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What Are Records?

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If you want to feel even older, this appeared in newspapers in 1998.note 

Wayne: How do ya' like that? Your dad's invention is gonna be in the Smithsonian alongside the gramophone!
Adam: What's a gramophone?
Wayne: An early record player.
Adam: What's a record player?
Wayne: An early CD player.

An adult digs up their old record collection out of the attic and their kid asks what they are. The parent nostalgically names all the singers of their day whose works have been put to their vinyl discs. Then the kids says, "No, I mean, what are records?"

A subtrope of Technology Marches On, initially fueled by the novelty of the notion that a format of media could actually become obsolete. It bears mentioning that it started cropping up in fiction before 1990, and the characters unfamiliar with records were full-grown adults, meaning that in its earliest form the trope ran on shameless hyperbole. Even in the 21st century, though, its realism is dubious. Most young people do indeed know what a vinyl record is (from more recent media depictions if nothing else), even if they never listened to or owned one themselves and don't know whether a "seven inch" was an album or a single, or whether 45 rpm came before or after 33 1/3. Modern DJs still use them, for instance, and their appearance in pop culture is almost ubiquitous. They've also been undergoing a resurgence of popularity among audiophiles, hipsters, indie music fans and even teenagers since 2007 (Sony is even pressing records again), thanks to their retro appeal and their exemption from the abuses of the Loudness War, and even outsold CDs for the first time in over 30 years in 2019. Consequently, while they still haven't overtaken streaming in terms of revenue, their renewed semi-popularity started to be acknowledged in mainstream media at the end of the 2010's, making this a Discredited Trope with regards to records themselves.

This trope can also be used for 8-track tapes, of course (arguably more understandable, since many people know of 8-track but don't know what the actual cartridge looks like). It likely already applies at least to some degree for both cassette tapes and videocassettes, as both are no longer being made en-masse and generally only appeal to niche markets. Wikipedia reports that whereas 442 million cassette tapes were sold in the U.S. in 1990, by 2016, the number was just 129,000. The last major Hollywood film to be released on VHS in the United States, Cars, was in 2006.note 

In this age of legal streaming and downloading of music, movies, video games, and other software, sooner or later the whole notion of going into a store and buying a physical object with stored data will be part of the history books (well, the history e-books if paper books also become obsolete due to e-readers). Basically, what Before My Time is to cultural references, this trope is to technology.

Ironically, this trope may be responsible for more people knowing just what records and other stuff are, if they saw this being used in media and wanted to know just what the joke was. Also, the fact that something is not in active use anymore doesn't mean people will have no idea what it is. Papyrus hasn't been used for centuries, and people still know what it looks like and what it was used for.

Not to be confused with the record label of the same name, owned by David Wilcox. Contrast Technologically Blind Elders, the inverse. See also Popularity Polynomial, when a trend is popular in one generation, becomes neglected, and later is rediscovered as nostalgic by the next generation.


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  • This 1984 ad for Atari word processor software features a variation of this. Pitchman Alan Alda extols the program's then-astounding features to a little girl, then states, "Atari may make the typewriter obsolete." "What's a typewriter?" the kid asks in response.
  • In an ad for a contraceptive, a little boy is shown standing on his parents' record collection which he scattered on the floor, and his plastic dinosaur is going round and round on the record player.
  • An old Cartoon Network bumper references this.
    "Don't touch that dial, Bugs & Daffy are back! Remember dials?
  • The "What's a computer?" ad for Apple's iPad Pro implied that it was so advanced it would cause children to wonder what a computer was.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Cowboy Bebop episode "Speak Like a Child", Spike and Jet receive a Betamax tape for Faye in the mail. They are initially stumped as to what it is. Even when they are told to find a VCR to play it, they go through the ruins of Tokyo to find the electronics museum and return with one for VHS. What's particularly funny is that Ed, who is younger than either Jet or Spike, is the only one familiar with such archaic tech.
  • Conversed and defied in the first episode of Odd Taxi. During a doctor's visit, Odokawa mentions listening to cassette tapes to fall asleep, which perplexes Shirakawa who's over a decade younger than him. Goriki tries to joke that her surprise is because her generation doesn't know what cassettes are, but Odokawa flatly points out that media depictions of the format means she likely at least knows about them despite never using them, just like how he and Goriki know about phonographs and telephone magnetos.
    Odokawa: So drop the generation gap BS.
  • Downplayed in Ojamajo Doremi — when traveling back in time about 20 years, Doremi is familiar with phone booths, since they still exist in the 2000s. However, she is thrown off that there's no slot for phone cards and that they instead require you to deposit coins.
  • An episode of Pokémon Journeys: The Series has Goh stumble on a phone booth that used to be everywhere in early seasons, and doesn't realize what it's used for until Team Rocket tells him. Starting in Generation 8, calls are made via cell phones...or rather, Rotom Phones.
    Meowth: Hold the phone, you mean to say this kid doesn't know what a phone booth is? We're not THAT old, are we?!
  • Lampshaded in a footnote for Sailor Moon's 2018 rerelease, when characters discuss stuff in a video rental store. In the more than 25 years since the original release, younger fans would have grown up in the age of DVDs and Blu-Rays by then, and rental stores like that have been abolished since now you can do the same thing online.
  • School-Live!:
    • Yuki doesn't know what a radio or Polaroid camera is despite being a high school student old enough to have seen them in their heyday. Her friends know what they are and Yuki isn't the smartest kid on the block anyway.
    • Played for drama in the anime. Yuki took a picture with Megu-nee and the others, but blocked out the memory as Megu-nee died just afterwards. A few weeks later and she doesn't know what a Polaroid camera is anymore.

    Comic Books 
  • Animaniacs: In a story from Issue #32, Dot invites some girls for a slumber party and tries to offer records for entertainment but her guests, not being cartoon characters from 1930s like her, don't know what records are.
  • Scooby-Doo! Team-Up: Subverted in "Scooby Doo, When Are You?", a prehistoric Time Machine brings the gang to The Flintstones' time. In some aspects, the stone age is more modern than the gang expected but the record player makes Shaggy comment to Scooby that they must be really prehistoric.

    Comic Strips 
  • Big Nate: Enforced as a result of the strip's Floating Timeline. In the 1991/01/15 strip, Nate and Ellen are seen handling records, with the comic giving the implication that they are about to play them. However, in the 2008/12/25 strip, when Uncle Ted gives Nate a Neil Diamond record for Christmas, Nate is confused about the gift and has to ask what it is.
  • Bloom County:
    • Opus took it to a large extreme, where a person wearing a brown outfit seemed to be completely unfamiliar with what a newspaper was, even when Opus tried explaining what it was three times when selling the Bloom County local newspaper. The guy, when Opus could give the simplest explanation he could give (paper), also mentions that it "feels like kleenex."
    • Another strip had Binkley asking his father what he meant by "winding" a watch.
  • One The Born Loser strip dared to take this trope to the next level:
    Brutus: To put it in terms you'll relate to, it's like an oversized CD!
    Wilberforce: What's a CD?
  • A series in Crankshaft revolved around Ed trying to replace his copy of Rhapsody in Blue. The clerk at the store, who is at least in her 20s, had never heard of a record before. This was in 1988.
  • The comic strip FoxTrot did this once. In fact, the example in the trope description exactly matches the dialogue of the strip in question. Also seen in Zits, Blondie, and Dennis the Menace (US).
  • Garfield's nightmare of being old materializes as him being old enough to remember records.
    TV: Don't touch that dial.
    Garfield: Okay, I won't. And what's a dial?
  • Related: A My Cage strip involved Norm getting weird looks for having a portable CD player with him at the gym instead of an MP3 player.
  • This Off the Mark panel cartoon shows two anthropomorphic smartphones looking through a house window at an old corded landline phone, saying, "They say she never leaves the house."
  • This old Peanuts strip would be a Double Subversion of this trope had it existed then. It's from 1953, so records are still quite relevant, the joke is that the song on the record references rocking chairs but Charlie Brown and Patty are in a living room filled with that was at the time modern living room furniture: a butterfly chair, a lounger, and an armless swivel chair. They don't know what a rocking chair is.
  • In Phoebe and Her Unicorn, Marigold (a centuries-old unicorn) offers to take Phoebe (a little girl) to a record store. "What's a record?" In a different strip, Phoebe isn't sure what a "radio" is. Marigold's reaction in both cases: "I'm old."
  • Subverted in one Retail strip, where a customer asks a worker if there's a music store, with the worker responding there's a store that sells vinyl records nearby. The customer then asks if they sell CDs, with the worker asking why they would sell an outdated media format like that (Around the time the strip ran, vinyl records were experiencing a resurgence in popularity).

    Fan Works 

    Film — Live Action 
  • Inverted in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, when Powers attempts to play a CD on a portable turntable. An early script of the second film had Felicity doing the same thing at the very end.
  • In Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves (a straight-to-video sequel to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids), Wayne Szalinski describes the gramophone to his son as "an early record player". He then has to clarify that the record player was "an early CD player".
  • In Nightworld: Lost Souls, Victor and his son Jesse discover an old device in a disused room. Victor comments, "Looks like an old phonograph." Jesse says, "What's that?" Victor says, "An old record player." Jesse says, "What's that?" Victor says, "Never mind."
  • A phonograph is one of the many things Woody Allen's character is tasked with identifying in the Future Imperfect setting of Sleeper.

  • In The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester, Sam's dad finds a Time Capsule containing cassette tapes, which Shep has never heard of. She says dubiously, "That really plays music?"
  • One-Third Nerd: When Dodge mentions magazines and newspapers, Izzy asks, "What are they?" Dakota explains, "Newspapers are how people used to find out things before cars but after dinosaurs." Mom explains that newspapers still exist and she reads one online, causing Dakota to grumble that they shouldn't be called newspapers if they're digital.
  • In the Pilgrennon's Children novel Pilgrennon's Beacon, which is set 20 Minutes into the Future, Pilgrennon shows Dana an old computer with a mouse, and she doesn't know what it is. She's used to using touchscreens with a stylus.
  • In Smoke and Mirrors, while trapped in a Haunted House, an irritable TV actor makes a reference to putting another record on. Which leads to this exchange between the sound guy and the producer's two pre-teen daughters:
    Brianna: What's a record?
    Zev: It's like a great big CD.
    Brianna: No one cool uses CDs anymore.
    Ashley: They're like from another time.
  • In False Value, the otherwise tech-savvy Peter has no clue what Wicked is talking about when the old funfair showman says that the music "books" for his antique mechanical organ work like computer punch cards. A more archaic technology than most examples, but given Peter's usual interest in both computers and history, it's an embarrassing blind spot in his knowledge.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., while Coulson is explaining a time loop the team is trapped in:
    Coulson: The time-drive is stuck. It keeps looping back on itself over and over again.
    Daisy: Like feedback.
    Coulson: I've been thinking about it like a record skipping.
    Coulson: Every time I say that, you give me the same look. Vinyl's back! You're supposed to know records again.
    (the loop restarts again)
  • The Colbert Report:
    • One episode had Stephen interviewing an NYU art-history major. The conversation went something like this:
    Stephen: Ted Nugent has condemned your generation as lazy and apathetic. Your response?
    NYU Major: Who's Ted Nugent?
    Stephen: Well, uh, he made a bunch of hit records in the 70s.
    NYU Major: What's a record?
    Stephen: Okay, uh, it's the way we used to buy music.
    NYU Major: Buy music!?
    • In another episode, he explains that "for you young, hip kids", a gramophone was a type of record player, which is like a CD player, which is like an iPod, which, "for you young, extremely hip kids", is kind of like a record player.
  • Cliff Huxtable in The Cosby Show does a variation on this. Cliff has a huge collection of old jazz records that he keeps in his basement as a form of "offspring repellent". If the kids come down there, he invites them to listen to his jazz records. They always refuse and run away.
  • Cowboy Bebop (2021). Faye Valentine looks in her Identikit, which stores any records of her past, finds only a VHS tape, and says: "What the fuck are you?" Fortunately, unlike the anime, Spike and Jet appear to have no problem getting hold of a machine that can play it.
  • The week of Valentine's Day in 2012 had an 80s themed week for the UK Deal or No Deal. It featured an interesting twist involving a cassette necklace. According to Noel Edmonds, this could have been a problem to younger viewers who wouldn't know what cassettes were.
  • Doctor Who pulls it quite often in the new series, as most people born sometime in the '80s or later have little to no frame of reference for Police Boxes (other than from the cultural impact of Doctor Who); improved communications technology, such as personal radios for police officers and the wider availability of home telephones note  and the shift away from foot patrols made them largely redundant.
  • In the Henry Danger episode "Indestructible Henry, Part 1", Ray gives Henry and Charlotte an old VCR tape to watch, and both of them try to find the on button on the tape until realizing they can't even find a screen. Henry then believes that the reels are what you look into.
  • Home Improvement:
    • In an episode Jill offers the boys "her old 45s" for a party, to which one of them responds; "You're giving us guns?"
    • In another episode: Brad calls a record player a "machine that plays the black round things that spin", Tim corrects him and later Mark tells Tim that he read about record players in his history class.
  • Inverted in an episode of House where a man has just awoken from a vegetative state after ten years and asks what an "Ip-odd" is.
  • This comes up in the episode "Purple Panther, Part 1" on LazyTown when the kids start a LazyTown Museum. Stingy brings in the mayor's old record player that he found lying around and none of the kids have any idea what it is, asking where you put the CD or connect the USB.
  • Locke & Key (2020): In season 2, Duncan and Bode come upon Rendell's old cassette tape collection.
    Bode: What are they?
    Duncan: Seriously? These are what cavemen like your dad and me used to listen to music on.
    Bode: Oh, are they... what did you call them... iPods?
  • An early example: Married... with Children. When Kelly asks "What's a record?" Bud's response is, "For you? The second date."
  • Joey in My Two Dads is trying to show the kids at a party thrown for his daughter that he's still cool. He refers to his Beatles album, to which two of the kids at the party reply with "Beatles?" and "Album?" as if they'd never heard either term before. CD's were still freshly popular at the time, not to mention that "album" usually means "collection of songs", and not "vinyl recording." Kids were still calling them "albums" even after CD's became popular. Not to mention that there probably has never been a time since the late 60's that the Beatles weren't considered one of the greatest bands of all time, even by those who have never listened to them. The idea of teenagers in the 80's who had never heard of the Beatles is laughable.
  • In My Wife and Kids the children are genuinely stunned and amazed that Michael was able to turn on the TV by pressing buttons on it rather than use the remote, even asking how he did it.
  • The Nanny had this little tidbit:
    Brighton: Hey, is it true back then people used to listen to their music on some sort of primitive large black vinyl disc?
    Fran: Only when we weren't enjoying our favorite pastime, child hurling!
  • In the NCIS episode "Power Down," a blackout forces the team to work with less advanced technology than they're used to. This includes a device called a mimeograph (not stated in dialogue), an old-style photocopier that only Gibbs knows how to use.
  • An Unbuilt Trope variant: there was a Not the Nine O'Clock News sketch, back in the days when everyone knew what records were, that had the staff in an electronics store laughing at a man who wanted to buy a gramophone.
  • This is Apollo's reaction in "A Present for Mom" on The Pajanimals when Mr. Happy Birthday offers him a jazz record as a present for the Pajanimals mom's birthday.
  • This is starting to be a Running Gag on Revolution, since the younger generation is almost wholly ignorant of pre-Blackout culture. When Miles comments on Jason's "boyband face", Jason asks what a boyband is. Later on in the second season, Charlie is baffled to learn that granola bars were considered food.
  • Runaways (2017): Molly's parents, who died when she was very young, left a videotape for her to find once she was old enough to seek more information about them. The problem? She's only 14 and when she finds the tape, she has no idea what it is.
  • In The Sarah Jane Adventures serial "The Man Who Never Was", Sarah Jane's old editor tells her kids he still uses a typewriter. Sky's response is an innocent "What's a typewriter?" Justified because Sky was born circa 2011 and aged up by phlebotinum.
  • Ted Lasso: After Ted learns that Roy and Keeley have broken up, he asks the team's young kit manager Will to run to Ted's apartment and retrieve his breakup mixtape CD. Will asks Ted what a CD is, so Coach Beard decides to retrieve it himself.
  • Tower Prep showed where this trend might be going. When they find a record, CJ and Suki ask what it is. Gabe responds that "it's kind of like a hard copy of a MP3." Never once were CD's mentioned, showing that CD's might quickly become the new records.
  • In "not slow not bad" from Utopia (US), Grant discovers an old Ameritech telephone directory book and, most likely having looked up phone numbers entirely using the Internet, mutters to himself asking what it is.
  • In an episode of Veronica Mars that aired in 2006, Veronica expresses surprise that "they still make vinyl". Piz tells her that they still put out dance music on vinyl, but being a record collector, he should know that vinyl was and is more extensive than that. In a previous episode he was seen with a copy of London Calling by The Clash, which he said was unscratched and cost him 99c, which implies it's an original pressing, but the cover is a little too pristine not to be new, which means the writers didn't have an excuse for their ignorance either.

  • Steve Albini, musician and producer (or "recording engineer" as he prefers to be credited, if at all) of many, many obscure and semi-obscure albums, as well as better known albums by Nirvana, PJ Harvey, Bush and Cheap Trick, declared an inversion in the liner notes of the CD version of his own band Big Black's album Songs About Fucking: "The future belongs to analog loyalists. Fuck digital". He later re-iterated his vague, non-committal stance on the issue, releasing two Big Black EPs on a single CD which he titled The Rich Man's 8-Track Tape.
  • The Blues Brothers album Briefcase Full of Blues invokes this trope by opening with Elwood telling the audience that "so much of the music we listen to today is pre-programmed electronic disco that by the year 2006, the music known as the blues will exist only in the Classical Music section of your local public library."
  • Kerri Chandler's "Mommy What's a Record" has an Opening Narration that describes how a woman's son asks her this question after seeing the records he just bought.
  • "The Vinyl Countdown" by Relient K is a song lamenting how kids these days don't know what records are. Naturally, it was a vinyl-exclusive single.
  • Fred Schneider of The B-52s grew up in a time when the word 'album' was used as a short-hand for long-playing vinyl and not the collection of tracks itself. As a result, he will often refer to one of the group's early albums and correct himself to say 'oh, it's a CD now'.

  • In The Rocketeer episode of Escape from Vault Disney!, Ryan has an aside where he explains to younger viewers what a cassette tape is.
    Ryan: It's like Spotify, except it sucks. And now, back to the AARP podcast!

  • British teens and young adults have rather less excuse to play this trope straight than in most countries. John Peel, The Last DJ on BBC Radio 1,note  would frequently bring in and play old vinyl records from his personal collection. "I'm sorry, I seem to have played that at the wrong speed" was one of his many Catch Phrases, although on at least one occasion he played a 33 at 45 by mistake but decided it sounded better that way.
  • Invoked but averted in an episode of Making History, when Iszi Lawrence says young people she's spoken to do know what records are — they're something hipsters buy.

  • Invoked in Car Talk: The Musical, in the form of a joke designed to fly right by anyone under 40. A man is lamenting that, at age 45, he's too young to have a heart attack. His boss tells him, "Hey, 45 is the new 78." Anyone in the audience who laughs has gray hair.
  • Used briefly in the opening monologue of The Drowsy Chaperone, when the Man in the Chair says that when he feels blue, he likes to listen to his records - yes, records.

    Video Games 
  • Fallout 3 - Three Dog says "I'm your friendly neighborhood disc jockey. What's a disc? Hell if I know, but I'm gonna keep talking anyway." But Fallout is very Zeerust, so records were not replaced with tapes, CDs, and MP3s, but with holo-based cassette tapes the size of 45s.
  • In Gravity Falls: Legend of the Gnome Gemulets, various NPCs want you to get several of some kind of item for them because they lost these things one way or another. Soos lost some floppy disks, and when he asks you to look for them, he explains they're an old form of data storage and that they're really good for keeping things secret since most computers don't have a way to read them any more. Wendy wants cassette tapes that her dad apparently threw out the car window on a road trip, but she doesn't feel the need to explain what they are, though she does make it clear through context (specifically mentioning that her dad "doesn't appreciate good music").
  • One of the things Ellie... borrows from Bill in The Last of Us is a music tape, which she hands to Joel:
    Ellie: Here. This make you all nostalgic?
    Joel: (chuckling) Y'know, that is actually before my time. That is a winner, though.
  • More than one streamer/let's player has found themselves stuck in one particular optional puzzle in The Room 3 due to said puzzle requiring dialing a number on a rotary dial, which the vast majority of younger generations have never had to do.
  • Spider-Man 2099 in Spider-Man: Edge of Time. Apparently there aren't even toasters in the future.
  • In Star Trek: A Final Unity, Picard and his Away Team are on an alien planet when they find a paper clip. Being from a society that has never used paper documents, they are completely mystified by its purpose. They then end up using it for a purpose that used to exist at the time the game was made but has rapidly faded out from use even in our time: manually ejecting a device out of a computer, a-la CD-ROM drives.
    Picard: It looks similar to an ancient earth artifact I've seen, but I can't remember its purpose.
    • Data, being the smartest of the bunch, does seem to figure it out (if he's present at all) - but still doesn't seem to know that it's called a paperclip.

    Visual Novels 
  • Averted in Melody. The title character loves old music, but neither she nor the protagonist has anything on vinyl.

    Web Animation 


    Web Original 
  • This BuzzFeed video explains the concept of VHS and brick-and-mortar video stores in a way that assumes that today's kids only know about Netflix and other streaming services.
  • Happens with The Creatures in one of their game nights. While playing a video game version of Family Feud, one of the questions was "Name something someone would plug in." Nova enters "VCR" and is annoyed when he receives zero points for that answer, claiming that people still own VCR's even if they're not popular anymore.
  • "Generational Divide," courtesy of 5 Second Films.
  • In Brazilian website, the character Fimose wanted to be a DJ and bought a record player (or a big black CD like a friend of his called records) and played it like it was a guitar.
  • Joueur du Grenier had a gag where Fred explains what a newspaper is to the younger members of the audience, with Seb asking if he could possibly make it any more condescending.
  • Kids React To... (and occasionally Teens React) demonstrates this trope with things like the first Gameboy, Walkmans and Typewriters, among other things. This noticeably subverts the trope fairly often, as many of the kids and teens (even as young as 6 years old) recognize the items and their function through Pop Culture Osmosis or having them in their families and just need some coaxing to figure out the details of using them.
  • The New Order documentary podcast Transmissions takes a detour during the "Blue Monday" episode to quite patronisingly explain what a 12" single is, to people sufficiently interested in New Order to actively seek out a podcast about their most famous 12" record - exactly the sort of audience who do not need it explained. Despite several references, they don't do the same for floppy disks, a technology it's more plausible to suppose listeners might be unfamiliar with.
  • The Nostalgia Chick explains books in this fashion.
  • The Onion:
  • The Spoony Experiment occasionally reviews old computer games, prompting Spoony to explain to the youngsters what things like floppy disks and BBSs were.
  • Todd in the Shadows takes this line of reasoning with his review of Maroon 5's "Payphone".
  • Played straight in an episode of "The Marshmallow Money Show" (a now-defunct online Flash series that was on the old Cartoon Network website), when one character notes that record stores nowadays only sell CDs and tapes, yet are still called "record stores", to which another character quickly responds "What's a record?"

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: In "The Ghouls", Alan and Leslie find a videotape at a park and pick it up, reading "It could be the last thing you ever watch"; Alan is more concerned because of littering. They initially mistake it for a book made of plastic ribbon, and try to use it as a yo-yo, until a Samara Expy has to explain everything for them, and leads them to their school's art room which has a VCR. This ignorance is purely for this sake of this one scene, as video tapes have been shown being used regularly in their class and a whole previous episode was based on the kids recording things with a tape-based camera.
  • In the Amphibia episdoe "Fort in the Road", after the Planters finds some sort of hidden factory, the ancient computer there keeps asking them to "insert disk", which confuses everyone there.
    Sprig: Anne, what the heck is a disk!?
    Anne: I don't know! I'm from another dimension, not the 90s!
  • Played straight in the Arthur episode "Francine Frensky, Superstar". (Note: This was one of the earliest episodes of the show, the first season of a program that would run into the 2020s.) The kids shot blank looks at Mr. Ratburn when he talked about Thomas Edison's invention, the phonograph, and prompted the following exchange:
    Ratburn: It was before CDs. It played music, with a needle.
    Binky: Is that a joke?
    • This may explain why in the later episode "Popular Girls" (Season 3), during a spring break day camp, one group of Arthur's classmates brings in vintage/antique things, and when Jenna demonstrates a record player, the kids all "Oooh" in awe.
  • An episode of Batman Beyond has Terry going to the home of a Science Fiction writer, and finding a typewriter. He pokes at it and asks, "What is this? Some kind of word processor?"
  • In an episode of The Cleveland Show, Cleveland takes Rallo to a record store ("it's where insufferable people come to find obscure music no one likes") and Rallo asks "where do they keep the MP3s?" Cleveland tells him that records have a warm sound you can't reproduce digitally, then puts on a hissing, skipping record. "Takes me back".
  • Averted in an episode of Daria where Daria is saddled with a babysitting gig. In one scene, the kids are listening to an old record about bouncing on the bed and singing along. note  Daria notes how badly scratched the record is and asks why their parents just buy them the CD.
    Tad Gupty: Compact discs were forced upon consumers so that record companies could increase their profit margins.
  • In the Darkwing Duck episode "Paraducks", Darkwing and Gosalyn are trying to find a villain in a record store, and Gosalyn asks, "What are records? Are they big CDs?"
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy:
    • In "Quick Shot Ed": The Eds are rummaging through Eddy's attic, Ed finds a 7-inch 45rpm record and says: "I found a donut!" Eddy corrects him and says: "That's a record, chowderhead."
    • Eddy has a turntable in his bedroom and is frequently seen playing records. His knowledge of everything is a bit... off.
  • Family Guy:
    • Brian tries to impress a girl in a club.
    Brian: You know, I wrote a book.
    Girl: What's that?
    Brian: It's like a really long magazine.
    Girl: What?
    Brian: It's like the internet made out of a tree.
    Girl: Weird...
    Paul: Well, lads, what do you think of the new album cover?
    Ringo: Great, but it won't look good when it's shrunk down for a CD.
    Paul: CD? What's a CD?
    Ringo: A digital compact disc.
    John: Ringo, are you from the future?
  • Used liberally in Futurama pretty much anytime old technology is mentioned or found.
    Professor Farnsworth: Show us this... "The Wheel".
  • Garfield and Friends:
    • One of the earliest uses of this trope was an episode entitled "The Record Breakers,": Jon was trying to impress a potential date with his record collection but lacked a record player to actually play them with (due to Garfield and Odie inadvertently breaking it). She didn't know what records were; unfortunately, neither did the clerk at the electronics store. The antiques dealer needed a hint. Note: Said dealer was an old man who was a kid the last time he listened to a record and he only listened because his grandfather introduced him to them.
    • A similar situation occurred when Jon went to buy a new wastebasket and tried to pay with cash (he'd cut up all his credit cards after Garfield had abused them one time too many). The clerk had no idea what paper money was... and, as it turns out, no one would accept cash as legal tender (even the police had to take the money to a lab to verify that it was, in fact, money). Blatantly obvious Artistic License – Economics in service of Rule of Funny.
  • The Ghost and Molly McGee: In "The Unhaunting of Brighton Video", Molly and her friends Libby and Ollie investigate a ghost at an abandoned video rental store. Molly confidently offers to explain how video tapes work to a confused Libby and Ollie, only to attempt operating one like a tablet and giving up when it doesn't work. Ollie soon after mistakes a VCR for some kind of toaster, to the disgust of the store's resident ghost.
  • Inverted in an episode of Kim Possible, where the grandmother gave Kim's younger brothers a collection of vinyl records. They knew what the records were and were excited to receive them.
    First twin: Wow, vinyl records! The legends were true!
    Second twin: C'mon, let's burn them into MP3s!
  • In the King of the Hill episode "Just Another Manic-Kahn Day", Bobby and Joseph find a box of Hank's old record albums. Bobby knows what they are but Joseph picks up a record and says: "The computer these things go into must be huge!"
  • On Llama Llama, when the band cancels for Grams's birthday party in "Band Together" due to having the flu, Mama Llama tells Llama Llama that they'll play Grams's favorite song on an old-school vinyl or a CD. Llama asks what those are; she chuckles and describes them as "ancient technology, but they'll play the kind of music we're looking for."
  • Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: One episode has Mickey and his friends discover a cave that holds a giant golden record inside, thus making the cave "a big old record player". When Goofy asks what a record player is, Mickey describes it as an "ancient machine".
  • Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (2023): Lunella may be a scientific genius, but when her mom loans her a cassette player in the pilot, she has no idea what it is.
  • In an episode of The Mr. Peabody & Sherman Show, Peabody tries to do a show about his vinyl record collection, but Sherman has no idea what he's talking about and assumed the episode was about world records instead.
    Sherman: What's a vinyl record?
    Peabody: It's like a CD!
    Sherman: What's a CD?
  • Ninjago: Played with. Lloyd (the youngest of the group) didn't know what a VCR was when first mentioned in discussion, but ends up recognizing one on sight as "That thing Master Wu watches old ninja movies on" and knows how to work it.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes:
    • In "Know Your Mom", the 6-11 year old KO runs into a phone booth to make a call. He says "What the heck is this thing?" towards the phone then pulls out his smartphone.
    • Later on in "Lord Cowboy Darrel", he asks Rad what a newspaper is when he sees Enid reading one. Except he knew what it was, and just liked messing with "old people".
  • In "Olivia Makes Memories" from Olivia, Olivia and her brother Ian find their Grandma's time capsule. Grandma discovers that the camera in it still has film in it and tells Olivia as much, and Olivia asks her "What's film?" She is then shocked when Grandma tells her that she has to wait two minutes for it to develop.
  • Averted on Peppa Pig. When Peppa and her little brother George find a record player in Granny and Grandpa's attic, both seem to immediately recognize it for what it is and Peppa asks them to play the record they found with it.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Lampshaded (like so many other things) in episode "Phineas and Ferb's Clip-Tastic Countdown", when Dr. Doofenshmirtz complains about a Monkeys on a Typewriter joke by pointing out how unlikely it is that any of the kids watching at home will know what a typewriter is.
    • Also, Linda seems to be the only person in the entire Tri-State Area who remembers analog and disposable still cameras.
  • Inverted by Mayor on The Powerpuff Girls, who tries to play a CD on an old-fashioned record player (and proceeds to mistake the horrible scratching noises that ensue for "techno music").
  • Regular Show: Done in a Christmas Episode when the Park Crew have to make their way through some caverns and get past the challenges. At one point they come across an old pinball table that they need to play to continue. Oddly, Mordecai and Rigby don't know what it is despite being avid gamers and arcade goers, but Benson says it was "something before their time" and takes up the challenge.
  • Rugrats averted this, as Chuckie could sometimes be seen playing records (like in "Down the Drain" and "Chuckie's Bachelor Pad"), and Angelica was seen breaking Chuckie's records for kicks in "Give and Take." Then again the series takes place in the early to late 1990s, not too long after records began being displaced.
  • Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?: In "The Internet on Haunted House Hill!", when Velma says the titular house is haunted by the ghost of a guy who used to run a newspaper, Scooby asks what newspapers are.
  • The Simpsons
    • Also in Season 13 episode "Gump Roast", at Homer Simpson's roast, Krusty begins reading telegrams from people who couldn't be there:
      Krusty: Now I'd like to read some telegrams from people who couldn't make it. First, we have Mark Spitz.
      Lisa: Who's Mark Spitz?
      Bart: What's a telegram?
    • In a Season 27 episode, Bart and Lisa find a pile of old cathode tube television sets and say that "they're like TVs, but they seem to go on forever." Ironically, they're like the TV the Simpsons used to have in earlier seasons.
    • In "The Sound of Bleeding Gums" (Season 33), Lisa learns that her late mentor, Bleeding Gums Murphy, has a son she never knew about, and his spirit advises her to look him up in the phone book.
      Lisa: What's a phone book?
      Bleeding Gums: I have been dead a long time.
  • From South Park, when Stan is trying to convince the Goth Kids to buy their PlayStation 4 early instead of waiting until they're cheaper:
    Stan: Battle lines are being drawn! If you wait it out, but everyone else has already decided to go with XBox, then that will become the standard! The PS4 would be like Betamax was to VHS.
    Henrietta: What's Betamax?
    Stan: Exactly!
    Pete: What's VHS?
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Marco once called a typewriter a "vintage laptop".
  • Parodied in Steven Universe: Teenager Sadie mistakes Steven asking what is on a specific VHS for him asking what is a VHS. She explains that it's basically a box-shaped DVD. Steven actually owns a VCR and a decent collection of tapes.
  • One episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) had the Turtles take cover behind a stack of boxes. Raphael looks into the boxes and the following conversation takes place:
    Raphael: Donatello, what are these?
    Donatello: They're records. They're what people used to listen to before they had compact discs.
    Michaelangelo: Whoa! Someone really burned these pizzas!
  • Teen Titans Go! has Cyborg tell the other Titans they couldn't program a VCR...and being the Teen Titans, none of the others have any idea what a VCR is. Starfire (being an alien) and Beast Boy (being the youngest) have excuses but Robin at least seems old enough that he should know what they are. Rule of Funny is obviously the reason why.

    Real Life 
  • Frank Zappa was once the victim of an invoked version of this trope. During a legal battle for payment for some music he composed and conducted in Britain, the judge asked what a "record" was. As noted in our article on British Courts, however, this was probably intentional on the part of the judge. British judges — particularly old-school ones — generally presume ignorance on the part of everyone in court, and ask questions like "what is a record?" just in case a member of the jury or someone reading the court transcripts later on does not know what a record is. The judge most likely knew exactly what a record was and probably had a collection of them at home. Considering British lawyers can, when pressed, turn to court decisions from the age of Richard I to bolster their case, the judge's actions were very much justified.
    • Clarity of definition may also have been a necessary formality under the circumstances: in most court cases, any references to "records" would be concerned with documents, not audio-playback media. So, once again, it's necessary context for the court transcripts and everyone involved to be as clear as possible regarding which is being referred to.
  • This is a question that really cannot be asked of fans of The Lion King. Its soundtrack has the distinction of being the first album released in the Nielsen SoundScan era (since 1991) to sell 1 million copies in the vinyl format. It achieved the milestone in 2014.
  • At a certain (non-secret) base in the US there is a room that can only be entered by using the phone on the outside of the room to call the people inside of the room to come and open the door. The phone on the outside of the room is a rotary phone and there have been cases where the new, younger people don't know how to operate the phone. One has to wonder what the purpose of dialing is if you'll only ever use it to call the other side to open the door. Given that the doors and walls may be several feet thick, the phone was installed to let the guards know who was on the other side of the door.
  • This trope is cited by Hasbro as the reason we'll probably never get a toy of Soundwave that turns into a cassette player ever again. On the other hand, Classics Hound came with Ravage in what was alternatively referred to as "Capture Mode" or "Cassette Mode", hinting that things could still go one way or the other.
    • Double subverted by various toys first revealed in mid-2012. Soundwave's finally a tape player again, but only in the form of a high-end, collector-oriented "Masterpiece" toy — the upcoming kid-oriented Soundwave toy is based on his armored car form from Transformers: Fall of Cybertron.
    • Double subverted again in 2016: the Titans Return subline is going to feature both Soundwave and his Autobot counterpart Blaster as cassette players... except their minions are reinvented as tablets, of all things.
    • Double subverted once more in 2020, where it was revealed that for the Walmart exclusive Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy subline, Soundwave's toy, released earlier the prior year as part of the main Siege toyline, would be getting a retooling so that it can transform into a cassette recorder.
  • This video shows the children of a mother who grew up in the '80s attempt to use technology from that era. At one point, they're shown having trouble figuring out how to control games on the Atari 2600 despite it only having a joystick and one button. For contrast, this video shows kids trying out a Commodore 64 with considerably more success and appreciation (once they get past the Loads and Loads of Loading, at least).
  • A 13-year-old boy finds his dad's Sony Walkman. It took him, in his own words, three days to realize that he could take the cassette out, put it in backwards, and get a completely different playlist.
  • It is a measure of Neil Young's continued appeal to people of every age that a fan who was twenty-one years old could and did ask "What's an LP?" on a Neil Young mailing list in 2001.
  • The teenage employee in this Not Always Working anecdote (born c. 1996) had apparently never heard of mechanical watches, despite working in a department store's jewelry department, before attempting to pry the back cover off one, because she thought it needed a battery replacement.
  • There's a common anecdote/joke about the floppy disk, which although now very nearly obsolete, is still preserved as the symbol for "save." Kids who see an actual floppy disk lying about remark that someone's 3D-printed the save icon. Some open-source developers are starting to look into alternatives, but nobody's hit on anything that's as instantly recognizable at a small scale.
    • Relatedly, an online question about why the default hard disk on a Windows PC is "C" led to a lot of "oh my god, I'm an old person" reactions. This is a real life Artifact Title, dating to the 1970s: early home computers running CP/M typically had one or two floppy drives, but no hard disk. Later, MS-DOS followed several CP/M conventions for compatibility, which included reserving "A" and "B" for floppy drives.
  • In Britain, the warning sign for speed traps is a picture of an antiquated photographic plate camera. Speed cameras being a relatively recent innovation, it seems like a strange glyph to use that would likely confuse people as to what the object actually is.
  • An interesting case of this has come about as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic: As a number of school districts around the world started allowing in-person learning to resume in early 2021, a rather large number of Pre-K through 1st Grade teachers have had to repeatedly explain what Number 2 pencils, hard-copy textbooks, notebook paper, and the like are to their students, who had exclusively been using tablet or laptop computers up to that point.
    • Similarly, a number of college professors have found themselves in the habit of having to explain to their students the concept of computer files and folders, since the rise of powerful search functions on desktop OS and mobile devices where users have obscured or limited access to the device's file system have removed the need for any file organization.
  • Techmoan once mentioned in a video that he is often asked why the cassette decks he features sometimes have a backwards play button and the the fast forward and rewind symbols reversed, and occasionally even had people assume that the buttons had been removed and installed incorrectly and asking how to flip them back. He then explained that the reason those buttons are arrows is because they originally indicated what direction the tape moves in. Some early decks featured the tapes moving the "wrong" way and others flipped the deck upside down so the buttons could sit at the top of the device.
  • With the discontinuation of the iPod Touch in 2022 marking the end of the iPod, some commentators have noted that there are people who regularly listen to podcasts but have no idea why they're called "podcasts".


Video Example(s):


Garfield - What's a record?

Even in 1992, records were already being considered a dead format!

How well does it match the trope?

5 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / WhatAreRecords

Media sources: