A Youth Untouched By Social Media
April 23, 2015 11:21 AM   Subscribe

The Oregon Trail Generation: Life Before and After Mainstream Tech A big part of what makes us the square peg in the round hole of named generations is our strange relationship with technology and the internet. We came of age just as the very essence of communication was experiencing a seismic shift, and it’s given us a unique perspective that’s half analog old school and half digital new school.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero (115 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yep, exactly this. 1980 here. I remember using AOL as early as 8th grade, maybe, teen a/s/l chat rooms and all.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:30 AM on April 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


I can definitely agree with the author's point about being the square peg. Though I think that it also gives us of this particular generation a bit more balanced view when it comes to tech - not completely off put, but also not as centered in our worldview.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:31 AM on April 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


My wife and I (1979 and 1982) talk about this often while we watch our son (2013) navigate devices we barely even dreamed of growing up. We feel lucky to have been on the cusp and properly seen both sides of a big cultural shift.
posted by Shutter at 11:31 AM on April 23, 2015 [14 favorites]


I think this is accurate (describes my wife and her friends better that me born in the 70s) but I'm not sure what it is saying beyond "Behold! This is You!"

My parents are part of a similarly odd in-between generation. They were born during WWII, missed the rock and roll parts of the 50s and were too old to be hippies. Maybe like Animal House sort of describes their youth. But I mean, only kinda. So I've always doubted the efficacy of categorizing people by neat, decade-based generations. The Millenials might be the last generation where when you were born makes a big difference in what you know and experience. In the Panopticon, in the Universal Library, we know all the moment we exist, and all that will be is all that was.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:33 AM on April 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


I am tutoring some middle school students in programming. It is amazing how they completely take for granted things that seem almost brand new to me. It's not just that they all have iPhones with Instagram and WhatsApp and whatnot, but that they are completely unconscious of the fact that all those things are almost brand new to every adult on the planet.
posted by miyabo at 11:40 AM on April 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


That also describes me as a middle schooler talking to adults about, say, Street Fighter II.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:42 AM on April 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


Myspace was born in 2003 and Facebook became available to all college students in 2004. So if you were born in 1981-1982, for example, you were literally the last graduating class to finish college without social media being part of the experience.
We had LiveJournal.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:46 AM on April 23, 2015 [63 favorites]


Hmm, I was born in the late 80s but I still remember using card catalogs in elementary school, played tons of Oregon Trail, and didn't get a cell phone until I was 16. I think the cutoff line for this generation is a little later than the early 80s, at least among families/communities who aren't especially tech-savvy.
posted by scose at 11:46 AM on April 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


The timelines on this seem off. Napster was a thing when I was in university, but AOL was definitely not a thing yet when I was in what would have been middle school grades had I lived in a place where middle school was a thing.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:47 AM on April 23, 2015


We had LiveJournal.

And now Facebook is for old people. It depends on the subculture and environment, but I know many current college students who don't even have accounts.
posted by miyabo at 11:52 AM on April 23, 2015


The American obsession with generations is the one true multigenerational touchstone in an ever changing world.
posted by dng at 11:53 AM on April 23, 2015 [41 favorites]


The author is really torn up about not being born squarely in the middle of a particular generation, isn't she?
posted by lefty lucky cat at 11:54 AM on April 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Do you remember trying to find MP3 on AOL before Napster? The programs that would split up downloads to get over AOL's attachment limit? And you could set them to auto download cause it would take hours to get a Spice girls song?

Do you?!?
posted by The Whelk at 11:55 AM on April 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


We had LiveJournal.

...and IRC, and ICQ/MSN/AIM, and Usenet, and...
posted by brennen at 11:57 AM on April 23, 2015 [31 favorites]


Do you remember trying to find MP3 on AOL before Napster?

No, because my Macintosh LCIII only had a 160-megabyte hard drive, so even one song would have used up a significant portion of it. Plus it would have taken four hours to download at 2400bps.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:00 PM on April 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


The Millenials might be the last generation where when you were born makes a big difference in what you know and experience.

There's a lot of potential huge technological and social breakthroughs still coming down the pipe, many of which will be far more significant than smartphones and social media.
posted by Foosnark at 12:03 PM on April 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


We had LiveJournal.

Also Xanga.

We xanged all day night and sometimes we xanged in the morning, if it was the weekend.
posted by Tevin at 12:04 PM on April 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


My parents are part of a similarly odd in-between generation.

Everything is between something and something else.
- my deep thought for the day.
posted by Foosnark at 12:05 PM on April 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


I remember downloading all my favorite songs in MIDI format.

"I once downloaded a MIDI of ''Betty Davis Eyes' 'cause I heard it as bumper music on Coast to Coast AM" is probably the most embarrassing thing I can admit.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:05 PM on April 23, 2015 [14 favorites]


BBS or GTFO
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:06 PM on April 23, 2015 [44 favorites]


Also Xanga.

While were at it, what the hell was a 'pita'? I never did find out.
posted by thelonius at 12:07 PM on April 23, 2015


I remember downloading all my favorite songs in MIDI format.

I still have some Zappa and King Crimson MIDIs.
posted by thelonius at 12:07 PM on April 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


I was born in 1972, and I feel a part of this myself, although Napster didn't really become a thing until I was a senior in college or so. One thing that sticks out for me is how, if you had some niche interest, you had to spend considerable time and resources searching for anything remotely non-mainstream, which meant you had to put in some sweat equity to find the weird vintage reruns on TV after midnight, the dusty mom-and-pop video store with the foreign films and cult horror flicks, or the bands you could only get by going to that record store that let you get imports on special order. And if you didn't have your VCR fired up at the right time, you might never get a chance to capture that fleeting thing you were looking for that would have been the coolest thing to happen to you all week! Or even that month. Or that year.

Now, all I have to do is type into Google and YouTube, and it's all there for me in 90 seconds or less. Kids today don't know the riches available to them. As always, youth is wasted on the young.
posted by jonp72 at 12:09 PM on April 23, 2015 [25 favorites]


Born around 1970.

I remember learning Turtle in the computer lab. At lunchtime we would all play Castle Wolfenstein or Captain Goodnight.

Mr. Foreman the computer teacher would sneak in the back door to catch kids playing computer games and then ban them (for all of 20 minutes) from the computer room. I was in the computer room and was probably playing Wolfenstein when I heard about the Challenger disaster.

My university had SPARC workstations that were great for playing Netrek. You could use gopher on them too.

In the early 90's one of our creative writing professors set up the first ISP in our city and became a multi-millionaire. For some reason the creative writing classes involved using COSY, an early intranet forum with dozens of boards, some of which included MUD's. Despite the small size of the group (maybe 100 users) everyone had anonymous (and often multiple) usernames, which caused a lot of sexual harassment. In a small group.

I got an email address in 1998 or so when getting my second undergrad and used the Eudora client.

The only real milestone I remember was getting dial-up internet in Japan in 1999, and then high-speed broadband in 2000.
posted by Nevin at 12:09 PM on April 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


I remember downloading all my favorite songs in MIDI format.
I remember downloading Alexander the Great, Flight of Icarus, and Welcome to the Jungle in SID format.
From a BBS.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:11 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


many current college students who don't even have accounts.

Yeah, my girlfriend's 15-year-old daughter has to use Facebook because the adults who plan her theater events haven't figured out that none of the kids they're trying to organize use Facebook, not a single one. She logged in on my phone yesterday because she deleted it from hers to save space. (And Safari wouldn't load the website for some reason.)

Born in 69... I remember in I think 9th grade we had Apple II's for typing class, and the teachers really had no idea what they or we were doing, to the point where I remember going into the code of the typing program and changing variables to set values so that I'd pass the test, which was preventable but they just didn't know.

We used to bring in our own disks and play games all the time, which I guess is why I couldn't pass the test and decided to cheat. God, I remember playing the Hitchhikers's Guide text game in there every day for a whole summer.
posted by Huck500 at 12:14 PM on April 23, 2015 [6 favorites]




Hmm, I was born in the late 80s but I still remember using card catalogs in elementary school...

Yeah, it's possible that my town was behind the times, but this all describes me pretty well and I was born in '87.
posted by pemberkins at 12:21 PM on April 23, 2015


garius has joined the room

Garius: Hey
Garius: A/S/L everyone?
posted by garius at 12:21 PM on April 23, 2015 [21 favorites]


Born 1971, learned some BASIC when I was about 10. Sporadic computer exposure for a while after that, due to my cheapass parents, (oh how I lusted over my neighbor's Apple II!!) but managed to learn a bit on the tiny rectangular Macs in my college lab, while being warned that the very expensive laser printer required special permission to use and was not for making your party flyers, dammit.

My very old personal PC machine (5.25 inch slots still included) was basically a glorified typewriter, but it didn't die till 1999. You could get online via dialup, but not if you wanted to do anything fast.

I think I got a cellphone in 98 because I worked for Sprint and you could get them cheap that way. It had a tacky clear-plastic-front vinyl cover, and every accessory was incredibly overpriced (like the car chargers).

I had contact with nothing even approaching social media until I finally worked somewhere with a decently fast internet connection and very little supervision (about 1997 I think). And then it was all bulletin boards. So many bulletin boards.
posted by emjaybee at 12:22 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hey guys! I'm an enigma!

Do you remember trying to find MP3 on AOL before Napster?

No, I was on Hotline or just trawling the college's local network looking for people with shared folders full of MP3s. T1 was amazing compared to the old 14.4!
posted by davros42 at 12:25 PM on April 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


Well, the fact that I do not have a Facebook has gone from making me feel old and boring to making me feel cutting edge and youthful-in-spirit. Perhaps all the other things I have refused to adapt to/adopt will eventually also become old fogey things and I alone will remain timeless.
posted by Frowner at 12:26 PM on April 23, 2015 [20 favorites]


Another aspect that I think the author doesn't touch on enough is that members of that generation aren't afraid of or mystified by technology (at least in general). We grew up in a time where you had to fuck with a lot of this technology to get it to work properly, so new gadgets and gizmos don't really frighten us like they seem to older folks. And unlike younger folks, when it doesn't work we have a propensity to try to make a thing work when it doesn't.
posted by Captaintripps at 12:31 PM on April 23, 2015 [36 favorites]


I prefer to call it generation 2.0 or the beta generation.
posted by grizzly at 12:35 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


The American obsession with generations is the one true multigenerational touchstone in an ever changing world.
dng

Honest question: do other countries not talk about generations like this? Is this really a uniquely American phenomenon? I know I've seen generational discussions from places outside the US before.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:36 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of potential huge technological and social breakthroughs still coming down the pipe, many of which will be far more significant than smartphones and social media.

Yeah, like cricketmeat patties and living deep underground!
posted by The Whelk at 12:37 PM on April 23, 2015 [27 favorites]


I'm a bit too old for this article (born 1972) but a lot of it still resonates, it's just that I first got online (barely!) in college, rather than during middle school. I remember learning BASIC and Logo, and doing some simple programming starting in 6th grade. I played around with very blocky, low-res, 16-color animation by 8th grade. It seems like everyone then had the idea that we would all be writing our own programs forever, and didn't realize that for the most part that would be a job for a few professionals, and we would buy what they produced.

I realized how much expectations had changed when my daughter, at seven or eight, asked if she could have a phone for her birthday, and my first response was "Who do you need to call? Why don't you just borrow mine?" To me, "phone" still primarily means a device for voice communication (even though I seldom use mine for that purpose). To her, it's a device to do ALL THE THINGS. Music, movies, books, games. She wanted an all-access pass to the world.

I'm sure that new technology will change things even more in the future, and it's hard to get perspective on your own era, but I do feel that the advent of the internet and, for people who have them, smartphones, is a seismic shift equivalent to the printing press. No more getting lost--ever. No more wondering about some bit of trivia--ever. No more wishing you could watch/read/hear something and having to wait for a trip to the store or the library. Everything is right there, all the time, in my pocket. My kids won't ever know what it is like to not be able to find something out. I suspect that whatever comes next will be a refinement and enhancement of that, but the giant, forever, change is that everything is connected, all the time, right now.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:40 PM on April 23, 2015 [16 favorites]


Born in 1985; in elementary school, I spent quite a bit of time playing Oregon Trail on an Apple IIe while arguing about who shot Mr. Burns. Ah, youth.
posted by nonasuch at 12:43 PM on April 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


This is me. Born in 79, my dad had an IBM PS2 in the when I was real little and I was always on it. BASIC lessons once a week in 4th grade and I remember getting dial up and my first crappy Compaq 486 in high school. Chat rooms, usenet, Hotline, scoring pretty much everything. I got a tech support job at an ISP after high school and got cable internet service the week it was available.
posted by daHIFI at 12:45 PM on April 23, 2015


Who had time for Oregon Trail in school? Our "computer club" meetings at school in the morning were unabashed orgies of piracy, the goal to simply copy as many floppies as you could in one hour with the teachers who supervised blissfully unaware (pre-"don't copy that floppy" days). If you could get there early and score the IIe with 128K ram and dual disk drives, you were golden.

Also, the sysop calling you in the middle of the night and asking dude, can you please upload something. Whatever, after I get Commander Keen I'm gone.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:47 PM on April 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Limewire....
posted by tzikeh at 12:48 PM on April 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


Born in 83.

I read a lot of Star Wars novels when I was a kid. Though I don't remember what the little gizmo was called most of the characters carried around this awesome device that allowed them communicate with anyone on the planet they were on, find information, plan their schedules and do everything my little Pentium-powered PC only dreamed of. In their hands, no wires, no fuss.

I've essentially described an iPad. But it's not lost on me that I'm using a device from a science fiction novel without any fuss and is, in some ways, even better than the then-fantastical device cooked up by the author.

I also dreamed about playing my favorite SNES/PSX RPGs on a handheld. And being able to watch any movie I wanted whenever I wanted.

It's crazy to see my (reasonably realistic) childhood fantasies realized as an adult.
posted by Tevin at 12:49 PM on April 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


Reconstructionist here. (The generation that preceded the author's Revivalists.) I feel like some of the experiences she mentions were available to we Reconstructionists, but perhaps weren't as widely shared. I played Oregon Trail in elementary school. Similarly, things that came later were around but not ubiquitous, e.g. before AOL there was Quantum Link, or BIX for the real nerds.

I definitely agree that the Revivalists were probably the last generation in America to have a "real" childhood. However, even that was a fleeting artifact of the times. Generations before didn't have "real" childhoods. Even my grandmother's New Gods generation didn't. The idealized American childhood we're thinking of , transmitted through and defined by mass media, probably only started in the '40s with the Blanks.

I do worry about kids today. I see how my friend's elementary school aged girls are trying to navigate rocks and shoals that I didn't get into until I was nearly old enough to drive. Other than try and keep them off Rock Star Planet and similar dens of iniquity and be supportive, I'll be damned if I know what we can do to help them though.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:50 PM on April 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I was born in 1972 and played Oregon Trail in grade school. I guess it was a long lived game, but you damn early eighties punks don't own it! (shakes fist)
posted by rikschell at 12:52 PM on April 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


So glad to see the love for Hotline servers...an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 12:55 PM on April 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


Out of all the lists of things I remember, this sure is one.
posted by shmegegge at 12:58 PM on April 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


I guess it was a long lived game, but you damn early eighties punks don't own it! (shakes fist)

Exactly! Back in my day we had to load that Oregon Trail game from MECC via cassette tape! It was text only and we liked it!
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:58 PM on April 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I find this idea of "generations" to be interesting. Its all completely arbitrary and has no meaning. Instead it is a fascinating window into what people think about themselves. The idea of the "generation" is relatively new, as is the idea of "childhood" itself.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:00 PM on April 23, 2015


Born in 81. I ran a BBS in junior high and early high school. After college, I went over to Florence and stayed with a girlfriend who was in grad school at the time that Facebook really hit, I think around 2007 or so. The undergrads who were studying abroad all spent seemingly the entire time in the computer lab on Facebook. I remember thinking at the time what the FUCK is wrong with you people? You're in fucking Florence for fuck's sake, go outside and enjoy it you degenerate fucks. Really turned me off to the whole thing.
posted by mike_bling at 1:05 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


the generational obsession is now driven by the terror of print media and broadcast TV, who are no longer "relevant" as the kids say

At 48, I consider it to be both pathetic and futile to try to renovate my lifestyle every 5 years to keep up with whoever happens to be right out of college now. But I'm cruising toward the "products to help you take a shit, advertised during 60 Minutes demographic", of course.
posted by thelonius at 1:06 PM on April 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was born in 1980 and didn't play a whole lot of Oregon Trail - the big thing in our computer class was the Fool's Errand (pretty sure we had a lab full of Atari STs).
posted by zempf at 1:08 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's interesting what has survived the sandstorm of time. IRC is still around, which surprises me a little. Usenet is still here, but in decline. Direct Connect is still kicking, which I would have lost a bet on.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:11 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


The article is describing not just a specific time, but also a specific socio-economic category (can afford a computer that children are allowed to use, schools funded to have computer labs, can afford pricey consumer internet access, has parents who are technologically literate enough to set all of this up, etc. etc.). I'm suspicious of any grand generational theory, but especially this one.

Regardless, the article does describe a lot of my life context. We had a variety of Internet connected computers over the years. My school system had intro to tech classes, and I was able to take an intro HTML and Javascript class at the local community college, and I was on the leading edge of social media since my University was in the first wave of expansion outside the Ivy League. All of those things have given me a specific disposition towards technology, and the skillset to feel fairly comfortable in teaching myself how to do things if I have to.

I would be curious to see high profile tech personalities compared against, not so much the generational profile, but rather the S/E profile. How many of them came up with a family computer that they could use freely? I would imagine the answer would be many.

The article raises an interesting idea, even if I don't agree with the generational premise, but this sticks out like a sore thumb:

This made us the first children to grow up figuring it out, as opposed to having an innate understanding of new technology the way Millennials did, or feeling slightly alienated from it the way Gen X did.

No. No, absolutely no. No baby has an "innate" understanding of anything. Technological skill is learned, like any other, and dependent on any number of contexts in a person's life. This is a terrible misconception that's even directly against the point that the author themselves is trying to make. Everyone has to "figure it out", the difference is in how the people they're describing went about doing that.
posted by codacorolla at 1:11 PM on April 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


Technological skill is learned, like any other, and dependent on any number of contexts in a person's life.

Sure, but just like language, technology skills that are learned when you are a child are much, much different than learning them later on.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:14 PM on April 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Born in 71. I first used a computer (Commodore Pet) in grade school. In middle school we had computer classes and we learned (attempted) to program in Pascal. Since my parents were not rich, I did not have regular access to a computer and all my high school papers were typed on an old typewriter, with a gallon of whiteout nearby. It was not until Freshman year of college (1989), that I had access to a pc to write papers, and it was wonderful!

In college the whole new world opened up to me. I was sending email to friends at other schools via Pine, talking to what I hope were girls on telnet sites like Foothills, arguing with people on usenet. After college, I landed an amazing job on the ground floor of what would be the first internet boom/90’s tech bubble. It really felt like we were breaking down new barriers and connecting the world. After 18 years in the tech industry, I still love the buzz of seeing a new site or tech for the first time. Heck, I remember telling people about this new site called Metafilter in 2000.

But, to the original point, I do feel lucky to have straddled the old and the new. I love being in the loop and being able to adapt easily to new tech. I also love that I still can go home and read the paper. Have friends who enjoy conversations face to face over a beer, and are not constantly looking at their phone. The fact that none of my misfit years or woe is me days are not out in the digital ether is the biggest bonus of all; as is the self-awareness to value my privacy.
posted by remo at 1:15 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


It is amazing how they completely take for granted things that seem almost brand new to me.

I'm pretty sure this is called growing older.

I remember my grandmother talking to my sister and me when we were in our teens, about how her childhood had been in a rural, horse-and-buggy / oil-lamp culture. During her life she experienced the advent of the car (from Model T's to her last mid-70's Buick), airplanes (from WWI biplanes to modern airlines), electricity, telephones (from candlesticks to cordless units with Caller ID), the space program, even the PC.

I marvel to think what tales I'll be able to tell my incredulous grandkids about What Life Used To Be Like, and How Great They Have It, and How They Don't Appreciate What They've Got...
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:16 PM on April 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


1976 in Oregon and... never played Oregon Trail. At school we had Commodore 64s and Apple IIs though. Early computing set the direction for my life: I was ahead in a few subjects, our elementary school was in the boondocks, so my teachers often didn't have the resources to teach me at level. Instead, they did what turned out to be the best thing ever: they put me on an adventure-based typing program (forget the name, it was pretty neat though). I learned to type fast, blew through all the levels, and asked for more, so they put me on Turtle. 30-odd years later, yeah, I work in IT, and colleagues never fail to remark that I type fast. Thanks, teachers! It was also consolidated by my parents being drafter-designers and thus needing computers powerful enough to run AutoCAD, but that came along after elementary school.

The biggest revolution for me was portable phones. I really feel the cusp, because for about a decade or two we called them "portables" (in the late 80s my mother was a freelancer and had one of those huge, box-shaped car phones). Then they became "cells" around the time I moved to Europe, where they were called "mobiles", except for quite a few years there, none of my friends in the States understood what a "mobile" was and saying "cell" sounded foreign to me. But "portable" worked. Anyway.

One oddity I've noticed is that memories I have from "analog" times are very firmly analog. I never think to look them up on the 'net until I share with friends and they're all, "oh hey yeah look what Wikipedia says, it's just like we remember it after all!" and I'm like, wild, it's been 30 years and I never thought to look for it on the web, because "web" only came along ~20 years ago for me.
posted by fraula at 1:17 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


1983 here. I was totally just thinking the other day about how a lot of the folks involved in the creation/whatever of social media and "sharing" services were about my age (32). The "Lucky Ones" link in the posted article discusses this. We were the first generation to be able to significantly shape whatever it is now that is dominating how most people use the internet.

I think this in-betweeness has played out since at least I was in late middle school/early high school. Popular music was dominated by college rock/grunge/gangsta rap as opposed to "post-grunge," boy/girl bands and hyper shiney pop music just a couple of years later. There seemed to be a huge difference in how important kids just a few years (2 or 3) younger viewed the idea of "credibility" or "authenticity," both ideas really important to Xers.

I also remember when big fears of rising crime rates was still a thing and when, all of a sudden, that seemed to just disappear over night. My middle and high school years were shaped by this idea that things were pretty stable for most people and it would be that way forever (end of history stuff). Then, all of a sudden, shit was bad - really really bad - and we came of age in However, most people we call Millenials were mostly spared the doom-and-gloom/fear about a society going off the rails(sex, crime, break down of "family values.") that dominated the late 80s and early 90s. Although, that's been replaced by fears of terrorism, which is worse.
posted by the lake is above, the water below at 1:18 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Jesus Christ. This article starts off complaining about how all those articles about "generation definition" got it all wrong, but then immediately starts in on an equally bullshit definition on whatever specific things the author grew up with.

I've never ever read any version of "they were the last generation that did X" that wasn't utterly wrong. Some people who fall into the author's "they are last generation to graduate college without social media" have parents that used USENET/Gopher/Email/Whatever in college and communicated online just fine.
posted by sideshow at 1:20 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Some people who fall into the author's "they are last generation to graduate college without social media" have parents that used USENET/Gopher/Email/Whatever in college and communicated online just fine.

Probably not. I graduated in 2002. There was no social media. My parents graduated in 1976, and there was no online communication.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:22 PM on April 23, 2015


I know everyone always thinks they grew up during the best time -- nostalgia is a powerful drug -- but considering I had an analog childhood and then came of age along with the digital world (I graduated high school in 2000), I feel like I really did grow up during the best time. I like that technology comes easy to me because I was impressionable and young when it entered my life, and I feel very fortunate that I don't take it for granted because I still remember what it was like before it seeped into every aspect of life, and what it was like to do things "the hard way" -- like having to do research with a card catalog and actual books instead of just typing something into Google or Wikipedia.

But sometimes, I really miss the slower, more mysterious world. Then I remember that, unlike a lot of kids growing up today, I know how to make my own life slower and more mysterious and less dependent on digital, and I feel lucky that I'm part of the last generation who knows how to disconnect without feeling like they've turned their life off completely.
posted by phatkitten at 1:23 PM on April 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


I spent my high school years on MetaFilter. How do you olds feel now?
posted by Sfving at 1:24 PM on April 23, 2015 [29 favorites]


I graduated in 2002. There was no social media.

There was plenty of social media, they just hadn't invented the term "social media" yet.
posted by davros42 at 1:26 PM on April 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


I read a lot of Star Wars novels when I was a kid. Though I don't remember what the little gizmo was called most of the characters carried around this awesome device that allowed them communicate with anyone on the planet they were on, find information, plan their schedules and do everything my little Pentium-powered PC only dreamed of. In their hands, no wires, no fuss.

I've essentially described an iPad.


Literally every single time I pick up my iPad Mini, which I've got in a case with a book-like cover, I think, Wow! This is just like Penny's computer book from Inspector Gadget, made with Star Trek: The Next Generation materials! Is this real life? Seriously, is it?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:32 PM on April 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


79'er.

High school computer class had a pre-req of one semester of typing (on electric typewriters!) and one semester of word processing on some long in the tooth PS/2's running Word Perfect. It felt archaic even then.

I wonder who was the first keyboard manufacturer who dared to not leave enough room at the top for that colour-coded WP function key cheat sheet?
posted by thecjm at 1:34 PM on April 23, 2015


I find this idea of "generations" to be interesting. Its all completely arbitrary and has no meaning. Instead it is a fascinating window into what people think about themselves. The idea of the "generation" is relatively new, as is the idea of "childhood" itself.

The concept of "generations" is not modern, but goes back at least to Biblical times. I agree that marketers and pop sociologists have abused the concept, but the concept can be analytically useful, such as in Karl Mannheim's The Problem of Generations.
posted by jonp72 at 1:37 PM on April 23, 2015


Yeah, like cricketmeat patties and living deep underground!

I'm telling you, cricket farming is the way of the future. THE FUTURE.
posted by sciatrix at 1:40 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


It'll have to be because of all the missing protein sources!
posted by The Whelk at 1:48 PM on April 23, 2015


Bulgaroktonos : "I once downloaded a MIDI of ''Betty Davis Eyes' 'cause I heard it as bumper music on Coast to Coast AM" is probably the most embarrassing thing I can admit.


I've always believed you to have quite the handle on the English language, so I'm a little confused about why you are apparently misusing the word "embarrassing"; traditionally it is not a synonym for "awesome" or "amazing"; here's proof. No embarrassment.

(though, back on thread topic a littel bit, it is quite amazing that something we used to actively searched out and would remember many years later can be found to punctuate a joke in 30 seconds and forgotten)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:50 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


We grew up in a time where you had to fuck with a lot of this technology to get it to work properly, so new gadgets and gizmos don't really frighten us like they seem to older folks.

I think this is important -- you couldn't use the technology without understanding at least a little bit about how it worked because it usually didn't. Wanna play this awesome new game? Well, what do you know about MEMMAKER? Can you make a boot disk?

My middle and high school years were shaped by this idea that things were pretty stable for most people and it would be that way forever (end of history stuff).

Also this was pervasive, though we were too young to understand what it really was, the sort of Dow 36,000 stuff that made it seem like the adults had figured it all out and then bad stuff started happening and holy shit, where did the "adults" go, they're all burning Dixie Chicks CDs.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:54 PM on April 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm telling you, cricket farming is the way of the future. THE FUTURE.

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Crickets.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:57 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I remember Uncle Owen
Because his story's aimed at me
But that was 1977
And I was in grade three

Since then, I got to thinking
I really can't remember
The last time I was the center
Of the target of pop culture

You see, I'm slightly left of center
Of the bull's eye you've created
It's sad to know that if you hit me
It's because you were not careful

Yeah, I got the middle child blues
I couldn't wear your platform shoes
But now it's safe to go back in the water
But I prefer Neptune's daughter

My older brother's pushin' forty
My kid sister's only nine
Everything he knows is retro
The only word she knows is 'Mine'

You see, I'm just outside of nowhere
But pretty soon you'll be in my care
And there are just so many of you
But not enough like me to love you

/sloan
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:01 PM on April 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


1976 in Oregon and... never played Oregon Trail

Well, that makes sense. There is no point playing if you are already in Oregon.

I played in Minsk, Belarus in a student computer lab where my uncle was a technician. All those names were largely gibberish. I was still a schoolkid. An early memory was all the college students being impressed when I was the first to manage to get to Oregon. The original game was not easy.

The larger point about living on the cusp of analog and digital certainly holds true in my case.
posted by yoz420 at 2:02 PM on April 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Gotta agree that this generational definition is very specifically white and middle-class, but aren't most generation definitions?

We always had a computer growing up, but they were always second hand and/or a generation behind. A marked down TI-99 4/A made way for a used monochrome Apple II/E with dot-matrix printer. I know my first PC was a significant expenditure for my parents, and even then it was a 486/33 clone with 4MB of RAM and a 120MB hard drive which was purchased on sale at a furniture store of all places. Things like a external modem, multimedia upgrade kit, and enough RAM to play Warcraft II came later.

Another way to distinguish the Oregon Trail Generation: Did you grow up with The Information Superhighway (AOL/Compuserve/Prodigy) instead of The Internet?
posted by thecjm at 2:03 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oregon Trail Generation:

I often find myself humming Inspector Gadget when I use my iPad.

(I so wanted to be Penny with her magical computer book)
posted by slipthought at 2:07 PM on April 23, 2015


Born 1980. In college, a friend called me on my dorm room phone to tell me about Napster. I think that's a pretty good representation of bridging the analog and digital eras.
posted by zsazsa at 2:11 PM on April 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


Truly, we are the golden generation, for we have sampled porn found in the woods, saved on 5.25 disks, 3.5 disks, downloaded from a BBS, from usenet, from AOL chat, from random websites that took our money and gave us a virus, from incognito mode, and on our phones as we linger in the bathroom.

You may thank us, younger generations, once you get out of the stall.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:14 PM on April 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


Mr. McGuire: Crickets.

Bees.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:32 PM on April 23, 2015


Pretty accurate description. Not only did I play Oregon Trail growing up, I programmed a clone of it in LogoWriter (a dialect of Logo that gave you four turtles, and let you give them shapes! Sprites for free!).

I called it Utah Trail in remembrance of another group of settlers that left my home state of Missouri (under slightly different circumstances).

I knew nothing of the specifics of that journey (other than its western terminus), so all the waypoints were made up. The hunting minigame in Oregon Trail was too hard for me to program in the limited time I had, so I skipped that. Purchasing goods at stores along the way was boring, so I omitted that, too. There's no Columbia River on the way to Salt Lake, so the river rafting dodge-'em game was out.

When I was finally playing through it for the first time, I realized that I had made an entirely non-interactive game, and you were just sitting around waiting to see whether the random number generator would select enough illnesses to kill you off.

At least you could still write your name on a tombstone if it did.

pr ["cool "story "bro]
posted by tss at 2:34 PM on April 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was born in 1978. It's fascinating how having grown up in the 80s and 90s has colored my relationship with technology today. I still prefer a powerful desktop for a home computer. I still organize my digital music in file folders. I have a smartphone, but I only use it for basic stuff - phone calls, texting, web browsing and a few productivity oriented apps. I never found a good use for tablets. I recognize the value of social media, but I'm more indifferent consumer than participant. I enjoy PC and console gaming, but have no interest in mobile gaming. When I'm searching for digital media, my first inclination is to go find a torrent somewhere. I miss blogging.

Basically, I went from being a tech savvy early adopter while growing up to being perpetually a few years behind the curve as an adult. You have new tech available today that 10 year old me - hell, even 20 year old me - would have considered pure sorcery, yet adult me just says, "meh, why would someone want to crowdfund their takeout order using a tiny supercomputer attached to their wrist in the first place?"

In other news, I feel old.
posted by jal0021 at 2:35 PM on April 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


> I still have some Zappa and King Crimson MIDIs.

A fair amount of middle-period studio Zappa, when he was doing everything on that Fairlight he spent an inconceivable amount of money on, works fine in MIDI. What sounds like Casio might as well be Casio.
posted by jfuller at 2:36 PM on April 23, 2015


I was born in 1980 but grew-up in rural North Dakota, effectively making me a child of the 1970s. I learned to type on a Selectric but had for reals email in 1992 and remember using Mosaic alphas over a 2400 baud modem and thinking, "Man this is like gopher with better formatting and pictures." (Lawn, off it.)
posted by nathan_teske at 2:46 PM on April 23, 2015


I think about this -- the generational differences due to technology -- all the time. The author's take is that childhood's awful, now, because of Facebook, but I don't buy it. There was something sort of wonderful about being fourteen and having to order books from the mall Walden's and wait forever till they came in -- all the effort was beautiful and heartbreaking -- but, you know, awful, too.

I've got a six-month-old. There are so many times that I do things now -- access all the world's music on my phone through a streaming service or look some dumb nothing up in Google or watch movies or shitty TV shows through Netflix -- and think, essentially, where the hell was this when I was a kid? I'm glad it's there for my kid now.
posted by thursdaystoo at 2:59 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hang on, I have to reset the IRQ and DMA channels for my sound card...
posted by overeducated_alligator at 3:06 PM on April 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm sort of an outlier a bit in my generation because I started using the internet much earlier than everyone my age. Born in 89, knew how to use computers by the time I was almost 3, and the net almost simultaneously. I spent tons of my time on chat rooms and newsgroups throughout the 90's, not to mention online gaming. Explaining to people how I use to download anime via XDCC on IRC and talk to foreigners with ICQ when I was 7 elicits confusion. All of this stuff sounds pretty typical, especially to the crowd on metafilter, but I'm about to turn 26! I haven't met anyone within my age group, even people a few years older than me, who know about these things, and it's not as if my family was particularly well off either. Social media and such has been completely normal for me my entire life, just not in the form of Facebook or MySpace. I always had internet friends, sometimes for many years, on DALnet (#animeparadise what up) and on that online client used to play Westwood Studios games.

It always makes me wonder how being raised on the internet, and in primarily social environments, has affected my internal monologue and writing voice after all these years. I spent so many years being a kid on IRC talking to people much older than me. Weird world.
posted by gucci mane at 3:23 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I forgot to say that when people my age reminisce about Napster and such that I feel old being like "well when I was a kid" and I have to explain to them what it was like on IRC and other venues and they don't understand what I describe.
posted by gucci mane at 3:26 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


A fair amount of middle-period studio Zappa, when he was doing everything on that Fairlight he spent an inconceivable amount of money on, works fine in MIDI. What sounds like Casio might as well be Casio.

No, you are thinking of late period, Synclavier-obsessed (not Fairlight!) Zappa, after he broke up the '88 band. "Jazz From Hell". Anyway, these were files of stuff like "Montana", and I will fight you if you think George Duke sounds like a Casio.
posted by thelonius at 3:27 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Another one from '83 here. I am pleased that someone else has noted and shared that the group from '76-'84 seems to feel like we don't fit well into the GenX or Millenial groupings. Having worked with and established friendships and relationships of folks in both generations, I feel like I share more of an understanding and perspective with the GenXers. My SO and my closest friends are mostly GenX, with a few early '80s babies, so maybe that changes the way I see things.
My interns at work frequently call me old; in fact, about a month or two ago, I had some downtime at work, and I pulled up the Apple II emulator on the internet Archive and started playing Oregon Trail (I'm always a banker, because I want to WIN, goddammit), and two of them walked in the office. "What...is that?" asked one of them. And I proceeded to explain how joyous it was to have "computer lab" in the "media center" one half hour per week in the third grade to do whatever you wanted on the computer. "Oregon Trail; you choose a character and your family heads west as the frontier is established. Sometimes your oxen die. Sometimes James has dysentery. Sometimes... you just have to ford the river!" As I explained this to them, it dawned on me that they weren't aware of NOT having a computer in the house. They questioned why, when I did get the chance to use a computer, I would play Oregon Trail, instead of doing something else. And as I attempted to explain the Apple II, and its place in U.S. education during the 1980's, I received blank stares. Undaunted, I finished the game. Filling rations; strenuous pace; always hire a guide and trade clothes for food.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 3:53 PM on April 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm sure other cultures talk about generations, but I think these my generation are special flowers essays are uniquely American. They've been around since I've been around, and they've always been equally vapid.

Technology and social media will produce major cultural shifts, and there will be a minor difference between those born before and after Facebook. However, I don't think this will come remotely close to matching the divide between those born before or after any of the wars fought on American soil, from Metacomet on.

Or the world wars. Or the depression. Or the closing of the American frontier. Or the Emancipation Proclamation. and so on.
posted by kanewai at 3:56 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


The author's take is that childhood's awful, now, because of Facebook, but I don't buy it.

I don't even understand it. Is this a common idea? What is so awful about Facebook? It seems mostly just boring, these days.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:04 PM on April 23, 2015


Back in seventh grade I had to write a paper WITH A PICTURE. This meant I had to go to the library and find a magazine with an applicable picture and photocopy it. Then, when I wrote the paper, I had to enter the measurements of the picture into WorldPerfect, which would leave a corresponding blank space when printing. Then I went down to the grocery store and paid to use the photocopier there, taking three tries to get the levels right (although I think they only actually charged me for the one good copy). Then I put it in a professional clear plastic binder and handed it in the next day.
posted by ckape at 4:33 PM on April 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


I hate generational theory, but I don't hate this. Growing up, I did all of my early information-age tasks the way my parents did: card catalogs, telephones, photocopies. But, I spent my adolescent and young adult years being defined by something much closer to today's landscape: virtual spaces, online databases, and digitized sources.

Call us the Bridge Generation, then. If Millenials and Generation X are a thing - which they aren't - we certainly bridge that particular generation gap pretty well. Except don't, because generational theory is bullshit.
posted by absalom at 4:52 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Man, a ton of people my age in this thread.

Cobbled together my first computer, an apple II+ from two broken/non-complete machines with help from the "IT" guy at my dad's work in '82 or '83 Had the extra 16K board. Worked the whole summer for free for that machine. Last time I was there, it was still in my parent's basement. I met people on BBS's in 1983-4 that I am friends with to this day.

The computer teacher in junior high banned us from playing non-educational games during class, but he ran study hall. We played the absolute shit out of pirated Autoduel and Ultima II in 6th hour study hall.

A computer buddy's* dad actually worked for MECC. I grew up 3 or so miles away.

*He, his older brother and I finally "beat" Zork on an old apple II standard way back in the day.
posted by Sphinx at 4:54 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I grew up in this time and also think generational theory is bullshit. Maybe it's a generational thing.
posted by ckape at 4:55 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Garius: A/S/L everyone?

It was in 2014 that I learned what that acronym means -- somehow there was an important piece of digital culture that totally passed me by.

I know everyone always thinks they grew up during the best time -- nostalgia is a powerful drug -- but considering I had an analog childhood and then came of age along with the digital world (I graduated high school in 2000), I feel like I really did grow up during the best time.

I agree, with the addition that I spent my teens and twenties living about half in the US, and half overseas, so my exposure to this stuff during that time was totally intermittent. (Similarly, I have lots of blank spaces in my "US pop culture" memory, because I have spent so much of my life Not Here.) There is good and bad in both, and I try to remain selective in how I use technology.

I was born in the early 1970s and I played Oregon Trail in elementary school. We first had some kind of computers that ran on cassette tapes (Tandys maybe?) but those never worked, and then we had Commodore 64s, if I remember correctly. But of course, and this gets at who is making up these generational definitions, the computers were only used by the students in the "Gifted" program (read: bullied nerds who were good at standardized tests), so most of the students at my elementary school never encountered anything more technological than a ditto machine.

In high school typing was taught on electric typewriters. That same year I took a class at the local university, and was given a network account which allowed me to chat with people in the other computer lab (three whole buildings away!) using some kind of terminal emulator. We were given email accounts in college but I don't remember anyone using it for all that much, because honestly there just weren't all that many people who you could talk to that way. It was a neat tool, but not very useful yet.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:29 PM on April 23, 2015


We may be breaking some point in personalized tech, but I still see a lot we can do in social feedback. I can't think up a cool name to represent that generation, though.
posted by halifix at 5:39 PM on April 23, 2015


Now, all I have to do is type into Google and YouTube, and it's all there for me in 90 seconds or less. Kids today don't know the riches available to them.

Those of us interested in weird art / music / film born in the 70s grew up in a culture of scarcity, as you note - our young analogs today have the opposite problem. Many of them, in my experience, know damn well that almost *everything* is available, and they're overwhelmed by where to start and what to pay attention to.

Whereas in the 80s-90s, you needed people to tell you where to even start looking to find the culture you wanted, now you need to know which of the many hundreds of potential blogs / social media contacts / IRL friends, etc., is going to help you usefully sort the endlessly silting piles of stuff of every kind, on every side.

TLDR; the kids are alright.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:00 PM on April 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Drinks on me, guys!

\-/ \-/ \-/ \-/ \-/ \-/ \-/
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:08 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


codacorolla, thanks for that point about socioeconomic status -- that is hugely important.

I initially cringed away from this thinking "dammit, someone's written what I've been meaning to write about digital literacy and generational divides" but it's still sort of vague "yeah, go team, we're a GENERATION!" pabulum. I've written some about the "digital native" myth, and I guess I've mostly already said what I wanted to say about what we (the group mentioned in the post, who I call "cuspies") learned from growing up as computers grew up.
posted by gusandrews at 6:34 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


1957 here. Aside from the cultural stuff going on as I was growing up (fun that), watching the technology come to life was amazing. Star Trek was breathtaking, and then, in many ways, we actually started doing it! I took a programming class in high school (there were probably about two in the country), it involved trucking punch cards over to the local Honeywell office to run through their machine. Basic was a godsend. Personal computers? REALLY?
It was different... and seeing so much potential and so much technological transformation in such a short time... it's been breathtaking (and I try to cut some slack for the oldsters who just don't get it... how could they? How can they cope with the changes they've seen?)
And yah, lots more just ahead, no doubt. Fun time to be alive. But I suppose they all are.
posted by emmet at 6:57 PM on April 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Not that long ago, I joked (on Twitter!) that 19-year-old me would be AMAZED that I could have anime sent directly to my TV instantly and that I was truly living in the future.

I've been online since 1995; I was barely 15. I made a lot of friends online early on. I've seen things come and go. I've also always had older friends, for the most part, so my perspective wasn't just limited to my direct peers. My experiences don't make me feel special or like I can't relate to people who are younger or older than I am. Stuff that's still novel to me is normal to someone else; but something will be novel to them at some point, too.

I think it's a good thing that kids have access to all kinds of things now. I hear about how a lot of 20somethings just listen to everything when it comes to music -- today's pop, '70s funk, '20s jazz. It's all the same to them. This stuff isn't the exclusive domain of someone who has "access" to it (obsessive collectors or whatever). If you want it, you can find it. There are fewer gatekeepers. I think that's great.

I have sometimes wondered how we all found each other before cell phones when we were meeting somewhere, but we did. The world changes and people adapt. I don't have a lot of nostalgia nor do I feel special for being alive pre-Internet. I'm happy to ride the tide and continue to change and grow as the world does.
posted by darksong at 7:17 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Screenshot the desktop, set image as wallpaper. Right click, select "hide desktop icons". Get in trouble with the librarian for "hacking".

Turn up the volume and type "ass ass ass ass ass ass ass" on your friend's computer when he's not looking. Have the computer say it out loud. More accusations of "hacking" and librarian-ordered exile to the work tables away from the computers for both you and your friend.

Accidentally (?) visit whitehouse dot com, instead of dot gov.

Load up all the computers in the lab, one after another, with Hampster Dance playing at full volume. Get banned from Tuesday computer lab.

Kids these days don't know what it was like being 3L337.
posted by theraflu at 9:50 PM on April 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


Born in 84. I figured out how to program LogoWriter to make loud awful 8 bit style bleeps and blorps from the computer. This did not sit too well with my Computer teacher, but I managed to hide that it was me for a few classes first. All in all a complete success.
posted by downtohisturtles at 10:30 PM on April 23, 2015


Born in 1972. My cousins had an early Mac, we had a wide, flat, beige IBM PC (with a RAM upgrade!). We played "Oregon Trail" in grade school, but I took a manual typewriter to college in August 1990. I bought a Mac Classic, and in 1993 I got online via the Vax at Boston College, and hit the Internet running.

I do think that us pre-Internet people saw a slightly different world, and I wish that my kids had to develop the same skills of patience that I did while, e.g., waiting for inter-library loan to deliver, or mail-ordering something, or never getting to read/watch/hear certain media until they were broadcast again.

I think that media & culture is less a communal experience now. Yes, everyone has a phone or tablet or laptop to watch whatever they want, but that just means that we're all watching different things even though we're in the same room together. And I think that more choices are good, but I also miss having such strong shared cultural experiences.

Also: my sister-in-law worked for MECC in its sad, final years. *sniffle*
posted by wenestvedt at 7:52 AM on April 24, 2015


Ha. Stupid human tricks on IRC:

eclectist: ^G
friend: stoppit!
eclectist: ^G^G^G^G^G^G^G^G^G^G^G^G^G^G
eclectist: let's go get coffee. do you hve any smokes?

Less frivolous: That moment when, at age 9-10, when I look on pages and pages and pages of basic instructions and realize that, as cool as this stuff is, I'm not going to be a computer programmer. I'd never give up playing with tech, but I just.couldn't.do.it.
posted by eclectist at 9:56 AM on April 24, 2015


Screenshot the desktop, set image as wallpaper. Right click, select "hide desktop icons". Get in trouble with the librarian for "hacking".

Turn up the volume and type "ass ass ass ass ass ass ass" on your friend's computer when he's not looking. Have the computer say it out loud. More accusations of "hacking" and librarian-ordered exile to the work tables away from the computers for both you and your friend.

Accidentally (?) visit whitehouse dot com, instead of dot gov.

Load up all the computers in the lab, one after another, with Hampster Dance playing at full volume. Get banned from Tuesday computer lab.

Kids these days don't know what it was like being 3L337.

posted by theraflu at 12:50 AM on April 24 [7 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


Middle school!!!
posted by edbles at 10:40 AM on April 24, 2015


I have this vivid high school memory of a friend who actually actually visited Whitehouse.com by accident in the high school library. It was of course blocked by our IT people and a this website is not allowed by our firewall thing popped up. She turned bright red and tried to get up to find the librarian to explain her mistake because she thought it was going to end up on some sort of "permanent record." I stopped her because based on the activities going on in my C++ class, no one was monitoring our activities online.
posted by edbles at 10:59 AM on April 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


o hai 1968 checking in here. I don't ever remember a time when someone in my family including me wasn't futzing around with tech / computers, with the difference being it was my dad and his college roommate doing stuff with reel-to-reel machines, tubes and oscilloscopes in the early 70's. I was on VAX and PINE and BBS from my very early middle school years, and had an e-pen-pal from Germany who used to send me pirated cassette tapes from Kraftwerk shows.

to this day I am the "social media translator" for my husband (1979) who just can't be arsed to bother finding out what things like Vine and Twitter are actually useful for. I had a similar experience to many here where computers were available to me from mid high school onward, and I had a Commodore 64 in my tweens that I mostly used for gaming.

My husband's 94 year old grandfather, on the other hand, spent several informative hours this past weekend teaching me some rudimentary CSS. Seems he's the guy that keeps their hobbyshop website running, and has done so since the late '90s.

As a card-carrying cynical member of the bitter black heart of GenX, I say fuck pigeonholing. Sure we maybe outliers but I know of a lot of smart people of every generation who are fluent in tech. Look up @baddiewinkle on Instagram if you don't believe me.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:00 PM on April 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

― Douglas Adams
posted by euphorb at 9:17 PM on April 24, 2015 [12 favorites]


My parents graduated in 1976, and there was no online communication.

Sure there was.

In 1974, I frequently used Talkomatic on the PLATO IV system. Even modern users would recognize its online chat rooms.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:38 PM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Born in 1973. I remember playing Oregon Trail on my parents' Commodore 64. We had Apple IIes in our school computer lab and it was a Very Big Deal when we got to go to the lab for a class period. I did learn a bit of BASIC back then. I got my first email address in 1991 (freshman year of college) - back then, IU was one of the few schools that gave email access to any student who wanted it, as opposed to just computer science or other related majors. From the IU VAX system I discovered internet BBSes (*waves to old-school Quartz and ISCABBS users*). Since I didn't have Internet access at home (most of the people I knew didn't back then), my BBS friends and I would actually sit down and write letters to each other - on paper! - during the summer. (Can you even imagine? : ) )
posted by SisterHavana at 12:30 AM on April 25, 2015


Last updated 1999
posted by The Whelk at 11:32 PM on April 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Did anyone else have 1981's version of Steam?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:32 AM on April 27, 2015


Did anyone else have 1981's version of Steam?

Yes I did. I lived in Dubuque, Iowa where the local cable system tested it in 1980, before it was rolled out officially.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:12 AM on April 27, 2015


Potomac Avenue: "The Millenials might be the last generation where when you were born makes a big difference in what you know and experience."

I'm pretty sure the current generation will be the last one before we see a partial to total collapse of civilization due to climate change.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:08 PM on April 28, 2015


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