Because I'm in my 40s, which means I was in my 20s during the 1990s. And from my perspective, it was not a notably simpler time back then than it is today. It was not some pastoral idyll, it was just a time a lot like now, except it was a little harder to get a hold of people.
But I do notice that when I talk to people in their 20s and 30s, they often talk about the '90s as some kind of dramatically simpler time. But that's not because of anything about the '90s; it's because they were children during the '90s, and people of all ages look back on their childhood as a simpler time. This is true even of people who grew up in objectively much more difficult times, like the 1930s and '40s. It's not that the world children grow up in isn't complicated, it's that they don't comprehend all the complications. You don't start to appreciate that stuff until you reach adulthood. So to everybody, childhood is like a lost paradise.
This is part of why nostalgia is such a seductive trap. It's so easy to look back on the past and think that it was something it wasn't. So if you try to make it your mission to restore that lost paradise, to restore something that never really existed in the first place, all you end up doing is chasing shadows.
“I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”
Software that comes out before your professional career is natural.
Software that comes out beginning and mid career is revolutionary and exciting.
And software that comes out late career is obviously an over engineered solution in search of a problem.
Although there are always exceptions like SJ, I agree with the general notion you quoted.
Hmm. Really? Few call centres or queuing systems around yet. My bank had a local number that was answered in 3 rings - often by the same person. So did the phone and electric companies, and the tax office. They might actually remember you.
I probably couldn't ping a friend if they were out with the dog, or on holiday, and definitely not in the car - few had mobiles yet, though by the end of the 90s they were getting common enough.
A lot of things were indeed simpler as we've added needless complexity to loads of things. Adding complexity layers seems to be how we solve everything. Even politics was simpler - note I don't say better.
Then again a lot of things were fairly crap - VHS recorders, CRT TV, cassettes.
Computing was much more fun - far many more platforms - SunOS, Amiga, ST, PC, Apple, BeOS, etc, and it was still feasible to know all of the thing. Now it's more likely to be a small part of a much more complex whole, too big for an individual. That speaks of maturing, but also of over-complexity.
Swings and roundabouts really.
I've often thought the main difference between us humans and other animals is that we come up with "complex" (not necessarily better or worse) solutions for our problems, even when those problems are also common in animals (e.g. hunger, mating, thirst, etc.)
Animals seem to find the shortest path: if a lion is hungry, it hunts a deer. But we have made this task [somewhat unnecessarily] complex: there are tons of foods available, each with a number of cooking methods, and thousands of combinations of those foods to sit on our table. Suddenly it's not about hunger anymore, rather it becomes another need (e.g. seeking variety) that arises due to our complexity-loving minds.
Complexity led us to build civilizations, but it also brought about more complicated new problems (e.g. air pollution). Complexity also consumes vast amounts of energy. With our limited power and time, this means extra complexity actually hurts our lives, leaving us with little energy (mental/physical) for ourselves. In my opinion, the most successful people just know the threshold/type of complexity they need in their lives.
While I think it's a mistake to look at the past through rose-colored glasses, I also think it's a mistake to think "Oh, well things have always been that way."
Big coffee chains changed that experience. And smartphones have raised the bar, the opportunity cost to meeting a random stranger is higher, because you could be distracting yourself on the Internet.
On the other hand, having a collaborative encyclopedia in my pocket at all times is pretty great.
Was a teenager then, but here are some of the things that I can think of:
- recessions in many countries '91/'92
- Asian financial crisis '97
- higher crime rates
- reunification in Germany (causing massive budgetary/cultural issues)
- nuclear testing in the Pacific (was a big issue here in NZ at the time)
- threat of nuclear material being "lost" from ex-Soviet military
- collapse of Soviet economies, esp. Russia
- WTO riots in Seattle 1999
- large absolute poverty worldwide (see also the Millennium Development Goals)
Goth culture was a thing of the 80s. Grunge didn't suck, it was a reaction to overly commercial music and rock losing its roots.
>recessions in many countries '91/'92
Countries like Italy, Spain, Greece, etc had it worse in 2008 and on.
>higher crime rates
Depends on the country. Some have their record highs these days.
>reunification in Germany (causing massive budgetary/cultural issues)
But hardly a bad thing in itself.
>collapse of Soviet economies, esp. Russia
But also dissolution of the USSR and Eastern Block...
>WTO riots in Seattle 1999
That wasn't a bad thing, that was resistance. It looks like you've just posted news items from that era as downsides of the era...
- Gulf war (unexpected school vacation)
- The most amazing volcanic winter ever
That sounds like an easy copout.
Some eras are simpler than others, others are safer than others, some are more creative than others, and so on.
History is not some amorphous soup of self-same eras...
And yes, the 90s were kind of simpler than today in several areas.
In fact, "when I was younger things were simpler" is so empirically verifiable that it's almost a tautology, for
most eras, and even more so for the 1950s-2020 era. Legislation was simpler, bureaucracy was simpler, technology was simpler, choices in many areas were much more constrained, and so on...
I certainly don't miss using the yellow pages to find a store or service, or looking on a paper map to find where the street is.
Same thing applies to paper maps.
Are you still getting yellow pages? What do you do with them?
Obviously people were distracted or preoccupied from time to time, perhaps they had a sick far away relative, say, that dominated their thoughts.
But those kind of situations were the exceptions. Now literally every single person you interact with is mentally in the middle of several conversations with people who aren’t there over text, is halfway through an article or blog post, and is in the midst of judging their own success in gaining attention for the photo they just posted.
You can be in a room with 10 people, but only 10% of each of them is actually present and engaged in the room they are in.
I count myself in this group too of course. In fact right now I’m having a conversation on HN instead of being engaged in the real world.
It kind of sucks.
Now there's always something else you can do at any moment. I feel like some younger folks I know (in their 20's) don't have the same capacity for understanding their place in the social universe. Social media / phones etc. give a simulacrum of social experience so you never have to really stretch yourself and grow these new skill sets.
Today, people are glued to their devices and social interaction is minimal. It's like walking around a world filled with zombies. Frankly, it's getting weird, and I increasingly don't like it. I've recently been watching some of the old Friends episodes on Netflix, and looking at how they interact at home and outside: reading newspapers, playing cards, just chatting, etc. Reminds me a lot of me in that era as well. Too many people have lost the ability for simple social interaction, and every free moment is spent glued to a screen instead of using that time for... literally anything else: contemplation, idle conversation, looking around at the world, relaxing, doing a crossword, or whatever. Today, those friends would be sitting in silence all looking at small rectangles.
Or, we could just avoid being with people and play with tech instead. Many a geek kid, myself included, planted seeds for their future careers this way.
Yes, because why would you go to the party for that? I have spent plenty of time in thne 90s skipping the super boring parties.
Sparc, MIPS, and Alpha were still alive. Assembly was a thing.
Mobile telephones for mortals were a marvel and technological breakthrough that could let you communicate everywhere.
3D graphics could run in software, and Abrash' Black Book was a black book, and even more, wizards had managed to capture things in hardware for the PC with some sort of voodoo.
Now we have 1.5 dominant boring architecture where performance is bumped by "Meh, just double the cores and crank it to 11" and no one cares because everything is ecmascript anyway, mobile telephones, or "telephones", are devices that mildly entertain you as you wait for death, and graphics are a matter of dumping the right shaders through the right libraries.
The future just looked a little more interesting. The 90s for me is where the great tragedy of simplification began.
The present is still pretty okay though, I just would have liked it a little "rougher" computing wise :)
> Meh, just double the cores and crank it to 11
Custom hardware is coming again. It's coming because we've hit walls on sequential compute. Multi-core parallel and concurrent models are building nicely, but software lags behind, and those problems are hard.
Some problems do not benefit from either of those things too.
Enter custom silicon.
The combination of software and well realized custom silicon to enhance performance, and that's peak performance.
A 250Mhz R5K O2 could map live video onto a changing surface in real time. Among lots of other spiffy, hardware enhanced things.
I miss the trajectory. Many things were exciting in the '90s, but many things didn't turn out so well.
This is pretty much the same way I feel. I'm not sure exactly when things changed, but there is definitely a sense that we went off the rails somewhere along the way. Some time ago there was excitement, optimism, and a sense of boundless opportunity, associated with the Internet and tech in general. Now... well... there's still some of that, but a lot of it has been replaced by negativity, fear, pessimism, doubt, and suchlike. The overall zeitgeist is definitely less pleasant these days, IMO.
However I am sure it wasn't 9/11 that did it, because I wasn't really on the internet then, and HN didn't exist.
I can't speak for other countries, but both of these events were like a one-two punch to the gut socially, politically, and economically here in America, and we're still reeling.
In regards to tech and the Internet in particular, I think the Snowden revelations and the PRISM stuff was a key moment, in terms of changing the perception of the Internet. After broad public awareness of ubiquitous online surveillance became a thing, the Internet lost some of it luster and became more threatening and less welcoming.
More recently, the Cambridge Analytica stuff, along with all the major data breaches over the past few years, probably contributed to that sensation as well.
no spying, popups, animations, autoplaying videos, clickbait thumbnails... just a simple website with information
now I have to use three addons just to get back this clean look
The purpose of social media isn't to provide "information," but to facilitate communication between people. Making jokes or discussing trivial matters which don't interest you personally, or not doing so in a way that maximizes information density, does not make it garbage.
It is psychic damage entirely driven by the id.
It replaces expert advice and ombudsmen with popularity contests and groupthink.
It is a neverending reinforcement loop of your filter bubble.
It mainstreams every fringe movement - because social media uses attention as a key metric, it rewards controversy, outrage, and conspiracy.
It's a 24/7, infinite scale, effectively anonymous and entirely asymmetrical amalgam of the Stanford Prison Experiment, Kitty Genovese, Jonestown, Alfred Dreyfus, Jack Chick, Charles Mackay, the Hillsborough crush, 2 minute hate, the banality of evil, "a lie flies around the world before truth gets its boots on", cargo cults, suicide bombers, the Inquisition, Leon Festinger, "It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so", and 1000 other human failings.
Dial-up Unix shell/internet access was free through the university. I picked up an original 128k Mac and Mac Plus with 40 MB SCSI HD at a local thrift shop for $40, both of which I still own.
A CD cost $25, a pack of cigarettes was $5, and pitchers of beer were $8.
Ten short years later I would be walking around with an always-connected Blackberry in my pocket wondering how I ever survived without Google Maps, push email, and IM.
I wonder how many hours are required in 2019?
Outside of tech? Life was not simple. These days I can arrange more or less anything with a few taps on the supercomputer I carry around in my pocket, with an internet connection that would have put anything but a large institution to shame in the 90s.
Want to listen to some obscure 70s album? In the 90s that’s weeks of scouring record stores.
Order some food? First I have to rummage around for the menu, then call them up and place the order, and finally hope they can find your place because if not your food’s arriving cold after they get back to the restaurant and call you for directions.
Watch a recently released film? You’ll have to drive into town and hope the video store has it in stock.
Go to a wedding in a town you don’t know? Lots of planning, and hope you don’t get lost along the way. I sometimes joke that I couldn’t make it to the end of my road without GPS now.
Actually this hasn't changed, you can still work the exact same way with a LAMP stack. The perceptions have changed, for some reason needless complexity has become the norm.
While there was still an effort in the first half of the 2000s to continue refining the desktop user experience (e.g., Aqua, GNOME 2 [which is personally my favorite Linux desktop], KDE 3), once mobile computing and Web 2.0 technology took off a little over a decade ago, I feel that emphasis has shifted away from refining the desktop experience. Moreover, there has been an emphasis on trying to make the desktop computer experience more mobile-like, leading to products such as Windows 8 and GNOME 3 that, in my opinion, are worse than their predecessors. Even Windows 10 still has mobile-like influences such as its penchant for large title bars and ribbons that take up a lot of vertical space (ever since Windows XP's Luna theme, Microsoft has had an obsession with using a lot of vertical space for bars). In my opinion, Mac OS X peaked in the Snow Leopard era, and while I still prefer Mac OS X to Windows 10, I feel that certain parts of the Mac experience have downgraded over the past decade (some pain points include the transition from iPhoto to Photos.app as well as the differences in font rendering in macOS Mojave that affect users who don't have 4K or higher resolution displays). I'm also very concerned about the implications of Marzipan on future versions of Mac OS X, but I guess we'll find out very soon when WWDC 2019 takes place.
I would like to see more investments being made in desktop computing. Despite some pundits prematurely proclaiming that desktop computing is dying, the fact is many people rely on desktops and laptops to do their work, and tablets and smartphones cannot replace all tasks that we use our desktops for. I still believe that the personal computing revolution is far from over; there is still a lot of room for improvement, refinement, and innovation.
Too much these days feels like people just leave a message prompt and expect you to return contact and fill in all of their blanks.
E.g. my telephone messages will specify who I am, why I’m calling, what I’m looking for, when to contact me and my phone number (always twice!).
Dunno if others were any better in the past, or if I’m bitter about forums that cater to less advanced users that chronically leave out critical details.
* people not being able to contact me 24/7
* not knowing what is going on in the world all the time (this i miss the most)
* things being local
* way less crap people used to own
You can still have that! I have it. Literally cannot remember the last time I answered the phone :)
I live in a small town with a surprising amount of 24 hour service. I'm not obligated to run off to the store every night at 2am just because I can, but I sure as hell appreciate being able to do so when I need to or want to.
There are upsides to our current ability to connect. Acting like "simply not having that problem is better" amounts to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
I feel pity for people entering development now. The industry must seem like this colossal, endlessly complex, ever-changing mess filled with experts who know 1000x more than you ever will. There's an overwhelming amount of information, and there's so many partially overlapping disciplines that it's easy to feel lost.
Here's the lyrics:
Remember the good old 1980's
When things were so uncomplicated
I wish I could go back there again
And everything could be the same
And I definitely enjoyed the simplicity of your typical video game back then too. No DLC, no pay to win, no microtransactions, no lootboxes, you just bought a game, and everything on the disc/cart was yours to play. Yeah game design wasn't quite as polished back then, but there were plenty of great games to enjoy none the less, and when they were good, they just worked.
Additionally, I guess the world felt simpler in its optimism too. The Soviet Union had just fell, the internet was new and exciting and the War on Terror hadn't started. Everyone felt like things were getting better, and in Western countries, people's rights were arguably at their most respected. It wasn't perfect by any means, and some rights still needed to be fought for, but it felt peaceful.
Still, I don't miss all of it. Today's tech is better. Science has obviously advanced and moved on. Many sporting achievements happened between the 90s and today. Thousands or even millions of great works of fiction got released, and many things considered impossible happened too.
So it depends really.
It’ll be the same experience, every time, and it’ll never break.
And I was a teenager in the 90s, peak nostalgia, but the answer is still no.
The 90s weren't that simpler, we just had different problems. In fact, I have a bit of trouble finding things that really were simpler from a personal perspective.
The one thing I can think of is security. We didn't have security checks everywhere, kids could do plenty of "dangerous" things, we didn't see pedophiles everywhere etc... And I kind of miss it. But it may just be the result of living in a safer society: human lives are becoming incredibly valuable, resulting in over-protection.
Other than that, think about how simpler internet made things. Want to buy something unusual: buy it online with a few clicks. Access to knowledge is almost limitless. I don't miss going to the bookstore at the other side of the town, noticing that the book I wanted isn't available, take an order, and come back 2 weeks later to pick it up. All these forgotten details were really annoying thinking back.
Another example: cars. Cars used to be mechanically simpler, which was great for the DIY types. But modern cars are so much more reliable. Smoking cars on the curb were a much more common sight back them. So maybe cars were simpler to repair, but not having to repair make life much simpler.
Now about computers. Sure computers were simpler under the hood. Understanding a CPU and assembly was comparatively easy back then. But nowadays, we have abstraction layers that make computers more accessible at every level. We just shifted a few layers up. Truth is, even oldschool computers hid a lot of complexity regarding the electronics inside it that we, as kids, didn't realize and older people did.
The manufacturers have sure done what they can to eliminate any empty spaces though.
Used to be, to get people to read your writing, you had to go through either the effort of printing and distribution, or you had to submit to some editorial selection and review. Then the only channel people had to consume it was to get a physical print of it.
Now anyone can write anything and anyone can read it. The channels of culture have exploded to infinity. This has caused culture to be fractured.
Used to be that most people watched what was on tv, read what's in the paper, and listened to what's in the radio. This formed a foundation of shared cultural experience. It's more varied and accessible compared to centuries of only oral tradition and limited printing, but compared to today, pretty much everyone experienced the same culture.
Today it feels like culture has fractured. Even members of the same household might not watch, read, or listen to the same things. The physical proximity no longer guarantees any shared culture.
Now if you want to enjoy culture in a group, you must either find it online, or you must be a cultural advocate for whatever your views or media are and build a community around you.
Game of Thrones has been one of the most popular TV shows at all time, yet almost no one has found it just by flicking through the TV in that time slot. Game of Thrones was advocated for by superfans.
Although there are certainly advantages to access any type of culture we want, it's definitely more complex. I can't just talk to someone about sports, the show last night, or the new hit song. Because even though I might live or work with someone, first I have to figure our the cultural choice they've been making.
I agree that the centralization of culture allowed the people in power to suppress diversity and control the cultural narrative. But now there is no longer a cultural narrative at all. It is too fractures to make any holistic sense.
Not that either category were bad people, but they thought and acted differently, and I'd say that diversity turned out to be more important than I realized at the time.
What I'm saying is that there's an emergent complexity from bolting together a ton of things together in ways that work "well enough." Things that are working well out of the scope in which they were originally engineered... or things that just carry a ton of baggage with them. This creates complexity.
1. Today we have google in the 90s we had mailing lists . It is much easier to use google than it is to construct a well thought out question.
2. At the start of the 90s we had very little access to mobile phones. We had no uber. Imagine landing at an airport and having to use a pay phone- or calling collect. This is much more complex and difficult then what you can do today with a smart phone.
3. Say you wanted to build a website. There was no simple answer or Ruby on Rails to make give you a right way to approach it. You had to figure it out without google. For reference lookup corba. Software engineering was definitely not simpler
Now we have many bad thing such as: the mess being made of WWW (they try to put everything in there, even though many things are better without), complicated computer design with anti-features and other stupid stuff, blu-ray movies, DMCA, USB, etc. Much of that stuff they did not have so much in the nineties.
Of course, we do have good stuff now too, not only the bad stuff. Many improvements are made, but stuff is also made worse stuff too.
Some things were much better then than today, for example:
* Children and adolescents had freedom that seems to have been lost today. However, I think that a young person's virtual self extends far out into the aether compared to Gen X.
* The lack of cynicism today concerns me. There are so many very.bad.things happening in the world that I find blind optimism offensive. I just read that 40% of the world's species have gone extinct in 40 years. It doesn't matter if that's precisely true - what matters is that the order of magnitude is likely accurate, and that humans only have about one more generation before Earth's wildlife can only be seen in museums.
* Politics was better. Everything since 9/11 has been a blind alley on the fractal of possibilities. Young people maybe aren't aware that the world wasn't always this... dystopic.
* One thing was worse - weed was illegal everywhere except like, Amsterdam.
* Video games were better. But the quality was partially due to suspension of disbelief and using one's imagination.
* Grunge/alternative was a revelation that can't be expressed in words or replicated. But, around 2013 I noticed a similar cultural revolution, the rise/return of the Burning Man sentiment and a reconnection with creation via psychedelic drugs which seems to be changing the world like a mix between 60s hedonism and cyperpunk. YOLO might be the only thing Gen X truly envies about today hahah.
* Basement parties, raves, skate and punk culture, underground internet geekdom. Vans. Airwalks. Corduroy jeans. All better, but somewhat make-believe.
* Web metaphors were better (declarative and data-driven programming, UNIX theology). Programming languages like C++ and platforms like Windows set us back at least 10, maybe 20 years. But they were FUN.
I knew a guy from my parents' generation when I was growing up who wore Hawaiian shirts everywhere and would never leave the year 1985. Now I am him, forever trapped between the years 1992-1999 like a character in The Matrix. So while I could go on forever, I'll stop here.
Edit: somehow I left out music. Listen to Green Day or Stone Temple Pilots or Alice in Chains chronologically and you might if you're lucky get the slightest glimpse into what it was like to watch Beavis and Butthead in your friend's trailer home before going out to ride BMX in the gravel pits and then coming home and playing Nintendo until 4 in the morning, staying up all night and then going to a party the next night and getting a ride home with random girls like on Dazed and Confused. I assume all that is even better today (what with your Uber and Tinder), but the shear bleakness and transcendental euphoria that the future was arriving before your eyes and nobody older than 30 knows it yet has perhaps diminished.
Interesting. I’m 6 years your junior and quite vividly remember the optimism of the 90’s but I find myself equally...erm...annoyed with the volume of cynicism now and kind of wish for a more optimistic vox politic.
And that statement alone comes with all sorts of caveats and qualifiers that would end up with this post being several volumes long just to point out “I recognize the challenges of both eras; today and yesterday but I’m sticking by the argument as delivered because reasons”.
In fact I had a quite literal shower though this afternoon after a jog through my neighborhood “I wonder if it’s possible to plot out the empowerment/cynicism index across generations and what that system of measurement would look like”
It’s fun to ponder.
Until it isn’t.
That’s not a value judgement. That just an opinionated observation.
As a teenager in the late 80’s, you knew where your friends were on the weekends, but we didn’t have cell phones. You could find a party in a remote part of the county, but no one had a GPS.
Computing was also fun, in the days of BBS and pre-WWW Internet.
Popular music was IMHO objectively better even in a pure composition sense and was much more interesting.
I also miss 90s cyberculture. There was a more genuine ethos of inventing and exploring and people would never have tolerated today's lockdown and surveillance stuff. I'm amazed at how the mobile revolution boiled that frog.
I don't think that's legal, my guy.
- Amazing browser debugging tools
- Source Maps
- VSCode w/ Liveshare
- Mostly standardized CSS
- Automated build tools
These are solutions to problems we had in the past.
I was alive back then, and I've always been under the impression that the nineties were extremely fast paced and increasingly complicated.
It took a lot more work to get a decent user experience.
Low tens of MHz and low memory required careful and thoughtful design to make optimal use of the available resources and provide an interface with minimal latency. Today, it's wasted with gleeful abandon.
After we cut our own throat as a species, Mother Nature will deal herself a new hand and continue her game of solitaire without us.
I'm more concerned about the short term - i.e. what will happen to us and our children and future generations.
Acid rain, hole in the ozone layer, Chernobyl radiation legacy, global deforestation, overfishing, air pollution; we had plenty of environmental worries in the 90s
Before about, 1996-- (I'm estimating)-- before network connectivity was the norm-- I understood how every processor in every system I dealt with worked. Two things happened in the mid to late 90s.
First-- an explosion of silicon. The days of understanding how the system worked, in its entirety, were over. I had a copy of "80386 systems designers guide", and I can't remember the name- but the Michael Abrash's guide to VGA video cards and a PC Interrupts were all that were needed to master computer architecture. If you were super fancy you understood the Pentium math extensions (whose names I cannot recall), that let you do a crossbar in a few cycles, and you understood how common chips like the 16550 worked, which is an addendum to PC Interrupts if I recall.
Second, and this is the key thing, technology started working AGAINST us. As complexity exploded, so did network connectivity. We had this era in which Operating Systems complexity exploded (win95), silicon complexity exploded, and connectivity exploded. The thing about connectivity is this-- that's when our computers went from isolated things to these things that are always online-- they started working against us. They could now talk to other computers, other people, and that changed computing fundamentally.
Computers went from these things that were our helpmates to our masters. This is what I lament the most. I don't miss bit-banging, assembly programming (well, a little). I fudging love Ruby/Python, as opposed to C++ being considered "High Level." I love that I can buy a computer for 35$ (RPI) that is fantastic. RPi's are so cheap I employ half a dozen just to run my 3d printers (yes I have a problem). But I do so much not miss being scared of my computer. Miss being scared of the ne5work. I miss the sense of wonder at what a computer could be or do. You have to understand technology as it exists now, is beyond my wildest dreams. I watched Star Trek TNG as a child and the devices we have now, legitimately have exceeded my wildest dreams. The simplest cell phone now has as much computational power as every computer combined at the time I graduated high school.
But, I do miss simplicity. So much so, I've been considering writing an NES or Sega game; I'm precisely 40 years old, and I've finally come to understand that art and constraints are intimately connected. That they press on each other, and neither is possible without each other.
I have so few restraints on modern systems that I... am constrained. I miss the constraints of my earlier years that were, in fact, my freedom. I miss software that shipped and worked on the first day. I, like everyone, miss my childhood. Because the universe is an explosion of complexity-- and when we look back, we will always feel like things were simpler-- because they god damned actually were.
Phones are another story.
All other aspects of "90s simplicity" sucked.
Table based web layouts? Without the "complication" of CSS? I sure miss that. Calling the family landline and hoping her "complicated" father doesn't answer the phone? Fuck yeah, I miss that. Having to play cool with the artsy-fartsy kids to get the CD with the new fonts? Sure, I miss that as well. The simplicity of "obtaining" Emacs for the Mac in the 90s! Hell yes! I miss that simplicity. And last but not least, pixel pr0n, animated GIFs. Yeah, I miss the simplicity of the 90s. Fuck Micro$oft, remember that one? Oh do I miss that. And the "web crawlers" don't forget thet simplicity to submit your site to more than 100 search engines!
The AOL CD, simply flip it away! Enviromentalism was still a European thing, or so, thought the European Gen X. Kurt Cobain didn't comit suicide and fuck Atari.
Short answer: "No."