How the Internet is letting ’90s kids relive their glory days

September 23, 2013
The original browser of most 90s kids. (OiMax via Flickr)
The original browser of most '90s kids. (OiMax via Flickr)

Confession time: I am the youngest of The Switch bloggers. So I was a kid in the 1990s.

The world at large hasn't been particularly kind to my Generation Y cohorts. A lot of people deride us as materialistic, self-centered whiners while somehow glossing over the fact that we're bearing the brunt of the economic fallout from a recession.

But there is one place where Generation Y can reliably expect to be appreciated: The Internet. Listicle after listicle rattles off '90s kids nostalgia trivia, letting us relive the glory days before crushing student loan debt and unemployment drove us to our current cynicism levels. Buzzfeed may have perfected the genre, but it's hardly the only purveyor of the pop culture of my childhood. The Huffington Post got so sick of the meme it even made a list of 1990 things from the '90s "to end the nostalgia once and for all."

That's not particularly surprising -- all of that unemployment means we have plenty of time to mess around on the Internet. And my generation invented messing around on the Internet. We were the first kids who likely had a personal computer at home, and it shows. Sure, most of my '80s kids friends had the Oregon Trail, but we had AOL chatrooms, the first animated gifs, and scrolling text on poorly designed Geocities personal pages. We remember the dial-up connection noise. And when we went to college where we got all that student loan debt, we became the first Facebook generation.

So after being the children of the Internet, the Internet is cashing in on us -- or at least trying to. Remember earlier this year when Microsoft tried use our nostalgia to re-sell us on the browser of our youth?

(Nice try, Microsoft, but everyone knows Netscape Navigator is the true '90s nostalgia browser.)

But not all attempts to recapture our youth are quite so wrong. The magic of the modern World Wide Web also means new ways of rebooting the things we actually remember loving. For instance, cult Nickelodeon television show "The Adventures of Pete & Pete" is getting a spiritual successor in the form of a podcast chronicling the real life adventures of actors Danny Tamberelli and Mike Maronna. And the Reading Rainbow is back... as an app.

Sure, things aren't exactly how we remember them. But the first generation to grow up online is now getting a chance to relive its glory days thanks to the ease of content creation in the digital age.

Correction: This post originally stated that the Reading Rainbow app was coming, but it's already here! 

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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Andrea Peterson | September 23, 2013