16 Things I Did as a Gen X Kid in the 1980s That Have Become Obsolete

Life was a little different in the 1980s without the technology and safety protocols that are in place today.

As a Generation X kid, there are things I did that have become obsolete.

Kids these days may be aware of these things from their parents or grandparents. Or it’s possible they never heard of them at all.

Using a Rotary Phone

Rotary Phone
Photo Credit: Tawin Mukdharakosa/Shutterstock.

My grandparents had a rotary phone.

And when my family would visit them, sometimes I used their phone. It felt fun to use the dial and I can still hear the distinctive sound in my mind.

Finishing Kindergarten Without a Graduation Ceremony

Kid excited for Kindergarten Graduation
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I completed kindergarten.

There was no party or graduation ceremony.  The following fall, I started first grade with little fanfare.

Renting Movies at a Video Store

Video Rental Store
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We rented VHS videos from a video store. Sometimes, my brother would ride our bikes to a video store after school or during summer break.

And most of the time, the VHS movies would play correctly on the VCR. It was always a bummer when there was a problem with a tape, which of course, we would only discover once we were at home.

Eventually, we upgraded to DVDs!

Using a Payphone

Photo Credit: Iv-olga/Shutterstock.

Payphones used to be at many public locations, such as malls.

Once, my sister put her finger in the coin return, and there was ketchup.

Using a Film Camera

Gen X Kid Things - Film Camera
Photo Credit: meidityaputra/Shutterstock.

Having a camera felt like a big deal back then. The cameras had actual film in them.

With a limited number of photos that could be taken on each roll of film, I remember trying to take only perfect shots.

Not Having a TV Remote

No Remote Control for TV
Photo Credit: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.

With our first TV that I can remember, there was no remote control.

Someone had to go to the TV to change the channel and turn the knob.

Using Dangerous Playground Equipment

Gen X Kid Things - Metal Swing Sets
Photo Credit: Gerald A. DeBoer/Shutterstock.

At my elementary school the playground was 100% asphalt. There was not any sand or wood chips underneath the playset or swings.

And the entire structure was made of metal. It was a like having a playset in the middle of a parking. No close trees for shades meant the slides were hot.

While I was never injured, it definitely wasn’t the safest setup!

Remembering Phone Numbers

Remembering Woman
Photo Credit: Cast Of Thousands/Shutterstock.

I can still remember the phone number of my childhood home.

And I memorized the numbers of my closest friends. It was either that or looking for their parent’s name in the phone book.

Front Seat Middle in Cars

Old Blue Car
Photo Credit: Elena_Alex_Ferns/Shutterstock.

I am one of four children. When the whole family went somewhere in the car, one of the kids had to sit in the front seat between our parents.

As the youngest and most likely to get motion sick, I was the kid in the front. In the car, we had armrests that folded up in the front when the middle seat was needed.

In current cars, there isn’t a seat in the front middle. That spot is now filled with large armrests and cup holders. And maybe the front seat middle, which doesn’t have a shoulder strap seat belt, was removed for safety reasons.

Some newer pickup trucks still have an arm rest in the front that folds in the front seat.

The Oregon Trail

Oregon Trail Game Card Game
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When I was in fifth grade, the classroom had a computer with The Oregon Trail game on it. I was so happy when it was my turn to stay inside during recess to see if I could get the travelers to Oregon.

And now, there is a card game based on the original game.

Using a Dictionary

Gen X Kid Things - Dictionary
Photo Credit: Lisa Culton/Shutterstock.

When we needed to know how to spell a word or what a word meant, we used a dictionary.

There was no Internet or Google or spellcheck program.

Rear Facing Back Seat

Old Station Wagon
Photo Credit: Sergey Kohl/Shutterstock.

My family had a station wagon where the third seat faced the back of it. That was fun. And of course, we didn’t wear seatbelts!

The Mercedes-Benz E Class Wagon may be the only wagon still offering this feature.

Floppy Disks

Floppy Disks on Keyboard
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Sometime in the 1980s, we had our first family home computer.

We had to use floppy disks for saving files.

Winding UP Cassette Tapes

Gen X Kid Things - Using Pencil in to wring Cassette Tape
Photo Credit: Pingun/Shutterstock.

Sometimes the tape of a cassette tape would come out for unknown reasons. Or sometimes we probably thought it was fun to remove the tape.

Whatever the cause, a pencil could be used to wind the tape back in. And hopefully, the recording would be still be good on it.

Planning For TV Shows

Family Watching TV
Photo Credit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.

Back when I was a kid, if you wanted to watch a show, you had to be home when it was on. And other family members had to agree to watch it.

We only had one TV. When we got a VCR, figuring out how to program it was another challenge that kids do not have to face these days.

Riding Bikes Without Helmets

Gen X Kid Things - No Bike Helmets
Photo Credit: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock.

While bike helmets may have existed in the 1980s, my family didn’t have them. And I don’t recall any of my neighborhood friends wearing helmets.

Now, some states or local areas have laws requiring helmets, mostly for those under 18.

Funny Animal Memes

Animal Memes - Suspicious
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Enjoy some animal-themed memes!

Funny Work Memes

Funny Work Meme - Getting Texts on Vacation
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Are you stuck working during the long weekend? Laugh at some work memes:

How To Quit a Job

Photo Credit: BongkarnGraphic/Shutterstock.

Do you dread going to work? Are you ready to make a change?

Gross Jobs

Portable Toilet Cleaner
Photo Credit: Kzenon/Shutterstock.

How To Be Productive at Work

Funny Dog at Work Meme
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

When you become more productive at work, you may be able to get more done in less time.

Author: Heidi Bender

Title: Writer

Expertise: Thank You Notes


Heidi Bender is a writer and author who founded Tons of Thanks. She aims to help people write thank-you notes by providing examples and tips. She is the author of She is the author of A Modern Guide to Writing Thank-You Notes.