Generation X-ers came into the world roughly between the early 1960s and late ’70s. Naturally, those of us who grew up in the subsequent period enjoyed stuff which seems positively prehistoric nowadays. Kids today might balk at Mouse Trap, Sony Watchmans and Ghostbusters slime, but for those of us around then they were all the rage. So on that note, we’ve compiled a list of 40 things you’ll only recognize if you came of age during that time.
40. Formica kitchen tables
If you’re old enough, you may recall sitting at one of these tables eagerly awaiting dinner as a child. Yep, just looking at this photo will make you long for the days of home-cooked roasts that took hours to prepare! The surface’s laminate covering used to make cleaning the tables a doddle. And they came in different designs – with drawers or expandable options if your pockets were a bit deeper.
39. Nestlé Quik
Hands up who remembers Nestlé Quik! Now known as Nesquik, this powdered milkshake has been putting smiles on the faces of millions since its beginnings back in 1948. Surprisingly, the company actually kept the tin packaging like that seen above until the mid-1990s.
Were you one of those kids who begged your parents for an Icee from the local store? Sure, they may seem positively old-school now, but you can still actually pick one up today. The Icee Company itself shot to fame in the 1960s, though its eponymous beverage has since crossed America’s shores and is now freezing brains and warming hearts worldwide.
37. Metal playground slides
Ah, the summers of yesteryear – playing with friends, visiting the park, torturous leg pains… Wait, what? Chances are if you lived in a state that gets even remotely warm you’ll recall metal playground slides. They got hot as hades and left stinging burns on your legs!
36. Vintage car radios
Sure, the youth of today have mastered Wi-Fi and YouTube, but how would they fare with vintage car radios? Those things were little banks of numbers, dials and switches. And if you squint, they look like a face that’s mocking you. Or maybe that’s just traumatic memories from trying to find your favorite radio station.
35. Retro telephone directory
Before smartphones, these directories were great for keeping telephone numbers, dates and addresses. One person wrote on a nostalgia post on Facebook in 2015, “[It’s] still faster than scrolling through your contact list on a touch screen.” Another added, “[I] still have mine and still use it!”
34. Crock-Pot slow cookers
According to Click Americana, slow-cooking dates back to pioneer times. Thankfully, manufacturers such as Crock-Pot have streamlined the process in the last 50 years. These things are a staple of many fond kitchen memories – just keep an eye on them while you’re cooking!
33. Brannock Device foot-measuring gauge
It looks like a medieval torture instrument, but this handy device is actually used to measure your feet! As an adult, you probably know your shoe size, or you just try something on to feel the fit. But slapping our feet into one of these was part of the shoe shopping experience for millions of us.
32. Tupperware sets
Okay, so tupperware is still a thing. But back in the 1970s these plastic containers were everywhere. Just the sight of them is enough to trigger serious nostalgia. Summing up those memories nicely, one Reddit user wrote, “The big orange one makes me recall memories of stealing my dad’s stale bbq chips. Oh, to be young again.”
31. Meat tenderizers
For kids, the kitchen is an exciting place full of weird devices – like these little hammers covered in spikes. They look like a weapon for really small knights, don’t they? Don’t believe what your childhood brain told you, though. They are in fact designed for tenderizing tough meat cuts by breaking down protein and fiber for easier chewing.
30. Fireball Island
Films from the Indiana Jones franchise and other hits such as The Goonies had ’80s kids obsessed with adventure. And few things made you feel closer to that experience than the Fireball Island board game. The box was huge, the art was cool and the game was a frantic, marble-rolling thrill. It was so good, in fact, that it’s been given a modern reboot.
29. Plastic lunchboxes and Thermos flasks
It seems like every 1980s franchise under the sun had its own brightly colored plastic lunchbox and Thermos combo. So whether you were packing them up for your kids or using them yourself, they likely left an impression. Though memories of the faint plastic taste that lingered on your food and drink after is something you definitely won’t forget!
28. Ceramic clogs
Who among you had a parent or grandparent with ceramic clogs adorning their mantelpiece? Who knows where they came from, it was as if they popped out of nowhere. But for some reason, they were an irresistible toy for many of us. That’s if you were allowed to play with them, of course.
Of course, frisbees were popular in the 1980s. But when it came to range, nothing could match the Aerobie. These circular throwing disks were actually based on the shape of a Punjabi throwing weapon called a chakram, according to the company. They were specifically designed to be thrown over huge distances. And boy, could the Aerobie fly.
26. Ghostbusters Ecto-Plazm
Kids love gross things in toy form, and nothing proves this more than Ecto-Plazm. It was basically toy slime in a tub that felt weird and smelt even stranger. And no Ghostbusters collection was complete without at least one tub.
25. Cabbage Patch Kids
Whether you loved them or they freaked you out, there’s no denying the success of the Cabbage Patch Kids. The little doll’s creator Xavier Roberts originally created his Little People Originals in 1978. Later known by the former name, nearly three million units had been sold by the end of 1983, the company claims. They also reportedly broke toy industry records for the most dolls sold in their introductory weekend that same year.
24. Choose Your Own Adventure books
To a child growing up in the 1980s, the idea of reading a book that let you shape the story yourself was mind-blowing. But the Choose Your Own Adventure books didn’t pull any punches with their subject matter, either. Regarding one title called Hyperspace, a nostalgic Reddit user wrote, “Remember the ending where you open the jar of hyperspace outside and it destroys existence? Not scarring at all for a child – whatsoever.”
23. Giant satellite dishes
TV was pretty limited in the 1960s; we just had our own country’s channels and little else. That is, until the following decade when television companies started experimenting with satellite dishes. By the early ’80s many of us had enormous dishes poking out of our houses. And nothing said “I have more channels than you” more than one of these babies.
22. Mouse Trap
Mouse Trap is a board game of sorts inspired by the works of cartoonist Rube Goldberg. The website Mental Floss notes that he “published a series of clever contraptions in daily newspapers as commentary on the increasingly – and needlessly – complex modern world.” Then in 1963 Marvin Glass borrowed the idea to create a device-building board game called Mouse Trap. The resulting product was so consistently popular it stood the test of time. Indeed, it’s even still sold in stores today.
21. Planters Cheez Balls
Never has turning your fingers orange been so satisfying. Planters Cheez Balls are exactly as described on the tin. But they’re also so much more, as snack food fans from the 1980s and ’90s will tell you. The good news is they’re back after nearly a decade in discontinued snack food purgatory. And they’re just as tasty as ever.
20. Garbage Pail Kids
The Garbage Pail Kids sticker trading cards are synonymous with parody. Aside from aping the Cabbage Patch Kids, they poked fun at pop culture with their unique and gross humor. At the time of writing, they’re still at it, too.
19. The Clapper
Originally, The Clapper had a slightly more risque title: “The Great American Turn-on.” Though its creators – who also invented Chia Pet plants – dropped that for the household name it has today. The device essentially allowed users to activate household appliances through a series of claps. Its initial launch sadly failed and the product reportedly broke lots of televisions, though it later enjoyed more success. And the “clap-on, clap-off” TV jingle has been ingrained in the public consciousness ever since.
When you think of the Space Age, you might picture rockets and astronauts. Though it turns out that some modern innovations closer to home come from technology designed for space use. Take the handheld Dustbuster hoover, for instance. You can thank NASA for that one.
17. Prank toy ads
If you’re a Generation X-er, you’ll likely have fond memories of reading old comic books. And sure, the stories were fun. But remember those crazy 1950s-style ads selling practical joke toys? Those things always made you feel like if you tooled up with them you’d be the next prank-based superhero.
16. Library reading posters
Getting a bunch of children too excited about the latest video game to read is a constant challenge for schools. Yet literature posters found in libraries a few decades ago attempted to solve this problem. After all, who could deny a request to open a book from Yoda or the Muppets?
15. Max Headroom
Only the ’80s could have produced something as disturbing as the dystopian satirical sci-fi show Max Headroom. According to Syfy.com, the character was actually billed as the “first computer-generated TV host.” In reality, though, he was an AI entity portrayed by an actor called Matt Frewer. The series had a genuinely disturbing tone, but even more disturbing was Headroom himself with his jarring electric quirks and tics. Yikes!
14. Sony Watchman
Many of us best know Sony thanks to its Walkman, which originally hit the shelves in 1979 and soon became a household name. But there’s a product which the company released three years later which is arguably just as revolutionary. Enter the Watchman. This device was considered to be the “truly pocketable” handheld TV on the market, according to Gizmodo. Sure, it might have needed batteries, had a tiny screen and required copious tuning to pick up a signal. But a portable television in the 1980s? Now that was cool.
13. Plastic Halloween bags
Halloween is synonymous with candy, and getting the biggest haul is all part of the fun. Collecting those neat plastic bags with pictures of ghosts, spiders and witches on them was, too. That is, until you got even a half-decent amount of candy and began to feel the pain. Those bag handles just dug into your skin like teeth. Yep, they were the real horror of a 1980s Halloween.
The Japanese toy company Tomy made a robot owl called Hootbot back in the ’80s. The little thing was adorable with its dumpy body and round over-sized eyes. The only problem was that when you activated it, those charming eyes turned blood-red.
11. Electron ECHO mini piano
Make no mistake, the Electron ECHO mini piano was weird. It didn’t have an off button, played notes one by one and came with a little foldable cover. Perhaps the oddest thing about them, however, is that they were sold under many different names and only by mail. To top it all off, you can still order them today, and they apparently look almost identical. That’s both comforting and troubling.
WereBears had cute faces and hands which could be reversed to show gnarling teeth and claws. They also came with lore-based cassette tapes, as one WereBears owner recalled on the Do You Remember website in 2012. They said, “I remember my mom and dad getting me Growler and Howler for my birthday and Christmas and being that terrified by the tapes that my dad had to hide them from me.”
9. Dancing Coca-Cola cans
The 1980s saw a bunch of bizarre battery powered musical products such as the singing Billy Bass mounted fish and dancing flowers. Well, Coca-Cola jumped on the bandwagon late in the decade with its dancing novelty coke can. The weirdly adorable soda sported shades and headphones, but best of all it danced to music.
8. Creepy McDonald’s store decorations
Considering McDonald’s has a clown mascot, it shouldn’t be too surprising to learn that its branding can be scary. Take the large models that dotted its stores, for instance. Some were in the shape of the aforementioned Ronald McDonald. The creepy bug-eyed apple pie tree was just as unforgettable. It made you wonder if you were there for a meal or if you were going to become one yourself.
7. Pizza Hut reading pins
In the 1980s then-president Ronald Reagan asked businesses to get involved in education. And the Pizza Hut president Art Gunther was inspired by his son’s reading difficulties to answer the call. As such, he created a program called Book It! to reward kids for reading with free pizza and merchandise. Art told the Los Angeles Times in 1985 that he was “truly motivated by my son and my love for him.”
In 1971 a collaboration between the company Hasbro and TV series Romper Room created egg-shaped toys with human features. The products’ selling point was attributed to their ovoid shape which could stay upright. Its commercial explained, “Weebles wobble, but they won’t fall down.” That’s a good life lesson, thanks guys.
5. Woolworth’s Christmas stockings
Many a Christmas memory begins with a sugar high, and that’s just what Woolworth’s provided. These vintage stockings came with a mesh front so you could see what you were getting. But if you imagine that dulled the excitement, think again. Tearing those stockings open to get at the candy and toys inside was a real treat.
4. Payphone booths
Believe it or not kids, phones didn’t always fit in your pocket. A few decades ago if you weren’t lucky enough to have a home phone, you had to use the dreaded pay phone booths. Naturally, you’ll still see them in some places today. They’re convenient but prone to graffiti, vandalism and often serve as public toilets. Makes you appreciate smartphones a bit more, right?
There are some toys that just seem to gravitate towards your heels. After all, anyone who’s ever stepped on a Lego brick will tell you how much it hurts. But if you’ve never had Jacks in the house, you should consider yourself lucky. These little metal spikes are more like weapons of war than toys – especially when they’re sticking in your foot.
2. Foil-wrapped Ding Dongs
Hostess did the world a favor when it brought Ding Dong snack cakes into the world. The combination of chocolate sponge, frosting and a creamy filling make them a true delight. They’re still made today – minus the aluminum foil of yesteryear. That’s great for the environment, but licking the wrapping just isn’t the same.
1. Jiffy Pop popcorn
Those of you who remember life before every kitchen had a microwave may remember Jiffy Pop popcorn. The concept was ingenious – Jiffy provided unpopped corn in an aluminum pan that you cooked over a stove. The process not only made you feel like a chef but also delivered a tasty home-cooked snack. Moreover, you can still get it today in all its original glory – albeit in butter flavor only.