Do You Know These Things That Generation X Should Know?

Zoe Samuel

Image: Seattle Municipal Archives

About This Quiz

Generation X are in an interesitng position. They're all the people who were born between about 1965 and 1979. They're a small generation who came of age after the Baby Boomers but before the Millennials. That means they didn't bear the full brunt of hte Great Recession, as they were already somewhat established. However they didn't enjoy the full benefits of the glorious thirty-year period the Boomers had from 1945 to 1975, in which the economy reliably grew and a single income could support a family of four even if you had very little education. Generation X did see all of that happen during their childhoods, but they generally only got to live it for a brief period in the 1990s when the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of the internet created an economic boost in their 20s.

The Boomers were thus mainly the generation who experienced the '80s as teenagers and young adults. That means they know all about the Rubik's Cube, MTV, leg warmers and really terrible hair styles. How well do you remember this period? Can you name all the members of the Brat Pack? Did you see The Little Mermaid in the theater? Let's find out!

What was a wristband called that you put on by smacking it against your skin?

A slap bracelet was very satisfying to put on! You would slap it against your wrist and it would stick to itself with a magnet.

What do you call a ball on a string that you attach your your ankle then jump?

Everyone had a Skip-It in the '80s. The fancy ones could count the number of skips so you could use them for exercise - and some had a heavy enough ball on the end that you could also use them to whack other kids' ankles while feigning innocence.

What was the name of the famous anti-drug campaign the government ran?

Nobody listened to this campaign, as a cursory glance around a room full of 1980s Wall Street traders would prove. The government still kept it running for years.

What is the name of the bear who tells stories?

Teddy Ruxpin was a stuffed bear with a cassette player. You would put a cassette in the back and the bear would "tell" you the story contained on the audiobook inside.

What's a portable music player that holds a cassette?

A Walkman finally replaced the heavy boombox as the portable music of choice. Unfortunately, as headphones were still way behind, everyone could still hear your music, it just sounded terrible.

What musical gift do you make someone to mark a special occasion?

A mixtape was a sign of true love. Romance, friendship, filial - you could say it with a mixtape. You had to wait for the song on the radio, which proved how much effort you put in!

How do you communicate a super-important thought to your friend mid-math class?

Passing notes was risky because they were usually spotted and naturally, they'd have your handwriting in them, even if you weren't the one caught holding them. The best teachers knew when to pretend not to see them, however.

What was the name of the feminist cartoon character whose show was called "Princess of Power?"

She-Ra was a powerful superhero-type character in the Filmation series. Her show is being rebooted in 2018!

What do you carry your makeup in?

This was the fashionable way to carry makeup. You can still get them for a mere $20, though they aren't as robust as the old ones.

What should do you after you watch the VHS you've rented?

The motto was, "Be kind, rewind!" Some stores imposed a fee if you didn't rewind. Since getting a movie was a real hassle, people couldn't do much about this - but got revenge years later by all switching to Netflix.

What was the seemingly unsolvable 3" square puzzle that debuted in the '80s?

This puzzle defied many people for years. These days, you can just hop on YouTube to learn that there is a method that always works. Fast "cubers" typically need mere seconds to solve it.

What 1989 event made you think history was probably over and we won?

This was the seminal event of all Generation X-ers' young lives. Even if you were 7, you remember it. The wall has now been down for longer than it was up!

If you wanted to wear an oversize shirt as a crop top, what did you use?

A T-shirt clip was a tacky way to make your shirt cling. As fabrics have grown more sophisticated, fitted shirts that actually conform to more bodies are much more easily made.

On what did Bon Jovi inform us he was living?

This song was ubiquitous for Generation X. Love it or hate it, you could not escape it.

Which of these is actually a perfectly reasonable material from which to make a shoe?

Jelly shoes were semi-see-through plastic shoes that are now understood to be hideous. For a while there, they were the height of fashion.

What hungry digital character needs to stay away from ghosts?

Pac-Man was an arcade game that came to early home computers and consoles in the '80s. You run around eating little pellets that give you points, while ghosts try to chase you and eat you in return!

Which visitor is trying to phone home, but needs more than a regular phone?

This sweet movie was one of the main hits of the decade. It is about an alien who needs to tell his friends where to find him, if he can just get a signal. Unfortunately, it was long before you could get a decent cellphone.

Which of these is not a line from the theme song for "Fraggle Rock"?

Fraggles are relations of the Muppets. They live at Fraggle Rock and they are amazingly chilled out, according to their theme song.

It's hot and you want a sugary treat to cool you down. What does a Gen X-er reach for?

Many of the best snacks of the Gen Xers' youth are no longer with us. Popsicle has survived, thank goodness!

Which of the below is NOT a member of the Brat Pack?

Rick Moranis is certainly not a Brat Pack member. The Brat Pack were a group of up-and-coming beautiful actors who appeared in a series of coming-of-age movies.

What boot is the only boot worth having?

Doc Martens were the only boot. Sure, you had moon boots for the snow, but you were just waiting to get back into your Doc Martens.

Who were the original Mean Girls?

"Heathers" was a hugely successful movie about teen bullying, taken to an extreme. In 2010 it was adapted as a musical.

What is Bert and Ernie's relationship?

Bert and Ernie were long suspected to be a couple, but in the '80s, that wouldn't have been possible on TV. It's likely the makers of "Sesame Street" never intended anything else, but these days, it's fun to imagine what could have been!

What catchy song series made you inadvertently learn civics?

Schoolhouse Rock explained what a bill was and how it became a law. It disguised civics as a fun cartoon, so kids would sit through it!

What is the best way to carry around lots of papers?

Trapper Keepers are so wholesome that it's hard to believe they were really cool. They are literally a file folder with sections for different pieces of work. These days, you just put it all in Google Drive.

What do you call a symbol that is two vertical lines and two horizontal lines crossing one another?

The pound symbol meant a currency symbol in the UK, but in the US it was what we now call a hashtag. The change was made in the last 15 years with the rise of social media.

What's a long spring-like toy called that can go down stairs on its own?

A slinky is one of the most satisfying toys in the world - until it refuses to go down the stairs and then it just sits there. Then, it is one of the most frustrating toys you can own.

What's the first site from which you downloaded free music?

Napster is all legitimate now, but when it started, it was a scrappy pirating service. The modern version is not the same thing, really, but it bought the trademarks to sound cool.

How do you check your email at school?

If you are Generation X, you probably got email around the age of 14-20. That meant you had to go someplace to check it, since no mobile device had it.

What sort of toy starts as a truck then turns into a warrior?

Transformers began as a toy that was super cool because it was a car that turned into a robot warrior. These days it is also a very successful movie franchise directed by Michael Bay.

What did you use to check your pronunciation growing up?

This device was the equivalent of a pronunciation YouTube channel or website. You typed in a word and it would speak the correct pronunciation.

What videogame always ends with you dying of dysentery?

This text-based game nearly always ended with your character dying of dysentery. The goal was to navigate the Oregon Trail and get to ... Oregon!

In what room do you find the Dewey Decimal System?

The Dewey Decimal System is a way of tracking books. Before you could just scan them, they all had their own reference card and a system for locating them. Generation X were probably the last group of kids to learn it in school.

What size were early computer discs?

Floppy discs are so named because they were actually floppy, though they were in a plastic sheath that protected them. The earliest ones known to Generation X were five inches and a quarter in size and contained practically nothing by today's standards.

What sort of printer produces paper with sprocket holes down both sides?

Dot matrix is a method of printing, and became a brand. It was enormously successful until replaced by the laser and inkjet printer.

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