As someone who came of age during the 1990s, I can tell you that they were a crazy – but totally awesome – time to be alive. The internet was like, barely a thing and cell phones were things our parents had and lent to us when we went out for actual emergencies. Fashion was awful, television was super great, and in general, it felt like we were all a bit more laid back and able to live in the moment.
I’m not going to vouch for the music, though. Aside from like, half a dozen pretty decent bands, there was a bunch of crap.
If you love the 90s, too – or you’re like, a teenager doing a project – you’re going to dig all 50 of these amazing facts.
50. The Perks of Being a Wallflower was a hit.
By now, even if you’re too young or too old to have been ready and waiting when Stephen Chbosky published his story, chances are that you’ve read it (or seen the totally decent film adaptation).
It was in the 90s, though, that he got the idea after writing an anonymous letter to a professor who gave a seminar at USC.
The rest is literary history.
49. The NSA banned people from bringing Furbies to work.
In case you were wondering, there have always been weird conspiracy theories.
In 1999, people were convinced that Furbies (small toys) contained computer chips that not only recorded and repeated words, but that were being used to spy on the American public.
It wasn’t true, but that didn’t stop the NSA from banning them at work – just in case.
48. Michael Jordon won 6 NBA titles.
I’m not sure whether the being-great-at-basketball thing or the selling shoes thing has netted Michael Jordan more cash (probably the shoes), but his winning 6 NBA titles in 8 years surely didn’t hurt.
What you might not know is that he actually preferred playing in Adidas, and even asked them if they could match his Nike contract so he could wear them on the court.
They declined (a fact they’re probably still crying over today) and the rest is history.
47. Jennifer Aniston hated “The Rachel.”
Everyone else might have been clamoring to replicate Jennifer Aniston’s hairdo from her stint as Rachel on Friends, but the actress herself couldn’t stand it.
She admitted as much, and called it “the ugliest haircut I’ve ever seen.”
46. A Rugrats character was based on the lead singer from Devo.
Chuckie is based on lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh, who also produced and wrote some of the episodes.
Whip it good!
45. AOL’s Instant Messenger was the place to be.
If you weren’t on AIM in the late 90s-early aughts, were you even alive? Probably not.
The Instant Messenger service, which allowed users to “text” while online, launched in 1997 and gained 53 million users in under a decade.
44. NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope.
The Hubble remains an amazing piece of technology, able to lock onto a target with an accuracy that’s thinning than the width of a piece of human hair a mile away.
43. We ALL had pagers.
All of us.
Okay, not all of us, but 62 million people had one in 1994. They were cool and fun colors and honestly, got the most use from our mothers.
Cell phones would, of course, kill that trend in short enough order.
Fun additional fact… there are still about 2 million still out there.
42. Polly Pocket came into existence.
Polly Pocket remains a cool toy for kids today, but the popular compact lady and her tiny things were invented by Chris Wiggs in the late 80s.
He got the idea after creating a doll house for his daughter to play with – and it was inside a powder compact.
After debuting in the late 80s, there was no toy more coveted by little girls in the first half of the 90s.
41. Hillary Clinton insulted Tammy Wynette.
Hillary Clinton gave an interview to 60 Minutes in 1992, at the height of the melee surrounding Bill’s infidelity, and said the following,
“I’m not sitting here as some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.”
Clinton apologized to the singer later, and I think we can all agree it was a bad line.
40. JNCO jeans became perhaps the worst fashion trend ever.
JNCO jeans were so wide most of us could have fit our friends with us inside a single leg, but they were also colorful and original.
In fact, the company hired graffiti artists to paint murals of Los Angeles on some of the more amazing pairs.
Fun fact… the company still exists… but they’ve got that whole width thing under control.
39. Those chokers we wore had a long and storied past.
Like everything that was once cool, choker necklaces are making a comeback once again – but when they became popular in the 90s, they were making a comeback then, too.
Red ribbon chokers were around during the French Revolution, as a way to honor the fallen, and in the 1800s, a black choker was how you could identify a prostitute.
Just something to think about.
38. Jurassic Park blew our minds, and not just when we learned where the T. rex’s roar came from.
Jurassic Park was and remains a masterpiece, holding up like not much media from the 90s really has.
That terrifying T. rex roar, though? It’s just a slowed-down recording of a Jack Russell terrier playing with a rope.
It’s hard to imagine, honestly.
37. Doc Martens were a grunge dream.
Claus Martens, the inventor of the brand, came up with the design when he needed a low-impact shoe while recovering from a skiing accident.
They paired so perfectly with our faded jeans and flannel shirts it was like they were peas and carrots.
36. We were all looking for Carmen Sandiego.
I know I spent hours playing this game, solving riddles (and occasionally actually learning something) in my pursuit of Carmen.
I never knew she had a middle name though – it’s Isabella.
35. You could call to hear your future from Miss Cleo
Psychic Readers Network, Inc, would do readings about your future – for the price.
The service was hawked by Miss Cleo, whose powers eventually failed her when she didn’t see a $5m FTC fine coming.
They got her for making deceptive claims, which…hard to prove, don’t you think?
34. Pepsi tried to sell us a crystal version.
Ah, who could forget the massive fail of Crystal Pepsi?
Pepsi tested around 3,000 variations of the drink but never found one that would stick.
And just so you know, we all tried really, really hard to like it between 1992 and 1994.
33. NC-17 became an official movie rating.
We weren’t even old enough to see those films rated R (unless your parents were way cooler than mine), but still, NC-17 became a thing.
Henry & June, released in 1990, was the first movie to earn one. Soon a string of naughty films, like 1995’s Showgirls made its way to theatres.
The rating isn’t really used anymore, but it was an interesting time at the movies, nonetheless!
32. Britney went full Louisiana stereotype in her debut music video.
Britney Spears and Hit Me Baby One More Time were an instant success, but did you know her love interest in the music video was one of her relations?
Yeah. Her cousin Chad was the recipient of her adoration in the video that helped launch her career.
31. Slap bracelets were controversial fashion.
Slap bracelets were the toy/fashion we all wanted, but man, did teachers hate them.
Educators caught a lucky break when the bracelets, which were basically fabric-covered steel ribbons, started cutting kids.
30. The “Hamster Dance” webpage is still going strong.
Launched in 1998, the “Hamster Dance” website was created by art student Deidre LaCarte in the hopes of increasing traffic to her site.
It’s still live, so please, enjoy.
29. Billy Crystal passed on Toy Story.
The producers at Pixar knew who they wanted to play the leads in their new movie – Tom Hanks and Billy Crystal.
Hanks signed on to play Woody, but as for Buzz Lightyear, Crystal wasn’t feeling it.
The film became a huge hit, of course, grossing around $373 million worldwide, and Crystal has since said that letting the film go to Tim Allen was one of the biggest regrets of his career.
28. And Julia Louis-Dreyfus passed on Pulp Fiction.
She was offered the role of Mia in the movie, a part that eventually went to Uma Thurman, due to her Seinfeld commitments.
It’s hard to imagine her in the role, but perhaps diversifying back then could have been a good thing for her career post Seinfeld.
Not that it’s suffered!
27. “Tickle Me Elmo” was the hottest gift around.
It seems like there’s a “hot gift” every single year. It the ones kids want, that parents knock themselves out trying to find, and that always seems a bit scarcer than it needs to be.
In 1997, that gift was the “Tickle Me Elmo,” which always sounded a little weird, if you ask me.
The toy sold for $30 normally, but when no one could find one leading up to Christmas that year, scalpers were selling them for up to $1500 online.
26. Seinfeld lived and died by two small rules.
The Show About Nothing was a hit that will likely never be repeated, possibly because of these rules laid down by Larry David, which set the sitcom apart from all others.
“No hugging, no learning.”
The characters were never sentimental, and they never learned a thing.
25. Saved by the Bell entered our lives, never to be forgotten.
Every person who was a minor during the 90s watched (and loved) Saved by the Bell.
It began in the late 80s as a show called Good Morning, Miss Bliss, and starred Haley Mills as a middle school teacher.
NBC retooled the show in 1989 into a series that took off in a way they never likely imagined, and Zack Morris, A.C. Slater, Kelly Kapowski, Lisa Turtle, Screech Powers, and Jessie Spano are forever immortalized in Bayside burgundy.
24. PalmPilots were paving the way.
iPads were still a decade away, but Jeff Hawkins was ready to take advantage of a handheld market right then.
He cut a block of wood to the right size, then used a short chopstick as a model for the stylus.
They enjoyed quite a bit of popularity during their heyday.
23. Tara Lipinski was our pride and joy.
We survived the drama of Tanya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan and were thrilled to have a skater worth rooting for in Tara Lipinski.
She started out as a roller skater before taking to the ice and went on to win a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics.
22. The theme song for Friends was a big hit.
The Rembrandts sang the now-famous ditty that opened the New York-based sitcom Friends.
Titled “I’ll Be There for You,” they wrote their only hit song with the help of the show’s producers.
21. We all wanted a Hummer.
Hummers were released in 1992 and they were absolute beasts, weighing 10,000 pounds and getting less than 10 miles to the gallon.
It was a different time, and nobody was listening to Al Gore yet.
If you’re a 90s kid who still wants a Hummer, there’s good news – electric versions are being prototyped.
20. Justin Timberlake’s mom found a place in the history books.
Justin Timberlake began his career as the (arguably) most talented member of boyband *NSYNC.
The name of the “band” was coined by Timberlake’s mother, Lynn, though – it’s just the last letters of each members first name.
19. And the Backstreet Boys were named after a flea market.
The Backstreet Boys were arguably the “original” boyband of the 90s, and their rivalry with *NSYNC was the stuff of legends – you definitely weren’t allowed to like both.
The Backstreet Boys, if you’re curious, were named after the Backstreet Market in Orlando, where both groups were built and produced.
18. Nintendo rocketed into space.
A Russian astronaut brought his Game Boy on a space voyage in 1993. He was allowed to bring only one game and chose Tetris, presumably because he’s Russian and doesn’t like fun.
I’m sorry, I had to say it.
17. Warner Bros. gambled on The Matrix.
You might be surprised to learn that executives at Warner Bros. weren’t sure that The Matrix was going to do well for them.
At the time, writer/directors the Wachowski siblings were virtually unknown, but after they created a 600-page shot-for-shot storyboard, the studio took a chance.
That chance paid off to the tune of more than $450 million.
16. Anthony Hopkins inspired as Hannibal Lecter.
Anthony Hopkins scared the crap out of us as Hannibal Lecter, but he took his own inspiration from some unlikely sources.
He called his trademark voice a combination of Truman Capote and Katherine Hepburn.
15. Mattel and MCA records got into a tussle.
A case between Mattel and MCA records over whether Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” violated their copyright went all the way to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Alex Kozinski, the judge who heard it there, said “the parties are advised to chill.”
Barbie would never.
14. Wally Warheads had everyone puckering up.
Warheads candy was all the rage, puckering mouths all across the world.
And that mascot on the wrapper? His name is Wally.
13. R.L. Stine scared us all silly.
When we graduated from The Babysitter’s Club and The Nancy Drew Files, R.L. Stine was waiting to scare us. And if you read Goosebumps, you were way ahead of the game.
They weren’t his first books, though; he also wrote the novelizations for Spaceballs and Ghostbusters 2.
12. New Zealand banned The Power Rangers.
Regardless of how many Power Rangers shows were filmed in country, New Zealanders never got on board.
In fact, it was banned due to violent content until 2011.
11. Bop-It emerged as the next game that would occupy us for hours on road trips.
The inventors of the toy called it a mashup of Simon and Whack-a-Mole, and it was undoubtedly addictive.
You can still buy it if you want to frustrate your own kiddos.
Just head over the Amazon.
No, we won’t link it. Jeff has enough of our money.
10. Pogs were banned in schools.
They were little circles of cardboard that are actually totally useless, but for some reason, adults convinced themselves they would lead us all into a life of gambling.
They were banned at many schools in the 90s.
9. A talking cat and Melissa Joan Hart won us over.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch was a surprisingly great show, one that we and our parents loved in equal measure.
Fun fact: Though Sabrina and her aunts lived in a fictional town called Westbridge, but it shared a ZIP code with Salem, Massachusetts.
Also, coincidentally, the name of the cat.
8. Malls were the place to be.
The biggest one we had, the Mall of America, was big enough to fit seven Yankee Stadiums inside.
Now it’s closed, and I never got to visit!
7. Titanic ruled the box office.
It’s common for large film productions to have their share of mishaps, and Titanic was no different.
80 cast and crew members got sick on the same day, with some even finding themselves in the hospital due to hallucinations.
It turned out someone had spiked the lobster chowder with PCP.
6. “Ice Ice Baby” almost slipped everyone’s notice.
It’s hard to imagine a world without Vanilla Ice’s greatest hit, but since it was originally on the B-side of a single, it definitely could have happened.
The song caught on after a radio deejay in Georgia accidentally played the wrong side of the disk.
5. No one could stop quoting Budweiser’s “Whassup” commercials.
Marketing flunkie Justin Reardon came up with the extremely catchy “Whassup??????” commercials.
Seriously, people still say “Whassupppppp??????” even though they probably don’t know why.
See! It’s contagious!
Justin, though, probably doesn’t have such fond memories.
He got a $250 bonus and a baseball bat that said something like “Way to go, slugger!” for his efforts.
4. The first ever Nickelodeon Kid’s Lifetime Achievement Award was handed out.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who stole the show on Home Improvement and graced the cover of every teen magazine ever to be in existence.
And you know, all of our hearts.
He also stole the first ever Nickelodeon Kids Lifetime Achievement Award, so that’s…something.
3. Nirvana’s “Nevermind” blew minds.
Literally everyone – even Metallica – loved the album.
Nirvana received a fax (!!!) after the release that said:
“We really dig Nirvana. Nevermind is the best album of the year.
Let’s get together soon, love, Metallica.
P.S. Lars hates the band.”
Did he hate Nirvana? Metallica? Both? No one is telling.
2. eBay became a thing.
Life was never the same after you could become addicted to buying things online (with a timer).
You know it was a winner because it lasted!
1. We didn’t think the Macarena would ever die.
Dance crazes are hard to predict, but in the mid-nineties, the Macarena made it all the way to the Democratic National Convention.
Al Gore made the following joke: “And if I could have your silence, I would like to demonstrate for you the Al Gore version of the Macarena,” at which point he stood completely still.
It was a great decade, I’m telling you. Great.
What’s your favorite memory of the 90s? Share it with us in the comments!