16 Fond Memories of School in the '80s We Wish Our Kids Could Understand (PHOTOS)

Judy Dutton | Jun 24, 2015 Being a Mom
16 Fond Memories of School in the '80s We Wish Our Kids Could Understand (PHOTOS)

pacman lunchbox

If you've got kids in school today, you've probably noticed that things have evolved -- a lot -- since you've wandered those locker-lined halls. In fact, many of our most cherished staples of education in the 1980s have all but faded into extinction.

For an eye-opening look at how much school has changed since you were a kid, check out these '80s school staples that your own kids would barely recognize today. For you, though, they will bring back a warm rush of memories -- ahh, those were the days!

#8 was a lifesaver, wasn't it?


Image via WishItWas1984/Flickr

  • Trapper Keepers


    Image via Jeremy Reding/Flickr

    In the pre-iPad era, there were Trapper Keepers -- a place where kids could stash their papers, notebooks, calculators, rulers, and anything else they might need during their school day, all securely kept shut with a Velcro tab. Plus the designs on the covers -- horses? Waterfalls? KISS? -- were our pride and joy.

  • Manual Pencil Sharpeners


    Image via Barry Blackburn/shutterstock

    Yes, there was a time when kids not only used pencils, but had to sharpen them! All by themselves! And there was something oddly satisfying about cranking the handle and pulling out a pointy new writing utensil that would last, oh, about seven minutes before you'd have to make another trip to this nifty time-wasting device.

  • Passing Notes


    Image via Tyler Olson/shutterstock

    These days, kids can just text each other -- but where's the artistry in that? The act of writing on a sheet of paper, folding it up, and sneaking it across a room below the teacher's radar was just good clean fun. Our kids are missing out.

  • Metal Lunchboxes


    Image via WishItWas1984/Flickr

    Whatever happened to metal lunchboxes? We miss their rattly lids, their tiny Thermoses, those '80s icons that decked the outside from Peanuts to Pac-Man to Strawberry Shortcake. Today, just about the only place you can get them is eBay, and that's largely for vintage collectors who cherish these throwbacks even more than we do.

    More from The Stir: Vintage Lunch Box QUIZ: What Year Did School Kids Carry THESE?

  • Paper Bag Book Covers


    Image via Eco_Monster/Flickr

    Back in the '80s, the start of school was synonymous with wrapping your books in grocery bags to keep them in decent condition ... then doodling up a storm on them. Now kids buy those stretchy reusable overs -- so much less fun. Sigh.

  • Handwritten Reports


    Image via Dragon Images/shutterstock

    Yup, the '80s were a time before computers or even word processors were ubiquitous. And that meant kids actually handwrote their reports -- double-spaced, no less. We'd bet teachers would all but recoil at the prospect of deciphering kids' chicken scratch today, particularly because kids are rarely taught another important skill (see our next slide)...

  • Cursive Writing


    Image via Baksiabat/shutterstock

    Cursive writing is a fast-dying skill in schools -- which is a shame, since every kid had their own signature writing style. Some (usually the girls) wrote in a bubbly script with hearts over the i's; others wrote in more slanty, angular loops. Today, all kids can do is mess around with different fonts, and maybe an emoticon or two.

  • White-out


    Image via Ieva Geneviciene/shutterstock

    White-out was the "delete" button of the '80s. Our reports and papers would have been a complete mess without it.

    More from The Stir: 15 Things Every '80s Kid Grew Up With, But Our Kids Can't Identify

  • Card Catalogs


    Image via Andrey_Kuzmin/shutterstock


    Remember those days when you had to head to the library, open those tiny drawers, and flip through the card catalog? Finding the right book required some decent sleuthing back then. Today's kids just pull up old Wikipedia, and they're good to go (or think so anyway).

  • Microfilm and Microfiche


    Image via Vladimir Mucibabic/shutterstock

    Just think: Each roll of film (or fiche) contained a year's worth of New York Times -- all in microscopically fine print you could blow up on a huge, glowing screen. This was library space-saving magic at its best. 

  • Chalkboards


    Image via Anna-Mari West/shutterstock

    These blank black slates are all but extinct in classrooms today. Which is sad, because they have an old (and we mean really old) school charm ... as long as no one runs their fingernails on it.

  • Overhead Projectors


    Image via chungking/shutterstock

    Remember when the high-tech alternative to chalkboards was overhead projectors? Teachers would use a marker to write on a transparency, and boom, their scribbles would then pop up on screen for all to see. How dated they feel now ... and our kids would have no clue!

    More from The Stir: 27 Normal Things Every '80s Kid Did in School That Would Never Fly Today

  • Dot Matrix Printers


    Image via Steve Rhode/Flickr

    Long before laser jet printers, dot matrix printers were the cutting edge. They worked a lot like typewriters, only they whipped up letters using different arrangments of dots. The resulting printouts had fuzzy-looking letters and hole punches on each side that fed the paper through, but at the time, we were impressed!

  • Mimeographs and Ditto Machines


    Image via Richard Masoner/Flickr

    Mimeograph or ditto machines were the Xerox copiers of their day. Fine, so their replicas were fuzzy, and blue, and left smudges on our fingertips. But that was all part of their old-school charm.

  • Slide Projectors


    Image via THPStock/shutterstock

    In the '80s, if you wanted to take in the grandeur of the Grand Canyon or Renaissance art, slide projectors were your ticket. The classroom went dark, then up on-screen came one glowing photo after another while your teacher's voice droned on with an explanation. Back then, it was the height of multimedia chic … today, they just YouTube it.

  • SRA Books


    Image via ebay

    If you learned to read in the '80s, you can probably thank the SRA Reading Laboratory -- a program that taught kids how to sound out words, tested their comprehension, and got progressively more challenging each step of the way. Today iPads have reading apps galore, but back then, SRA was pretty much the only gig in town teaching an entire generation how to read -- and we are grateful for it.

    More from The Stir: 10 Fun Kid Crafts That Also Build Reading Skills

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