meant that VIVA often showed MTV repeats.

Through the 2010s, a wide variety of content from the parent company was broadcast on VIVA, which often had nothing to do with music television. There was another musical reorientation at the end of 2016. However, it was over on December 31, 2018, and VIVA was discontinued.

MTV went through a very similar crisis. However, the station still exists today. And at least its German-language offshoot actually primarily shows music videos - while in other countries they are only broadcast proportionately alongside reality TV and similar programs aimed at a young target group. However, it has not been so important for young people for a long time.

2. Clearly defined, sharply demarcated youth subcultures

Large youth subcultures have existed at least since the rock and rollers of the 1950s. However, it should

  • never that many in total and
  • 2. never encompassed such a large proportion of the youth
There were subcultures like in the 1990s. A small list:
  • Boy and girl groupies
  • Gamers
  • Gothics
  • hip hoppers
  • In this
  • Metalheads
  • Ecos
  • Poppers
  • Punks
  • ravers
  • Skater
And those are just the main categories. Within it, there were sometimes dozens of subcultures - and all of them were not only clearly separated for insiders, but were actually distinguished by various details, including certain brands of clothing or colors.

Admittedly, there were also right-wing subcultures. In addition, people were generally often unnecessarily hostile or unforgiving towards each other. So everything definitely wasn't perfect. But compared to later decades, the youth of the 1990s seemed significantly more diverse, more colorful, and less uniform.

What happened to that?

There are still youth cultures today. In some cases, new ones were even added, such as cosplayers who were almost unknown in the 90s. In general, however, belonging to subcultures no longer plays such a prominent role. In particular, the dress codes that were once so important and visible have almost disappeared from schoolyards and university campuses. Today's subculture affiliation can therefore often only be guessed at in detail.

3. Video stores

Some are only accessible to those over 18, and some are accessible to younger people due to spatial separation including two entrances. There were always lots of shelves full of colorful VHS cassette covers. But if you were unlucky, there wasn't a key fob inside indicating that the movie in question was available.

Home videos had a gigantic triumph in the 1990s. The market for rental videos has slipped somewhat since 1990. But in no year have fewer than 600 million VHS films been rented across the EU.

It's hard to describe what it felt like to spend hours browsing through the shelves of a video store. But especially because the 90s represented an overflowing cornucopia for cinephiles, it was de facto obligatory for many to make a pilgrimage to the nearest video store on Fridays or Saturdays to secure entertainment - including a fine if the cassette was returned late or was not rewound.

The video store had no problems converting to the DVD era; even if it has been replaced by rental machines in some places. It was therefore still a permanent institution in the 00s. But then she experienced a double blow:

  • First, the DSL flat rate became established. It allowed unlimited, mostly illegal, downloading. Often from films that were already filmed during the cinema screening.
  • Then came the legal streaming platforms with their payment models, which are also often flat rates.

Both in combination were the death knell for the video store. If you want to feel melancholic, you just have to google “last video store”. There are now only around 50 left in all of Germany. The chance of a revival is also zero. Due to the success of streaming, more and more production companies are even stopping producing DVDs and Blu-rays.

4. Paper computer magazines – including CD-ROMs

The publicly accessible Internet was not released until the end of April 1993. At the end of 1999, there were already around 3.1 million websites and 280 million users worldwide. Nevertheless, the web was far from being a universal contact point for everything possible - the dial-up fees often spoke against this.

In this microcosm

  • 1. Home computers, which have become increasingly widespread since Windows 95 at the latest,
  • 2. Generally significantly increased hardware capabilities,
  • increasing computerization of work and private life as well
  • a video game scene that has completely outgrown its infancy
The contemporary computer magazine was born. While the publications of the 1980s were still very dry and technical, over the course of the 90s a wide variety of magazines with a clearly popular orientation emerged. Gaming magazines in particular enjoyed huge sales. They became the most important source of information about games and suitable hardware.

And that's not all: the magazines often included at least one CD-ROM. There were games as well as patches, bug fixes, and similar updates. Plus cheat programs, and editors – a colorful bouquet of software for just a few D-Marks.

Likewise, almost every Internet provider included starter CDs, which not only contained browsers and dial-up software but also usually advertised several hundred free minutes - although the programs were often tiringly installed deep into the operating system and were difficult to delete. In a time when a two-gigabyte hard drive was large, an often annoying problem.

What happened to it?

During the 10s, print computer magazines followed the same path that many other print copies did. They have been largely made obsolete by the internet.

A few magazines are still printed, but they have become real niche products. Other surviving titles are designed exclusively in digital form and at most as e-paper in a semi-classic way.

5. Walkman, Discman and MiniDisc

After portable cassette players were quite bulky in the 80s, newer devices shrunk in size over the course of the 90s, until in some cases they were barely larger than a music cassette in its case.

Portable CD players also existed in the 80s. But it wasn't until the 90s that they became affordable, had a tolerable power consumption and, thanks to the buffer memory, could play without interruption during rough movement.

Both Walkman and Discman are brand names for corresponding Sony products, but they quickly became generic terms. In addition, both systems were able to coexist for almost the entire 90s:

  • CD players had significantly better sound but were necessarily larger.
  • Cassette players could use freely recordable tapes. In the course of the 90s, disc machines that could play burned CDs appeared, but this required (expensive) CD burners at home.
In 1992, Sony launched something that combined both worlds and had every chance of becoming a gigantic success - the MiniDisc and player.

  • In 1992, Sony launched something that combined both worlds and had every chance of becoming a gigantic success - the MiniDisc and player. The size was at the level of a cassette player.
  • The playing time per disc was up to 80 minutes.
  • Blank discs could be played in the player - several times.
  • The discs were in a rigid case, similar to a floppy disk, and were therefore as robust as a music cassette - and far less bulky than CDs.

Success was actually inevitable, especially since Sony and other companies also produced stationary devices and car radios with MiniDisc drives. After certain teething problems, the music industry released more and more albums on MiniDisc.

What happened to it?

In 2013, Sony stopped making MiniDisc devices after years of decline. Today, cassette and CD players are mainly Chinese products from unknown companies. The Japanese manufacturer recently re-released the Walkman in the form of two mp3 players. However, this action already shows what happened:

After the mp3 player had almost driven all other formats out of the market at the beginning of the 00s, it suffered a similar fate about ten years later with the smartphone. In many cases, the music is no longer even stored on the phones but is also streamed.

The format's big bad luck, however, was that flash memory became very cheap over the course of the 1990s and could store large volumes of data. When mp3 became the predominant digital (compressed) music format at the end of the 90s, the path was open for highly compact mp3 players - and the death knell of other portable formats was sealed.

6. Tamagotchi and Furby

The 90s marked the decade in which electronics were extremely cheap and were therefore installed in countless products - and made entirely new product categories possible. Two of them are almost archetypal for the second half of the 90s - and excited the minds of many parents and teachers.

  • Tamagotchi was a palm-sized computer egg with a small LCD display launched in 1997. The eponymous pixel chick could be seen on it. It had to be fed, cleaned, and entertained using three buttons. Even slept and developed a character of his own. However, constant attention was necessary, otherwise, the digital animal would die a virtual death - thereby breaking countless hearts.
  • Furby was released in 1998. A plush toy about the size of a coffee cup, whose appearance was somewhere between a cat, a hamster, an owl, and a penguin. Furby was not only equipped with motors to move ears, eyes, eyelids, and beak but also with various sensors. This allowed Furbys to speak and understand several hundred words in the local language and the fantasy language Furbish. They were also able to recognize and respond to stroking, tickling, and similar movements – and on top of that, “learn” more words through interaction.

Both toys created a boom at the time, which at times exceeded production capacities several times and even created a black market. In particular, the keychain-compact Tamagotchis (starting price 30 D-Marks, today 23.76 euros) were extremely popular - and not just among young people, by the way. For some experts, they even represent a symbol of a new human-machine era. But as is the case with many comet-like trends, these also quickly subsided.

What happened to it?

Unlike many other 90s icons, Tamagotchi and Furby haven't really been made obsolete by new developments. The trend simply ended as quickly as it began. At times both toys achieved high prices on the collectors' market.

While Furbys haven't been manufactured for a long time, Tamagotchi replicas have existed practically to this day. But now that both toys were released over a quarter of a century ago, something is happening: Bandai recently announced a modernized original Tamagotchi. At the same time, Hasbro is announcing a new edition of the Furby.

7. Boy and girl groups

Anyone who had children, especially daughters, in the 1990s had to be pretty strong. From the New Kids on the Block to Take That, the Backstreet Boys and last but not least the Spice Girls (and many, many others), the entire musical decade was peppered with boy and girl groups.

The producers tailored them remarkably well to a young clientele. Good looks, catchy lyrics with teen themes, and choreographed dances. This was not only enough for chart success, but also screaming volumes at concerts and TV appearances that had not been heard since the Beatles.

What happened to it?

In fact, the phenomenon of these bands was so overwhelming that it sometimes developed strong dark sides. When Take That announced their disbandment, telephone counselors had to pick up scores of teenagers at risk of suicide.

Boy and girl groups were a real phenomenon of the 1990s. In fact, the culture as a whole was only able to survive a little into the 00s. There were still attempts to repeat similar successes in the casting shows that were emerging at the time. Since then, however, there has not been such an impact with packed stadiums and tens of thousands of screaming teenagers - with the possible exception of the bands from the Asian K- and J-pop scene that are rather unknown in this country.

8. Afternoon talk shows

At the beginning of the 1990s, a trend from the USA spilled over into German television: moderated discussions in which, however, no celebrities or politicians sat in front of the audience, but rather normal consumers. It started with Margarete Schreinemakers and Hans Meiser, followed by Ilona Christen - and a whole series of other afternoon talk shows, most of which were named after their presenters.

Especially on private television, from the mid-1990s onwards, hardly anything else was shown between around 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. in the afternoon. Almost always, people with problems or crises were discussed or very controversial topics were dealt with. While this initially happened on a completely journalistic and serious level, it gradually slipped more and more, until many programs only seemed voyeuristic and scandalous - and often even hired amateur actors or were at least accused of doing so.

What happened to it?

There is hardly a better way to see the state of afternoon talk (and the level of German rap) in the late 90s than a music video by the rap combo Eins-Zwo. The clip very aptly satirizes the over-the-top and often artificially controversial conditions of the time.

In fact, the talk wave ended almost at the same time as the 90s. Old master Hans Meiser hosted his show for the last time in 2001. Arabella Kiesbauer held out until 2004 - by then many other formats had long since been discontinued.

In the '00s, talk shows were replaced by similarly omnipresent court shows. These in turn had to give way to other pseudo-reality formats. But while court shows are currently experiencing a small revival, talk shows in the “90s format” are still very quiet.

9. Motif ties

As the 1990s began, men's fashion in particular had become relatively casual - at least compared to previous decades. Nevertheless, the “tie” was simply essential on many occasions. Particularly where a complete suit was not required, ties that were anything but restrained, plain colors, or subtle patterns quickly took over.

This was particularly visible in the first half of the 90s. While initially there were actually artistic motifs, such as the Campbell's soup cans, the designers quickly broke through all boundaries.

  • flags,
  • comic drawings,
  • abstract patterns,
  • brand logos,
  • Drinks (especially beer)
At times there seemed to be no limit to what could be printed on ties - and worn. In retrospect, it almost seems as if the fashion and men's world deliberately made fun of this mandatory accessory before it almost disappeared outside the higher categories of dress codes.

What happened to it?

As early as the mid-90s, ties suddenly became more discreet again. Patterns have been established since then, although for many men the tie is only an accessory for rare occasions. This applies even if a suit is worn.

As far as the motif tie itself is concerned: It seems as if there was a collective disposal orgy. Not even on the relevant classifieds portals can you find more than a small handful of original pieces. And even if they did, they would only be wearable at 90s-themed parties anyway. On any other occasion, a compulsively funny tie would probably be seen as a serious fashion faux pas.

10. Conclusion

Almost a quarter of a century has now passed since the 1990s ended in a rousing New Year's Eve - and with it various things that shaped the everyday lives of young people in particular back then and partly still influence them today.

However, no one should be too nostalgic, because the 90s also had some elements that, from today's perspective, we can be glad that they remained in the past. And that doesn't just mean inaudible concerts by girl and boy groups in front of screaming visitors.



Critt Eristic: Over, Over And Gone: These Things From The 90s Will Probably Never Exist Again
Over, Over And Gone: These Things From The 90s Will Probably Never Exist Again
Critt Eristic
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