90 Amazing Facts About the '90s
By Alvin Ward
As we near the 20th anniversary of the end of the ‘90s, it’s only appropriate to look back at the music, movies, TV shows, and unfortunate fashion trends that helped make the decade what it was. For those who lived through it, these 90 facts about the ‘90s should bring a nostalgic smile to your face. For everyone else, try not to judge the decade too harshly for its Hanson albums, love of pogs, and PalmPilots.
1. People believed Furbies were spying on them.
In 1999, people believed that Furbies contained computer chips so they could record words and repeat them. Obviously that wasn't true, but the National Security Agency still banned people from bringing their Furbies to work.
2. Jennifer Aniston hated her Friends haircut.
Jennifer Aniston's haircut on Friends, known as "the Rachel," was just as big of a hit as the show itself. But in later years, the actress has admitted she wasn't a fan—in fact, she called it “the ugliest haircut I've ever seen."
3. Alanis Morissette's hit song, "Ironic," got irony wrong.
No, "a traffic jam when you're already late" isn't actually irony, but Morissette does note that it's ironic that a song call "Ironic" is not filled with ironies. Touché.
4. Napster was on millions of computers around the globe.
The music-sharing program launched in 1999, and within two years, it had 26.4 million users.
5. AOL Instant Messenger became a sensation.
AOL Instant Messenger launched in 1997 and gained 53 million users in less than 10 years and wasn't full discontinued until December 2017.
6. Pagers were one of the most important ways to communicate.
In 1994, 61 million people were sporting pagers.
7. Hillary Clinton slighted a country music legend.
In 1992 during a 60 Minutes interview about Bill’s infidelity, Hillary Clinton said, “I'm not sitting here as some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.” Hillary later gave an apology to the singer.
8. The '90s book Who Moved My Cheese? was big everywhere.
The 1998 self-help book even sold a couple million copies in China, where it inspired books like Whose Cheese Should I Move? and No One Can Move My Cheese! This is especially weird when you consider that cheese does not really have a place in Chinese cuisine.
9. Jackie Chan was a beast.
Well, for Disney, anyway. He voiced the Beast for the Chinese release of Beauty and the Beast.
10. Those chokers everyone wore during high school? There's a lot of history there.
You may remember that choker necklaces made a comeback in the '90s. Throughout history they've had different implications, like during the French Revolution, some women wore red ribbons around their neck to pay tribute to those who had been executed. In the 1800s, it was a way to identify prostitutes.
11. Doc Martens became popular again in the '90s grunge community.
The inventor, Claus Martens, came up with the idea when he needed a low-impact shoe after a ski accident.
12. Miss Cleo told people their futures (but probably not).
Miss Cleo was the spokesperson for Psychic Readers Network Inc. and was known for making psychic readings on her pay-per-call service to people who would dial in. She later got a $5 million fine from the FTC for making deceptive claims, you know, like about being psychic. The amazing thing is that they didn't see it coming.
13. In 1990, NC-17 became an official movie rating.
The first movie to get the rating? 1990's Henry & June.
14. Slap Bracelets noisily adorned wrists in high schools everywhere.
This short-lived fad was invented by a high school shop teacher who was playing with steel ribbons.
15. Billy Crystal missed out on Toy Story.
Pixar's hit 1995 animated film raked in an astounding $373 million worldwide, so it shouldn't come as a shock that Crystal has publicly said turning down the role of Buzz Lightyear was one of his biggest regrets.
16. Pulp Fiction wasn't sponge-worthy.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus turned down the role of Mia in Pulp Fiction due to her Seinfeld commitment.
17. The "show about nothing" had one rule.
Larry David made a “no hugging, no learning” rule for Seinfeld scripts. Basically, he didn't want the characters to have sentimental, Full House-y revelations.
18. Microsoft Office ... for Mac?
You probably associate Microsoft Office with your '90s PC, but the program was actually first released in 1989 for Apple Macintosh computers. The Windows version came in October 1990.
19. The voice behind your mail unveiled.
The voice who announced "You've Got Mail!" whenever you received an e-mail was Elwood Edwards. He recorded the saying in his living room on a cassette deck.
20. The PalmPilot was the precursor to an ipad.
Jeff Hawkins developed the PalmPilot’s look by cutting a block of wood to the right size and using a short chopstick as the model for the writing utensil.
21. "I'll Be There For You" Reached #17 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The Rembrandts can thank the television program Friends for their only hit, "I’ll Be There for You," which was co-written by the show's producers.
22. NSYNC owes their name to Justin Timberlake's mom.
Justin Timberlake's mom came up with the name *NSYNC, which was the last letter of each band member’s name.
23. The Backstreet Boys owe their name to, well, a flea market.
The Backstreet Boys, on the other hand, were named after a flea market in Orlando: the Backstreet Market.
24. Nintendo's Game boy slipped The Surly Bonds of Earth.
In 1993, a Russian astronaut brought his Game Boy to space. He was allowed to bring only one game, and he chose Tetris.
25. Anthony Hopkins Turned to two unlikely sources for his Hannibal Lecter voice.
You will no doubt remember Anthony Hopkins’s distinct voice for Hannibal Lecter in 1991's The Silence of the Lambs—he called it a combination of Truman Capote and Katherine Hepburn.
26. Warheads candy made everyone pucker up.
Did you know that the mascot on Warheads candy actually has a name? It's Wally Warheads.
27. Power Rangers was banned in New Zealand.
While many Power Rangers shows were filmed in New Zealand during the '90s, the show itself was banned there for violence until 2011.
28. Pogs were Banned from schools around the country.
Those little circles of cardboard were banned at many schools in the '90s because people thought they promoted gambling. Little did they know, Pogs are worthless.
29. The Massive Mall of America Opened in 1992 in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Seven Yankee Stadiums could fit inside this mammoth monument to shopping.
30. Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" wasn't supposed to be a hit.
"Ice Ice Baby" was originally a B-side, and the song only caught on when a radio deejay in Georgia played it, possibly by accident.
31. The bucket hat made a valiant comeback.
In Australia, bucket hats are known as "giggle hats."
32. There was originally an entire song in The Lion King about eating bugs.
The 1994 animated film wound up grossing over $950 million worldwide, so it certainly didn't miss this tune too much.
33. And by the way, young Simba was voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
The older Simba was voiced by Matthew Broderick.
34. And here's the most '90s fact we've got.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas won the first-ever Nickelodeon Kids Lifetime Achievement Award for his work on the sitcom Home Improvement.
35. eBay launched in 1995.
The pioneering auction site was originally called AuctionWeb.
36. The Perks of Being a Wallflower hit shelves in 1999.
Author Stephen Chbosky got the idea for the book's format because he once wrote an anonymous letter to professor who gave a seminar at USC.
37. Michael Jordan won six NBA titles in eight years (1991-1993, 1996-1998).
Jordan may have gotten rich off of Nike Air Jordans, but he wanted to wear Adidas. In fact, he brought them his Nike contract and said if they could come close to matching it, he'd sign with them. But they didn't.
38. One '90s myth to debunk: Jordan was cut by his high school basketball team.
This myth blew up during his '90s title streak, but it's not true. It is true, however, that he was put on the JV team, which was still probably a mistake in retrospect, but yeah.
39. Another '90s myth: the Taco Bell Chihuahua commercial stopped when the dog died.
In fact, they stopped when we collectively realized that those commercials were unbelievably annoying.
40. Chuckie from Rugrats was based on the lead singer of Devo, Mark Mothersbaugh.
Mothersbaugh also worked as a composer on the show.
41. The Hubble Space Telescope launched in 1990.
According to the Space Telescope Science Institute, it was able to lock onto a target without deviating more than the width of a human hair seen at a distance of one mile.
42. Chris Wiggs invented the Polly Pocket after making a doll house for his daughter in a powder compact.
Though the popular toyline debuted in the late '80s, it owned the first half of the '90s.
43. JNCO jeans made our pant legs far wider (and our public property much more colorful).
You can blame graffiti artists for the popularity of JNCO jeans—the company hired them to paint murals to advertise the jeans in LA.
44. A dog brought Jurassic Park's iconic roar to life.
To get the sound for the T. rex in Jurassic Park, the crew slowed down a recording of a Jack Russell terrier playing with a rope.
45. Carmen Sandiego has a full name.
Her middle name is actually Isabella, so we know who she is—but do we know where she is?
46. Pepsi tested around 3,000 variations for Crystal Pepsi, which was still not enough.
All that effort for a drink that was launched in 1992 and gone by 1994.
47. Britney Spears's cousin played her love interest in the "Baby One More Time" music video.
Ol' cousin Chad had a moment in the spotlight in the video that would go on to launch Britney Spears's career.
48. The "Hamster Dance" website from 1998 is still live.
Art student Deidre LaCarte created the Hamster Dance web page in 1998 to increase traffic to her website.
49. In 1997, people sold Tickle Me Elmos online for the reasonable price of $1500.
It retailed for $30, but the hottest toy of the 1997 Holiday season soon became a scalper's dream.
50. Saved by the Bell started as a show about a teacher in Indianapolis called Good Morning, Miss Bliss.
It was retooled in 1989 into the familiar series that people still watch reruns of today.
51. Tara Lipinski started out as a roller skater before she ever went on ice.
She would go on to win a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics.
52. When the Hummer was released in 1992, it weighed 10,000 pounds and got less than 10 miles to the gallon.
Now, electric Hummers are being prototyped.
53. Another popular 1992 invention: light-up sneakers.
LA Gear sold around 5 million pairs annually for the first few years.
54. The Matrix was a gamble for Warner Bros.
Execs at Warner Brothers weren't sure about The Matrix, considering that the writers and directors, the Wachowskis, were unknowns, so they created a 600-page shot-for-shot storyboard to convince the studio to make the movie. It went on to gross more than $450 million.
55. Mattel sued MCA records over the song "Barbie Girl" by Aqua for copyright infringement.
The case went to the U.S. Court of Appeals where judge Alex Kozinski said “the parties are advised to chill.”
56. Psychic Uri Geller sued Pokemon.
He believed that the character Kadabra, who also bent spoons with his mind, was based on him. The character has since been retired.
57. R.L. Stine wasn't a complete unknown before writing the Goosebumps series.
He also wrote the novelizations for Spaceballs and Ghostbusters 2.
58. The toy Bop It was inspired by the games Simon and Whack-a-Mole.
And all these years later, you can still buy it on Amazon.
59. Sabrina the Teenage Witch Has a Familiar ZIP code.
Sabrina, the teenage witch, lives in a fictional town, Westbridge, but its ZIP Code is the real ZIP Code for Salem, Massachusetts. She also lives at 133 Collins Road, the same address from Dark Shadows. By the way, Sabrina’s cat is also named Salem.
60. The Thighmaster was invented by Joshua Reynolds, heir to the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company.
He also invented the mood ring.
61. speaking of innovators: '90s boy band Hanson has their own beer brand called mmmHops now.
Well, now that they're all of legal drinking age, of course.
62. 80 members of the crew for the movie Titanic got sick on the same day.
Some were even hospitalized due to hallucinations. It turned out that someone had spiked the lobster chowder with PCP.
63. We know who's responsible for Budweiser's "Whassup" commercials.
Justin Reardon came up with the "Whassup" Budweiser commercial, and for his hard work, the company gave him a $250 bonus and a baseball bat "that said something like, 'Way to go, slugger!'"
64. Nirvana released Nevermind and left Metallica gushing over it. (Though Lars still hates ... something.)
Nirvana once received the following fax: “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." Unclear whether the band in question was Metallica or Nirvana, but regardless, probably true.
65. The first Google server’s storage rack was made out of Legos.
Now the company makes over $100 billion a year.
66. The Doug Funnie character originated in Florida grapefruit juice commercials.
It wasn't until two years later that the character made his Nickelodeon debut in Doug.
67. Super Soaker inventor Lonnie Johnson shot the water gun in the middle of a meeting with the president of Larami toy company.
Johnson is also a former engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
68. The Macarena made it to the DNC.
The Macarena was so popular during the 1996 Democratic National Convention that Al Gore made the following joke: “And if I could have your silence, I would like to demonstrate for you the Al Gore version the Macarena,” at which point he stood completely still.
69. The Magic School Bus Was Created to Keep Young Girls and Minorities Interested in Science.
Producer Deborah Forte of Scholastic Entertainment says they were inspired to create the Magic School Bus TV show after learning that many girls and minorities were opting out of science at young ages.
70. In the original Sonic the Hedgehog, the SEGA logo and sound at the beginning took up 1/8 of the cartridge's memory for the game.
71. Amy Heckerling, who wrote and directed Clueless, sat in on high school classes to get a feel for how real teens talk.
It paid off, as Clueless grossed more than $50 million at the box office.
72. Hermione Granger's last name was almost Puckle.
Hey Puckle, we can't help but notice that your initials are H.P.
73. The Coca-Cola company released Surge to compete with Mountain Dew.
While the drink was in the creation stages, employees called it "Mountain Dew Killer."
74. The princess Beanie Baby raised over $15 million for the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.
They now go for over $10,000 on eBay.
75. David Lynch and Mark Frost once tried to make a biopic about Marilyn Monroe.
That project fell through, but they ended up making Twin Peaks, also about a beloved blonde who died tragically young, resulting in secrets being revealed.
76. 32 percent of the original iMacs were sold to first-time computer buyers.
The original model went on sale August 15, 1998.
77. Mike Myers got the inspiration for the Austin Powers film after hearing the Dusty Springfield song, "The Look of Love."
The original 1997 Austin Powers grossed more than $50 million against a $16 million budget. The sequel, 1999's The Spy Who Shagged Me, went on to gross more than $300 million worldwide.
78. Destiny's Child was originally called Girls Tyme.
The group's debut album hit stores on February 17, 1998.
79. Bridget Jones originated in a newspaper column in The Independent.
The first book, Bridget Jones's Diary, came out in 1996.
80. The most-remembered slogan in beverage history is "Got Milk?"
Remember that "Alexander Hamilton" commercial for the "Got Milk?" campaign? It was directed by Michael Bay.
81. Will Smith knew that people would call him by his Fresh Prince of Bel-Air character name for the rest of his life, so he named the character Will Smith.
And yes, we still call him that.
82. While Tupac was in high school, his friend got shot while playing with a gun.
Tupac then wrote his first rap, which was about gun control.
83. 1991's My Girl made Macaulay Culkin the first child actor to be paid $1 million for a film.
Home Alone 2 brought him $4.5 million just a year later.
84. While the Nintendo 64 was in development, its code name was "Project Reality."
Its proposed final name was the "Ultra 64," and it was even referenced as such up until a few months before its release.
85. Back in 1997, a band called Kara’s Flowers performed on Beverly Hills 90210.
They're now called Maroon 5.
86. Simon Cowell wanted to sign the Spice Girls back in the day, but he approached them too late.
He calls this his biggest regret.
87. Marilyn Manson originally performed with friends like Madonna, Wayne Gacy, and Olivia Newton Bundy.
For what it's worth.
88. Tamagotchi comes from the Japanese words for egg and friend.
These things are still readily available if you're looking for a nostalgia fix.
89. Lois Lowry wrote The Giver when her father was beginning to lose his memory.
The book has gone on to sell more than 10 million copies around the world.
90. The United States spent around $100 billion dollars to prepare for Y2K.
And we're all still alive to talk about it.
To learn more about the '90s, check out this video we did all about it: