“I see no changes, all I see is racist faces / Misplaced hate makes disgrace to races / We under, I wonder what it takes to make this / One better place, let’s erase the wasted / Take the evil out the people, they’ll be acting right”–Tupac Shakur, Changes
Every decade sees a lot of change, no matter the country, no matter the cause. The 1990s are no exception to this—it saw a lot of political change worldwide, changes in the music scene and, as the decade came to an end, a major change in the way we use computing systems. Keep reading to see how much you remember from this totally transformative period.
48. Impeaching a President
US President Bill Clinton would become the second President in US history to be impeached by the House of Representatives, after the tale of his affair with former White House intern Monika Lewinsky and allegations of sexual harassment by Paula Jones came to light. The House of Representatives spent 14 hours debating the impeachment, and decided to charge him with lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice. However, on February 5, 1999, Clinton was acquitted by the Senate of both charges.
47. Manuel Noriega’s Surrender
Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega surrendered to US forces very early in 1990, after the Americans had blasted heavy metal music outside his hideout for days. Noriega faced federal charges of drug trafficking and money laundering. He would go on to serve jail time in the US, Panama and France, and he died in 2017.
46. He Cracked Them Up
Long before Toronto had Mayor Rob Ford, Washington had Mayor Marion Barry. He was caught allegedly smoking a crack pipe in a hotel room by FBI surveillance on January 18, 1990. Barry served six months in prison for possession, and reclaimed his mayoral seat in 1995.
45. John Gotti, Mob Boss
John Gotti, the notorious leader of the Gambino crime family, was arrested and sentenced to life in prison for charges and convictions of murder and racketeering, among others. Gotti had become the leader after ordering the killing of the previous head, Paul Castellano.
44. Mandela’s Redemption
Nelson Mandela was released from custody on February 11, 1990, after spending 27 years in prison. Mandela would go on to become President of South Africa, and help his country out of the long-running racial segregation that apartheid had brought.
43. Goodbye, Soviet Union
The Soviet Union would dissolve and communism would end when many Eastern European countries severed ties with Moscow early on in the decade. Some 500,000 protestors descended on Manezh Square in Moscow on March 19, 1991 demanding Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and his Communist Party resign. By December, the Soviet Union would no longer exist.
42. Farewell, KGB
The KGB, the world’s largest police and spy agency of the time, was dissolved in 1991 following an unsuccessful coup by chief officer Vladimir Kryuchkov.
41. Bombs Over Baghdad
Lasting 42 days, the Gulf War brought American troops and their Allies into Kuwait after Saddam Hussein decided to invade. US President George H.W. Bush ordered a ceasefire and coalition attacks would end on February 28, 1991. News organizations like CNN brought 24-hour coverage from the Middle East. Despite the Gulf War ending, internal conflict continued in Iraq for more than two decades.
40. Oslo Accords
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres jointly earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for their roles in the Oslo Accords. The Accords sought to secure peace between the Israeli Government and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
39. Dr. Death
Dr. Jack Kevorkian, famously known for aiding in assisted suicides, came to trial in 1999 and was found guilty of murder for his role in helping a Lou Gehrig’s patient end their life. Over the decade, Kevorkian had assisted in numerous assisted suicides for terminally ill patients, and faced multiple murder charges as a result.
38. Jeffery Dahmer
Jeffery Dahmer was arrested and convicted in 1991 of the murders of 17 men and boys when one of his would-be victims managed to escape and get help. Though sentenced to 15 consecutive life sentences, he was beaten by a fellow inmate in jail in 1994 and succumbed to his injuries.
37. Lorena Bobbitt
Lorena Bobbitt was found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity in early 1994, when she was put on trial for cutting off her husband’s penis while he slept and tossing it into a field. The pair’s divorce would be finalized the following year.
36. JonBenét Ramsey
The mystery of JonBenét Ramsey shocked the nation Christmas Day, 1996. The six-year-old was first reported missing, and later found dead in her home in Colorado, with her parents as the main suspects. They would be exonerated by DNA evidence, and the young girl’s murder has never been solved.
35. O.J. Simpson
Who can forget the day that O.J. Simpson’s white Bronco was chased by police down a California highway, televised for all to see, after he became a suspect for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman? Simpson would be acquitted of the murders in 1995, with one of the pivotal moments in the trial being when the prosecution had pushed for Simpson to try on the gloves they believed he wore the night of the murders.
34. Rodney King
Four Los Angeles police officers stood trial in 1991 for the beating death of a black man, Rodney King. Despite footage showing the officers beating King more than 50 times with their batons, they would be acquitted of the charges. Their acquittal sparked massive rioting and protests, as racial tension in the city had already been very high.
33. Kurt Cobain
The entire decade brought a wave of different music genres. One of those styles in particular, grunge, could arguably have been pioneered, if not perfected, by Nirvana. Sadly, lead singer Kurt Cobain joined the “27 Club” when he committed suicide on April 5, 1994. Despite his band’s success, his depression and heroin addiction would ultimately be his undoing.
32. Tupac and Biggie
Rapper Tupac Shakur was shot dead on September 13, 1996, following a Mike Tyson boxing match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Chris Carroll, the first Las Vegas police officer to arrive on the scene, heard Shakur’s last words, “f*** you.” Just six months later, fellow rapper Christopher Wallace, a.k.a The Notorious B.I.G., was also shot and killed in Los Angeles. To this day, neither murder has been solved.
31. Pop, Pop, Pop Music
Towards the end of the decade, teen pop music came into the picture, with the likes of Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, *NSYNC, Destiny’s Child and Jennifer Lopez, among others. When the Spice Girls made it big in the North American market, they became the most commercially successful British group since The Beatles.
30. …and Scene
Hit TV show Seinfeld ended its nine-year run in 1998, with roughly 76 million US viewers tuning in to watch the finale episode on May 14. Cheers had also come to an end five years previous, after 11 seasons. The show’s finale garnered more than 84 million viewers total, making it the second-most watched finale of all time, after M*A*S*H.
29. End of an Era
The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson also came to an end on May 22, 1992 after nearly 30 years. He wished fans a “very heartfelt good night” while holding back tears during his final send-off.
28. Their Hearts Will Go On
Titanic shattered box office records in 1997, earning more than one billion dollars in gross revenue. It would be the first film to do so, and still remains as one of the highest-grossing films of all time.
27. Back to the Beginning
Steve Jobs returned to Apple, the company he had founded in the ‘80s, in 1997. As CEO, he breathed new life into the now tech-giant, with the innovation of new products. Also that year, the Apple Store was announced, as was a partnership with Microsoft. Soon after his return, Jobs announced the new iMac computer, which sold roughly one million units.
26. Generation: Gamer
1991 gave birth to the best-selling gaming console Super Nintendo Entertainment System. With iconic characters like Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong and Zelda, the SNES sold more than 49 million systems worldwide.
25. Tickle Me Elmo
Did you or anyone you know own Tickle Me Elmo? Chances are, the answer is yes. 1996 brought the stuffed red character from Sesame Street to stores, selling for about $30. Some store employees were injured because of stampeding shoppers, and other shoppers who couldn’t get their hands on one in store went to secondary markets and shelled out thousands.
24. Stabbed in the Back
Monica Seles, while taking a water break on the tennis court in 1993, was stabbed in the back by a spectator who was obsessed with fellow tennis star Steffi Graf. Seles, the world’s top-ranked tennis player at the time, would make a full recovery, and would eventually return to the tennis world after more than two years away. Her attacker was sentenced to two years of probation and psychological treatment.
23. Attack of a Skater
Similarly, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked prior to the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics. The attacker was linked to the ex-husband of Kerrigan’s rival, Tonya Harding. Kerrigan would go on to win the silver medal during the Olympics, while Harding would end up being banned from the sport.
22. He’ll Bite Your Ear Off, Kid
Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson squared off in a rematch bout on June 28, 1997. Holyfield had knocked Tyson out in the eleventh round of their first match, but this one wouldn’t get that far. Tyson lost his temper after Holyfield gashed Tyson’s head with a head butt, and Tyson didn’t take it lightly. In fact, he bit Holyfield’s ear to the point where a chunk of cartilage came off. Tyson would be disqualified from the fight, and lost his boxing license.
21. Basketball Magic
32-year-old Earvin “Magic” Johnson stunned fans and the entire sporting world alike when he announced his retirement from basketball following a positive test for HIV. The announcement came during the prime of his career in 1991, but he would play in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He had a short-lived baseball career with the Chicago White Sox before returning to the NBA in 1995.
20. The Dream Team
Many consider the 1992 US men’s Olympic basketball team to be the greatest ever put together. The “Dream Team” consisted of Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley and many others. They would win gold that year in Barcelona, defeating Croatia decisively 117-85 in the final match.
19. Tiger Woods, Y’all
A fresh-faced Tiger Woods became the youngest golfer to ever win the Masters. The 21-year-old posted a record-low of 18-under par over four days in April 1997.
18. Breaking Records
In 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were in an arms race of sorts, both battling to beat Roger Maris’ single-season record of 61 home runs. Though McGwire reached it first, he later admitted to using performance-enhancing steroids during this time. Just three seasons later, though, Barry Bonds broke McGwire’s record.
17. The Great One Retires
Wayne Gretzky retired from playing hockey following the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 18, 1999. After 20 seasons in the National Hockey League, he had racked up 2,857 points, nearly a thousand more than his closest rival. His number 99 would also be retired, not only just by his Los Angeles Kings, but league-wide, the only time in NHL history this has happened.
16. No Fairy-Tale Endings
It was the end of a fairy-tale royal romance when Prince Charles and Princess Diana announced their split in December 1992. Their divorce wouldn’t be finalized until 1996. Just a year later on August 31, Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris along with her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and their driver, Henri Paul. Roughly 2.5 billion people watched her funeral.
15. Mother Teresa
Less than a week after Princess Diana’s death, Mother Teresa passed away September 5, 1997 at 87 years old. She had dedicated her life to helping the poor and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. In 2016, Pope Francis declared Mother Teresa a saint.
14. Volcanic Eruption
847 people were killed in June 1991, when Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted after six centuries of dormancy. Hot ash spewed 28 miles in the air, marking it as the most destructive volcanic eruption in 100 years, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
13. Earth-Shattering Kaboom
The costliest earthquake in US history struck on January 17, 1994 in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. The magnitude 6.7 quake caused more than $20 billion worth of damage and more than 57 deaths.
12. Famine in Sudan
Sudan’s famine came to the forefront when images of starving children were shown around the world. The photographer of one photo in particular showing a vulture watching a small child won the Pulitzer Prize for the photo, but he would commit suicide just months after receiving it. An estimated 70,000 people died during the famine.
11. The First Attack
February 26, 1993 saw the first time the World Trade Center buildings were attacked. A massive bomb inside a truck parked in the Center’s parking deck exploded just after noon that day, killing six people and injuring more than 1,000 others. Because of the damage and loss of power that followed, many radio and TV stations in New York City lost their broadcast signals for almost a week. As for the two men accused of carrying out the attack, one was acquitted of his charges by a Jordanian court, and the other has never been caught and remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list.
10. The Oklahoma City Bombing
Another incident of home-grown terrorism occurred in Oklahoma City on April 15, 1995. A fertilizer bomb packed into a rental truck exploded outside Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people and injuring over 500 others. 324 other buildings in the vicinity were damaged or destroyed because of the blast. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were both convicted of perpetrating the attack, and McVeigh was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001. Nichols is serving 161 consecutive life terms.
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold woke up on April 20, 1999, went to school, and killed 12 fellow students, one teacher and themselves. Columbine High School would be home to one of the deadliest school shootings in US history. Investigators believe bullying, the pair’s mental health and their interest in video games like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, and Duke Nukem played a part in the shooting.
8. The Unabomber
On April 3, 1996, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski was caught by investigators following a tip from his own brother after The Washington Post and The New York Times published the 35,000 word manifesto Kaczynski had written. Kaczynski was accused of carrying out multiple bombings since 1978, which killed three and injured 24 others. He is currently serving eight life sentences without the possibility of parole.
7. Black Hawk Down
18 American soldiers were killed during a failed raid on Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. Two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down when the Americans were attempting to capture a notorious Somali warlord, and hundreds of Somali citizens were also killed during the failed operation.
The Bosnian conflict caused years of fighting in Sarajevo, which left more than 11,000 people dead in the city, and an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 dead across Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole.
5. Genocide in Rwanda
In just 100 days, roughly 800,000 people of the Tutsi tribe were killed during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Hutu extremists carried out the mass slaughter, the effects of which were felt in the country for years to come.
4. Birth of the European Union
A unified Europe came together in 1993 with the creation of the European Union. The Maastricht Treaty granted all citizens within the Union’s member countries EU citizenship. The Union is now home to 28 different countries, way up from the original six it started with.
3. Seeking Out New Land
NASA’s Pathfinder spacecraft landed on Mars on July 4, 1997. No signs of life were found, but the craft discovered that the red planet was once warm and wet, and delivered information on the soil, rocks and atmosphere.
2. Hello, Dolly
Scientists from Scotland’s Roslin Institute announced in December 1997 that they had successfully cloned a sheep. With Dolly the sheep, the scientists proved possible that you could indeed use an animal’s specialized cells to create a genetic replica. Dolly lived until February 14, 2003, when she had to be euthanized because of a progressive lung disease and severe arthritis.
Strictly speaking, Y2K wasn’t a story from the 90s, but the lead-up to the potential disaster was. The Millennium Bug was a computer and software-based problem, as the creators of complex computer programs from the 1960s hadn’t seen a need to add in the ‘19’ digits before the rest of the year. Because the year 2000 didn’t follow this same format, many feared that a major glitch in the system would arise. These people thought that programs would revert to 1900 instead of going forward to 2000.
Australia, in particular, spent millions of dollars preparing for the potential disaster, even recalling almost all of their embassy staff from Russia. They had feared communications and transportation networks would all stop working.
Thankfully, though, nothing happened. As you know, since you’re reading this!