17 Things From the Past Gen X Is Yearning For

Generation X was born between the mid-1960s and early 1980s, so they’ve lived through some big technological and societal changes during their lifetimes. Now aged 40–60, many are getting old enough to become nostalgic for certain items and experiences from bygone days. We’ve collected 17 things from the past that Gen Xers now often think of with a rose-tinted yearning!

Mixtapes

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What was better than getting a mixtape from your best friend or sweetheart? They were more than just a collection of songs; they often told a story or expressed the mixer’s mood. Medium says many Gen-Xers miss the act of recording original compilations of songs from the radio, even if it took far longer than hitting shuffle on Spotify.

Saturday Morning Cartoons

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Before the days of ‘whatever, whenever, and wherever’ entertainment, Gen X kids got up painfully early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons before their parents woke up. Shows like The Smurfs, Transformers, and Scooby-Doo might not be on Netflix right now, but they were cherished by an entire generation of young viewers (MovieWeb).

Boomboxes

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For those of you too young to remember, boomboxes were battery-powered music players often used outside or carried around. Rock the Bells says they were particularly popular among hip-hop fans in the 1980s, making them an urban style icon and a loud way for Gen-X teenagers to share their music with the world.

Video Rental Stores

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Going to Blockbuster to pick out a movie for the weekend was a much-cherished activity for many Gen-Xers as they grew up. While it may be quicker to scroll through Netflix, streaming services don’t offer the same physicality—browsing the shelves, reading synopses, and plucking up the courage to peek in the ‘horror’ section!

Arcade Games

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Vocalzone calls arcades the birthplace of gaming, with “old school Pacman, Galaga, Crazy Climbers, Donkey Kong, Punch Out, and a lot of other old games” entertaining Gen-Xers before the advent of PCs or smartphones. Many remain nostalgic for the excitement of begging for quarters and competing to place their initials on the top score leaderboard!

Polaroid Cameras

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While it may be far more practical and convenient to take digital photos and delete or edit them for perfect shots, Polaroid instant cameras captured ‘real’ moments and couldn’t be easily re-done or altered. Many Gen-Xers are sentimental about watching a photo develop before their eyes and the physical uniqueness of the resulting image.

Mix and Match Fashion

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Raised by Boomers, Gen Xers’ fashion choices were typically based on individuality and rebellion—and the variety was extreme. BBC Style notes that the ’80s and ’90s saw a mix of styles, from punk to grunge, where the only rule was: there was no rule! Conformity was most definitely out, and that’s something many grown-up Gen-Xers long for.

The Walkman

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Before portable music was ‘a thing,’ the Sony Walkman was revolutionary, allowing music lovers of the ‘90s to listen to their favorite tunes whenever and wherever they wanted to! The physical act of inserting a cassette and the novelty of carrying your music with you just can’t be matched today.

Handwritten Letters

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Gen-X grew up without instant messaging apps and constant digital connection, so handwriting messages was much more common. BridgeWorks says that acts like passing notes in class, penning your crush a love letter, or writing to Santa Claus were more satisfying and ‘real’ than an e-mail or WhatsApp message.

Pagers

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Teenagers of the ‘80s and ‘90s didn’t have cell phones, so pagers were useful, particularly for sending quick, informative messages to friends or parents when away from home. Many Gen-Xers miss the sense of anticipation as they waited to decode a message or prepared to call back a missed page from a payphone.

The Original MTV

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Britannica states that the 24-hour music channel MTV first aired in August 1981, changing the way musical artists promoted themselves and their music forever. It soon became the epicenter of music culture and introduced an entire generation to new music, artists, and trends, while making music a visual medium for the first time.

Drive-In Theaters

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If you lived somewhere warm and dry enough, drive-in theaters were a popular way to spend an evening. Combining favorite movies with the comfort of your own vehicle, they made movie-going more romantic, social, and fun. Many Gen-Xers still long to pack their car full of friends and head off to the open-air movie theater once more!

Encyclopedia Sets

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Gen-X grew up before the time of Wikipedia, so they often utilized physical reference books to complete school and college work or to learn about subjects that interested them. While it certainly took longer, the ritual of flipping through pages and discovering new knowledge is often looked back on with rose-tinted glasses!

Family Dinners

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With fewer digital distractions, Gen-Xers frequently enjoyed family dinners around the dining table, devoid of screens or pizza boxes. The Scramble reports that a recent poll “found that 62% of parents with children under 18 wish they had family dinners ‘much more often.'” Now parents themselves, many long for quality time and home-cooked meals with those they love.

McDonald’s Toys

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Happy Meals from the fast food giant used to offer collectible toys that typically changed to a new variety every week or so. Many Gen Xers have fond memories of opening the iconic red box with yellow ‘m’ handles to discover which toy from the current collection they had acquired.

Photo Albums

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Long before Facebook, Google Photos, and smartphones with digital photo galleries, printed photos were stored in physical albums. Flicking through baby photos and old vacation memories was a fun pastime, even if the photo quality couldn’t compare with today’s crisp, high-resolution images.

Paper Maps

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The first commercial Sat-Nav was released in 1995, but GPS wasn’t precise enough for reliable navigation until 2000. Gen-Xers had to purchase a road atlas, find the right page, and navigate themselves without reference. While it had its frustrations, the rewarding feeling of getting somewhere using your own skill was like solving a satisfying puzzle!

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