Technology has done some amazing things for education. It’s made laptops available to rural African schoolchildren. It’s made lessons on advanced topics like calculus and ancient world history accessible to anyone, for free. It’s given teachers countless tools to help their students learn better.

We’re certainly proponents of technological progress, but there’s one component of the whole back-to-school season that you might say has suffered from all this educational tech: back-to-school shopping.

For one thing, parents today might have to drop $1,500 for a laptop instead of $12 for a few three-ring binders. But for another, all those pencil cases, erasers, and notebooks that used to be so much fun to buy are hardly necessary anymore.

At least we can reminisce about them. Here are a few of the school supplies that we’re pining for this September.

The Trapper Keeper

Trapper Keeper


This padded binder was all the rage in the ‘90s. Sure, it was nice to hold all your notebooks together in one big binder, but the real appeal was what was on the outside. If you were a girl, it was probably a pastel-colored dolphin or a puppy. If you were a boy, it might have been a boldly hued race car or a spaceship.

Although they’re not as popular as they once were, they are still available in some new designs. And now you can even get a Trapper Keeper-themed cover for your tablet. Now that’s one brilliant way to update a product.

Character lunchboxes with a matching thermos

Snow White Lunchbox

via Filmic Light

These were absolute must-haves throughout elementary school. Snow White, Cinderella, The Smurfs, Care Bears, My Little Pony … every character you could ever want had its own lunchbox. Picking out the one that would express your personal favorites was possibly the most exciting part of the whole back-to-school shopping trip.

The company that created these character lunchboxes, Aladdin Industries, started making them in 1950 with a Hopalong Cassidy design. Over the decades, they’ve become so iconic that the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has some in its collection. Sadly, the plastic lunchbox has mostly gone the way of the dinosaurs, but you can still find some on sites like eBay and Etsy.


via Etsy

Those Spacemaker boxes with the bumpy tops got filled with everything from pencils and markers to secret notes, Matchbox cars, and other contraband that you had to keep hidden from your teacher. They were practically ubiquitous in schools around the country for years – but for whatever reason, their popularity declined and they’re now no longer manufactured.

Character pencil cases

Pencil case

via Etsy

Like the character lunchbox, character pencil cases were a way kids in elementary and middle school could express themselves. Are you a Hello Kitty or a Spottie Dottie kind of kid? A He-Man or Thundercats fan?

These days, pencil cases have become less and less exciting – it’s more of a choice between red and purple than Hercules and Aladdin. Some schools are even requiring pencil cases to have clear fronts, so the teacher can see everything inside.

Troll pencil toppers

Troll pencil toppers

via Buzzfeed

Those odd little naked trolls (sometimes called Good Luck Trolls) came in all different sizes, but the most coveted back in the 1980s and 1990s was probably the tiny little pencil topper one. That brightly colored hair and cute little face gave you something to stare at during a boring lecture.

Although those who remember the pencil topper probably think the Trolls were just silly little toys for kids to play pretend with, the original Troll doll was a very high-quality figurine created in 1959 by a Danish woodcutter named Thomas Dam.

They spread throughout several European countries before making it over to the U.S. in the 1960s. Imitations abounded, however, due to an error forcing the forfeiture of the Good Luck Troll’s U.S. copyright. Consider it a lesson in the importance of protecting your intellectual property.

Whether or not your product is aimed at schoolkids heading back to class, Pivot’s product designers can help you make it better. Contact us today for a free consultation.