The Y2K Gadgets You Know and Love: Cue Nostalgia This Back-to-School Season

The Y2K Gadgets You Know and Love: Cue Nostalgia This Back-to-School Season

Posted on September 01, 2023 0 Comments

It’s back-to-school season in the U.S.—parents love it, but kids, not so much. With the onset of the season comes the annual back-to-school shopping adventure to secure all your academic needs, from the standard backpack selection to the latest tech gadgets.

It’s always interesting to see the new tech products that will enter the market and take over the classroom. As tablets, smartphones and laptops continue to remain at the forefront of tech needs for students, as a millennial, I’ve become quite nostalgic for Y2K technology (maybe it’s the rise of early 2000s fashion trends). Back when a phone was just a phone, and a computer was so big you needed to find a dedicated space for it in your room; when you brought a digital camera with you to a concert and your portable DVD player was your favorite thing for a long car ride.

In honor of back-to-school season, and to celebrate the glory days of early 2000s tech, we thought it would be nice to take a trip down memory lane and map out the tech trends millennials knew and loved as they roamed their school hallways or pulled an all-nighter studying.

For anyone part of a younger generation, treat this as a history lesson.


An early 2000s movie or TV show would not be complete without an iMac sitting on someone’s desk. Adored for its bright colors and trendy translucent plastic casings, the computer would make everyone feel cool while studying or Googling show times for Harry Potter.

Offered in five distinct colors with a matching keyboard and mouse, the iMac G3 was the first model of the iMac line of personal computers made by Apple. It was released in 1998, followed by the G4 version in 2002 and the G5 in 2004.

Flip Phones and Slide Phones

Ah, the cool factor of flipping open your phone or sliding that keyboard out. Yes, phones used to come with physical keyboards attached. You either had to tap a number multiple times to get the letter you wanted, or you were lucky enough to have had a complete Qwerty keyboard with a slide phone. Whatever the case, you’d have to keep your text messages under a certain character limit.

Along with these logistics, you could customize your phone as you liked. From selecting the perfect ringtone—and even a ring back tone—to bedazzling your phone with charms and gems, millennials knew a thing or two about how to personalize our phones.

Hit Clips

Launched in 1999, Hit Clips rose to popularity in 2000 and offered one tiny step toward the MP3.

Back in the day, options for listening to music on the go were limited as you had to carry around cassettes and CDs. Instead of selecting which CDs you wanted to keep with you for the day, Hit Clips made things very simple: Choose one Hit Clip so you can listen to one minute of your favorite song. Yes, we paid roughly $4 for one minute of one song. Ultimately, millennials liked to show off the number of Hit Clips that clung to our backpacks. With colorful MacBooks and bedazzled cellphones, I guess you could say we weren’t the minimalist type growing up.

You may laugh at the absurdity of this now, but this was an actual thing we did.

Apple iPod and iTunes

The Apple iPod and iTunes entered the market in 2001 and changed how the consumer experienced music. Instead of carrying CDs around with our portable CD player, depending on an Mp3 player that could only hold 100 songs, or paying $4 for one minute of one song, the iPod changed things up and let us have an extensive music library at our fingertips.

A few years later, in 2004, Apple made all the millennial kids even more excited with the introduction of the iPod Mini. Cute, compact and available in multiple colors, the only topic of conversation was what color you were going to get, and which songs would make the cut. Back in 2004, the most popular choices would have most likely been OutKast, Destiny’s Child or Avril Lavigne.

CD Burners

Burnable CDs came out in the late '90s and became truly mainstream in the early 2000s.

Curating the perfect playlist on a burnt CD was a millennial’s love letter to friends and crushes. What better way to say “I adore you as a human being” than spending hours meticulously sifting through your iTunes library and CD collection, and then burning those songs one at a time onto a blank CD? And then you had the pleasure of decorating a CD cover, writing out each song on the track list, and selecting the perfect-colored jewel case to match the vibe of your CD.

Nowadays you can sift through whichever streaming platform you prefer and share playlists with your friends in one click, but where's the fun in that?


Before Slack and MS Teams, there was AIM, AOL’s instant messaging program. It was very popular with millennials. Topics of conversation in the hallways ranged from what your screenname was, to who had the most cryptic away message, to the chatrooms you found and how many “buddies” you had.

Although AIM was discontinued in 2017, it still has a special place in many millennials’ hearts.

And of course, school supplies wouldn’t be complete without the essentials. In the early 2000s, everyone had their favorite gel pens or milky pens, adorned their textbooks with Book Sox, and for some reason, people thought one-shoulder backpacks were a good idea. As early 2000s fashion and pop culture return, maybe we’ll see some Y2K tech emerge in the hallways this back-to-school season. But if for some reason those hit clips enter the market again, save your money.

Danielle Sutherby of Progress

Danielle Sutherby

Danielle Sutherby is a marketing communications manager at Progress, where she supports Progress’ employer brand efforts, raises awareness of the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) and inclusion and diversity (I&D) efforts, assists in PR activities, and strategizes employee engagement activities worldwide. Danielle is also the co-founder of the first employee resource group at Progress, Progress for Her, which aims to empower women at the company by providing leadership and networking opportunities. When she is not at work, you can find her writing, reading, or acting like a tourist in her own city.


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