Things That Would Shock a Time Traveler Coming From the 1990s

When they have the time to get used to new things gradually, people don’t feel the shock of the quick evolution of technology that hard. They still do – those born in the late 1970s and early 1980s have seen computers flood the world around them and phones become from wired devices with mechanical ringers become supercomputers that people can carry around in their pockets. Yes, the generation often referred to as the “Xennials” have lived through the emergence of personal computers and the internet, and they have managed to adapt to the new, connected reality. But let us imagine a time traveler curious to see the future, visiting 2018 from, say, 1985. What would be the things that would shock him the most? Let’s try to find out.


Legendary comedian and social critic George Carlin has repeatedly bashed those who “soften” the English language through their extended reliance on euphemisms. Some of his examples would be a true shock to a time traveler coming from the 1980s to our time: toilet paper has become “bathroom tissue”, motels have become “motor lodges”, and the list could go on forever.

But the real shocker would be not the use of longer, softer terms to describe common things but the “portmanteaus” increasingly used everywhere. Terms like the cronut, fitcation, smizing, and such have invaded our language – a time traveler from the 1980s probably wouldn’t understand at least half of the words we say.


“Wargames” was a “Cold War science fiction” movie upon its release in 1983. In it, a high school student slash hacker accidentally breaks into the computer systems of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, and – thinking he was playing a game – almost starts World War III. Back then, the internet, hacking, and such were nothing but science-fiction. Today, in turn, they are a reality in our everyday lives.

The things hackers have done in the last decades would be a real shocker for a time traveler coming from the 1980s. Consider this: today, we have internet-capable devices in our pockets, constantly connected to a vast, worldwide digital network. We have pretty much any information at our fingertips (literally) and carry supercomputers around everywhere we go. This quick evolution of the internet and the spread of the connected lifestyle, in general, would make our time traveler freeze in disbelief.


The one things that probably wouldn’t be a major shock for our time traveler coming from the 1980s would be today’s fashion – considering how many trends of the time have been recently revived. Oversized blazers with shoulder pads, patchwork and ripped jeans, velvet dresses, cropped jeans, fanny packs, lace, and many other trending items and accessories have returned to the focus today. And denim jackets that were all the rage at the time never even went out of style.