So here are some New Years 2020 time facts
January 2, 2020 7:22 AM   Subscribe

"If you were born in the 1980s like me, a kid today who’s the age you were in 1990 is a full 30-year generation younger than you. They’ll remember Obama’s presidency the way you remember Reagan’s. 9/11 to them is the moon landing for you. The 90s seem as ancient to them as the 60s seem to you. To you, the 70s are just a little before your time—that’s how they think of the 2000s. They see the 70s how you see the 40s. And the hippy 60s seems as old to them as the Great Depression seems to you."
posted by How the runs scored (131 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
 
Time, man. How dare it do what it does.
posted by meese at 7:34 AM on January 2 [39 favorites]


The Wonder Years bit is the only thing that blew my mind but it truly did blow my mind completely. WHOA.
posted by MiraK at 7:35 AM on January 2 [8 favorites]


And to put it in terms for those of us born in the 70s can understand, 10,000 Maniacs are still together, and their time after Natalie Merchant is twice as long as their time with her.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:39 AM on January 2 [27 favorites]


On May 20. 2021, Kurt Cobain will have been dead longer than he was alive.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:42 AM on January 2 [16 favorites]


And to put it in terms for those of us born in the 70s can understand, 10,000 Maniacs are still together, and their time after Natalie Merchant is twice as long as their time with her.


you maniacs. you blew it all up!
posted by lalochezia at 7:42 AM on January 2 [12 favorites]


From the comments: The fictional date in which the That '70s Show premiere takes places (5/17/1976) was 22 years 3 months 6 days before the date the That '70s Show premiere aired (8/23/1998). 22 years 3 months 6 days after the date the That '70s Show premiered will be November 28, 2020. Everyone get ready for That '90s Show to premiere this fall.
posted by MiraK at 7:47 AM on January 2 [6 favorites]


The greatest, truest, most accurate documentary motion picture of the 90s, Wall Street, ...
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:49 AM on January 2


Seconded on The Wonder Years! When I was growing up I remember the profound fascination I felt with a decade I could in no way relate to; the 60s felt so distant and quaint. I do suspect the early 00s are the same for kids today. Bananas.
posted by hijinx at 7:54 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


I remember in college thinking "you can do anything you want to a campus, and undergrads will just accept it, since 4 years later they're all new people". And I haven't really felt that way about life and society until just about now.
posted by Phredward at 7:54 AM on January 2 [21 favorites]


This post is an attack
posted by Going To Maine at 7:58 AM on January 2 [30 favorites]


I grew up in a little southern town and was born less than a generation after the Voting Rights Act ended segregation at the polls. There were a slew of religious schools; I later realized as an adult that they were there as a way to keep white children out of a desegregated school system even if no one seemed to own up to that. (They were nominally there to educate children with Bible-based values.)

When my parents first bought their house the Klan would hand out pamphlets at the intersection where we would later grocery shop. My parents didn't think much of it because they aren't black, and they didn't know that the Klan doesn't like Catholics or Hispanic people. I learned really early not to eat at places with names that started with 'k' like the 'Kountry Kitchen'. I'm still shocked at how my parents just ignored all of that and lived their lives as if all of this was normal. I would have fights with my dad about how the legacy of where we live is tainted, and he would argue back that it's even more segregated up north (we both were right).

I recently learned more about the author of the tales of Br'er rabbit, a story we read in the first grade. I had no idea that the Song of the South was never released on VHS because every household on my block had a copy.

When I was a kid Jim Crow seemed like something from the distant past, "the Bad Old Days", but as an adult it seems like it seeped right into the 80s that I remember. Our town didn't have a dentist who would serve non-Whites in the 1960s. Those were my friend's parents who couldn't get their teeth cleaned, not some strangers in the distant past.

Is there something about our life and our city now that my daughter will look back on and see perilous wrong that we're oblivious to now?
posted by Alison at 8:03 AM on January 2 [42 favorites]


*looks in mirror*

“Okay....”
posted by Fizz at 8:04 AM on January 2


Flower Power was after my time!!!
posted by Burn_IT at 8:08 AM on January 2


When Bob Seger implored us to "take those old records off the shelf", it's more likely they would be Bing Crosby and Peggy Lee than old-time rock-and-roll, if those records were as old as that song is now.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:12 AM on January 2 [5 favorites]


I disagree with the premise here. I was born in the early seventies. The sixties were “old” to me because I had limited access to media from that era. Sure there was an “oldies” radio station (that I could turn past), and sometimes old movies were shown on tv, but the books on my shelves were rarely from the sixties. The news talked about what was happening today, with not that much retrospective looks back at past news-worthy events (I didn’t really know much about the FLQ for example until I was an adult even though it happened shortly before my birth). There were old tv shows like Gilligans Island and Scooby Do, but they seemed contemporary. Nowadays when my kids see an older television show (like, ten years old-!) they remark on the technology (“why don’t they just txt each other??”) or outdated assumptions (“did he just assume their gender? Why is this show so white?”). 9/11 happened before they were born, but it was recorded in an easily accessible format they can re-watch anytime. I don’t think I saw JFK getting shot until I was a teen at least. I saw Titticut Follies in university as part of a film studies course, the only one of my friend group to see it. My kids all saw it before they were teens.

The narratives of history are also a lot messier. It was easy to tell child-me about WWII and how we were the good side that helped win the war (with some late arriving help from Americans of course). But current narratives about Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Somalia are much more messy - were we the good side? Did we help, could we have done better? My kids can access many contemporary accounts of historical events, whereas I was raised with just one or two - always older white males that definatatively pronounced what “really happened”.

My kids musical interests are also all over the map. Often when I get nostalgic and pull up a non-mainstream song from my teen years (the 90s) they have already heard it and can tell me new facts about it I never knew. (I still don’t understand how they do that). Between Netflix, Disney+ and YouTube they have been able to watch more “older” movies before they turned 12 than I have ever seen as I approach 50. They play video games on emulators and design their own (pretty graphic intensive) games on home computers.

It’s cool though, how same sex marriage has always been in their lives, that intersectionality is part of the air they breathe, that the de-stigmatization of mental Health is a given (almost every job interview I have given to a teen ends up with them talking about their anxiety - a vulnerability I was always warned to avoid) and that slime is essential fun.
posted by saucysault at 8:14 AM on January 2 [66 favorites]


Late in the run of That 70s Show, the producers attempted a "That 80s Show" with a different cast. In that universe, the 80s lasted less than 13 weeks.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:15 AM on January 2 [10 favorites]


I don't know why they act like it's shocking that time keeps happening.
posted by betweenthebars at 8:18 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]


Over a New Year's Eve party with some friends (mostly Gen-X, some millenial) we were talking about younger colleagues who came of age in the Feudal Internet of Facebook, AWS, Netflix, Twitter, etc. and had no direct experience with the utopian wonder of the "Anything Is Possible" Internet of the 1990's, and then realized we all sounded like hippies decrying the lost years of The Summer of Love and The Age of Aquarius ... because that's pretty much how time had passed between the hippies and when we, ourselves, came of age.

And then we wondered what the new idealism will be -- like folks are going to figure out how to overcome climate change in the next decade through massive geo-engineering, then realize that their plans had a bunch of unintended consequences.
posted by bl1nk at 8:19 AM on January 2 [29 favorites]


The 90s seem as ancient to them as the 60s seem to you.

How I feel about the Rolling Stones really is how my kid is going to feel about Nine Inch Nails.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:20 AM on January 2 [24 favorites]


saucysault I'm not sure how representative your experiences are. You mentioned the FLQ, which I assume means you grew up Quebec, like me. I was born in 1980, but I was aware of the FLQ before adulthood. The books and media in my house dated back well before the year of my birth. I was reading about the JFK assassination as a teen, and they even made a major motion picture about it while I was a teen.

As for messy war narratives - Vietnam was as messy and impactful as Afghanistan, and there was far from an established point of view on it as it was happening, let alone in the years afterwards. In fact, it was the first war to be fought, and in many ways lost, on television.
posted by jordantwodelta at 8:23 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


I don't know why they act like it's shocking that time keeps happening.

Nobody is acting shocked. People are just enjoying thinking about a fun thing to think about.
posted by bondcliff at 8:26 AM on January 2 [37 favorites]


If you think it's bad now, wait until you're old enough to read an article like this and say, "But these aren't cultural touchstones from my childhood, I was an adult with a job at the time."
posted by at by at 8:26 AM on January 2 [48 favorites]


And the hippy 60s seems as old to them as the Great Depression seems to you.
Oh my god. This one hit the most. Not sure I want to rtmfa.
posted by Glinn at 8:33 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


The Wonder Years aired from 1988 and 1993 and depicted the years between 1968 and 1973. When I watched the show, it felt like it was set in a time long ago. If a new Wonder Years premiered today, it would cover the years between 2000 and 2005.

I've got the title: The Blunder Years
posted by Automocar at 8:33 AM on January 2 [8 favorites]


Damn I still remember getting my haircut sometime in the early 90's and the hairstylist mentioning something about her age or when she graduated and thinking "how can someone born after the Bicentennial have an actual job already?"

Ugh. Off to roll the bottom of my trousers, I guess. Or at least tie an onion to my belt.
posted by Mchelly at 8:36 AM on January 2 [6 favorites]


Being a late Xer came with a lot of weird, back-haded perks, including the fact that everything always felt like it was for either the Boomers or the Millennials and as such, some of the "Oh I'm getting old and losing my cultural relevance" was already baked in to the experience. By the time, I was coming into adulthood, the media was already focused on the generation beneath me, which made me feel kind of like an old person in my early twenties, a feeling intensified by spending much of my late twenties and thirties writing record reviews and working in a record store.

I remember a couple of moments, though, that stung. Like the kid that came in, circa 2014, surmised that I was about the same age as his Mom and asked if I thought she'd like a Pavement reissue. Or the moment, when I was talking to a seventeen year old girl, in about 2014, about My Bloody Valentine and had this realization that she was born as far away from "Loveless" as I was from Woodstock, which always felt like the total dark ages to me, like, literally I was born 6 years and change away from the 60s, but it might as well have been medieval times from my perspective.

There was a book once, perhaps one of you remembers it, in which a writer opines that the things that happened just before we were born can feel almost more remote than distant history. This is certainly true for me. Sometimes I think I can visualize 1921 easier than I can 1969, even though I have way more primary, multimedia, and personal sources for the latter. I'm sure kids today feel the same way about years I've lived. And, yeah, that freaks me out a bit.
posted by thivaia at 8:38 AM on January 2 [23 favorites]


Wife and I just watched the film Something Wild (1986) on Amazon streaming, and I'm here to recommend a viewing of this nice little time capsule for some Blasting from the Past-ing.

In other Old Fart GenX news, I was recently trying to explain to a 20-something person the telephone convention of phone numbers using words for their digits, like UPtown 8-3000, and SUnnyside 4-6834, and telling them all of Chicago was a single area code and I got that blank stare.
posted by SoberHighland at 8:44 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


The 90s seem as ancient to them as the 60s seem to you.

How I feel about the Rolling Stones really is how my kid is going to feel about Nine Inch Nails.


God damn it this is such a good response
posted by an octopus IRL at 8:47 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


Late in the run of That 70s Show, the producers attempted a "That 80s Show" with a different cast.

Featuring a pre-Always Sunny Glenn Howerton (Dennis) as a lead. I was bummed it didn't take off, but it didn't have the same chemistry as That 70's Show.
posted by jzb at 8:48 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


A few things:
  1. It's true to the point of banality that "generations" is an incoherent concept (and a little reactionary to boot). On the other hand, what your formative experiences are count for a lot, and don't easily translate to people who are younger -- or older! -- than you are.
  2. I'm almost 40, and I'm quickly learning that aging well is a lot harder than I would have thought in my twenties. For many people in my age cohort, we've grown up raging against the nostalgia-mongering and narcissism of the Baby Boomers (and, more recently, their rightward turn) and vowing not to be like them when we got older. But it's not enough to just say that; you have to work to not get stuck in the past, as well as be generous and respectful toward the next generation and not assume you know more than them about what the world is really like.
That said, I've been heartened by some recent efforts to mine the 80s and 90s for pop culture material. The O.J. Simpson season of American Crime Story, for example, was really good at framing the case as a precursor to the controversies over racism and sexual violence in the present day.
posted by Cash4Lead at 8:51 AM on January 2 [11 favorites]


As someone in my 20s I'm actually kinda glad to see pop culture nostalgia moving onto things I actually remember

Some of my friends who are teachers have even started complaining about kids these days!
posted by airmail at 8:54 AM on January 2 [6 favorites]


One that really hit me recently was on a recent episode of the podcast Talking Simpsons where they were revisiting the premiere episode, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", for the 30th anniversary of the show. The episode is a parody of TV Christmas specials liked "A Charlie Brown Christmas", and someone noted that 2019 is farther from that premiere Simpsons episode (1989) than that episode was from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1965). I felt like I turned to dust when I heard that.
posted by the legendary esquilax at 9:01 AM on January 2 [12 favorites]


I'm a sysadmin, and 9 years ago I died inside when a puppy eyed teenager asked me what it was like to chase hackers in the 90s.
posted by ocschwar at 9:04 AM on January 2 [22 favorites]


My mother's childhood home in rural Oklahoma had no electricity or indoor plumbing. She heard music on gramophones: The Singing Brakeman and Bessie Smith.

I saw my first TV in 1950. I used a dial telephone up until everyone over 30 became untrustworthy. I liked Credence and the Cream. I didn't know what a racist was until I found out I was one. The 60's and 70's, to me, were not punch-lines. I got my fair share of abuse.

My son never read Orwell, but he was born in the year that Orwell used as the title for his most prescient novel, 1984. He vaguely remembers phonebooths. He can't remember a time when I didn't have a computer. I get him to de-bug my computer now and then. He once told me that I had a "read-only-memory." I eventually figured out what he meant.

The Vietnam war is to me now what the Spanish-American War was to me when I enlisted in the Army. I was at bayonet training when I heard about our president's assassination.

I very much remember what I thought sliding into the future would be like. This isn't it. I want my hoverboard, and I want it now.
posted by mule98J at 9:04 AM on January 2 [41 favorites]


I'm a sysadmin, and 9 years ago I died inside when a puppy eyed teenager asked me what it was like to chase hackers in the 90s.

"Well, back then I was known as The Plague. This one time Crash Override, Acid Burn, and some other punks were trying to hack my Gibson. Now, in those days, we lived by a simple code: 'Mess with the best, die like the rest', which was the style at the time."
posted by the legendary esquilax at 9:08 AM on January 2 [74 favorites]


I would watch the crap out of a Wonder Years reboot voice-over-ed by a 30-something Milllennial reminiscing about the years around Y2K
posted by 23skidoo at 9:09 AM on January 2 [9 favorites]


MetaFilter: Their plans had a bunch of unintended consequences.
posted by droplet at 9:12 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]


I think that cultural experiences for those who've grown up post-internet have been very different for those who grew up pre-internet. "Old" movies, in the late 1900s, were anything released before I was born, or movies I'd been around to see earlier in my life. Now there is a canon of movies and music, etc., that seem to be kind of timeless for people who grew up with the internet. It's kind of either canon or non-canon, rather than old or new, now--and that's the most jarring cultural shift to me.

And I'm not sure what merits inclusion in their canon; I mean, my college students can quote (e.g.) Spaceballs or Ferris Bueller, and know all Star Wars content inside and out, but only vaguely recognize The Matrix (which is now over 20 years old, btw).
posted by LooseFilter at 9:13 AM on January 2 [8 favorites]


And to put it in terms for those of us born in the 70s can understand, 10,000 Maniacs are still together, and their time after Natalie Merchant is twice as long as their time with her.

The period between the extinction of the Stegosaurus and the extinction of the rest of the dinosaurs was longer than the period between the last of the dinosaurs and the present day. The Stegosaurus's extinction even preceded Natalie Merchant joining 10,000 Maniacs.
posted by rongorongo at 9:14 AM on January 2 [29 favorites]


Somehow a thought popped into my head when I met a toddler when I was in late elementary school. I suddenly realized that despite only being 7 or 8 years younger than me, they would have no memory whatsoever of the decade I grew up in. Maybe that's part of why people always told me I seemed old back then.
posted by wierdo at 9:14 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]


More time has elapsed between Hal Hartley's first film (The Unbelievable Truth) and the one he is currently trying to Kickstart (Where To Land - hurry you only have 50 hours left!) than has passed between Godard's Breathless (which Hartley ganked a lot of his style from) and it.
posted by 99_ at 9:22 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]


The greatest, truest, most accurate documentary motion picture of the 90s, Wall Street, ...

except it was released in 1987, and it was pretty damned incise then.
posted by philip-random at 9:27 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Let's just say it took me a while to twig that the Voting Rights Act was only 4.5 years before I was born, and the work that Dr. King was doing only stopped because of his death 15 months before I was born.

The 60s seemed like ancient history to me also, because a lot of it was recorded all the way up to 1967 in black and white and on film, so it appeared no different to me on TV than a 1940s movie. By the time I came to any cultural awareness, so let's say 5? 6? The Beatles and Motown was history, and in my mind on the same time frame like the stories my grandfather told of WWII was history. I'd watch Fury, Lassie, I Love Lucy, and early episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies or whatever, and it all seemed ANCIENT in a world of color and video. Only when I stated studying these topics seriously later in high school and during uni did I come to see that all these things hadn't been that long before my time. And now I'm 50. When I look in the mirror, however, I don't see a 50 year old (and neither does anyone else), so that weirds me out also that... wait, I'm acutally, culturally speaking, old. 😲

Pop culture can turn over faster today than it did in the 60s, 70s and 80s, thanks to the internet and social media. A meme or fad blankets the online folks within moments and can be burnt out inside of a month, where, at least when I was a kid in the Midwest, there were people in the mid-to-late 70s still dressing in the fashions of 1966, because that's what they wore as teens and they thought it still looked great (looking at you Mrs. Cole, my 3rd grade teacher with the bouffant, knock-off Mary Quant dress and Mary Janes in 1978). Now people dress however they want from whatever era they want, and it doesn't stand out.
posted by droplet at 9:28 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]


I'd watch Fury, Lassie, I Love Lucy, and early episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies or whatever, and it all seemed ANCIENT in a world of color and video.

HDTV has done the same thing to a lot of TV shows recorded in the 1990's. Even during Jon Stewart's run on the Daily Show, he pointed out that video clips from like 1999 looked like they were recorded in 1973. Maybe it was some combination of standard def and videotape.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 9:35 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]


MetaFilter: in those days, we lived by a simple code: 'Mess with the best, die like the rest'
posted by MiraK at 9:37 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


I would watch the crap out of a Wonder Years reboot voice-over-ed by a 30-something Milllennial reminiscing about the years around Y2K

Seconding this. Now I'm trying to figure out who might be today's equivalent to Daniel Stern to do the narration. Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Kumail Nanjiani?
posted by Mchelly at 9:38 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


I can't imagine anyone other than Mindy Kaling pulling it off!
posted by MiraK at 9:40 AM on January 2 [6 favorites]


When I was a teenager, I was quite good at Jeopardy!. Not anymore. My abilities at trivia memorization and recall are still good, but so many things have happened in the intervening decades that I just can't keep up.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:44 AM on January 2 [5 favorites]


Kids today can watch a forty year old Star Wars with their dads like I used to watch Laurel and Hardy from forty years prior with mine (except we weren't really waiting around for some final sequel to round out their story.) But at least some young people now are still watching movies from the thirties, which are now ninety years old, something that wasn't any sort of option for me when I was young, since most mass media basically didn't exist from ninety years prior other than books and periodicals.

Modern media may turn over faster in some ways, but much of it also lasts on the fringes of culture far more meaningfully than anything someone my age might have grown up with, save for those some few books that are still being read today. Culture seems to have become both more fluid and more stagnant at the same time in some ways, it just depending on what part you're looking at in the moment.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:44 AM on January 2 [13 favorites]


I keep getting younger.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:48 AM on January 2


If you think it's bad now, wait until you're old enough to read an article like this and say, "But these aren't cultural touchstones from my childhood, I was an adult with a job at the time."

This is exactly what I was preparing to write. I’ve seen so many of these sort of “This is now as far away from this as that was from that” type memes that I don’t find them all that shocking. The one thing that is guaranteed to make me feel old though is when another adult waxes nostalgic over being at some specific pre-adult life stage when a particular TV show, song, movie, or significant historical event took place, and I realize I have no real context for the same besides, “was already a grown up”.
posted by The Gooch at 9:54 AM on January 2 [10 favorites]


The period between the extinction of the Stegosaurus and the extinction of the rest of the dinosaurs was longer than the period between the last of the dinosaurs and the present day.

And dinosaur-obsessed kids born from the late '70s onwards have only ever known the spiky bit at the end of the stegosaurus's tail as the thagomizer.
posted by hangashore at 9:56 AM on January 2 [17 favorites]


The first Harry Potter book is old enough to drink in the US. In case the preceding things weren't enough to... make you feel old.
posted by which_chick at 9:56 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


Faint of Butt: "When I was a teenager, I was quite good at Jeopardy!. Not anymore. My abilities at trivia memorization and recall are still good, but so many things have happened in the intervening decades that I just can't keep up."

I've noticed this is starting to affect crossword puzzle clues.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:57 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]


I dunno, I'm way better at crosswords now that I'm not expected to know random facts about katharine hepburn and shit.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:01 AM on January 2 [28 favorites]


But at least some young people now are still watching movies from the thirties, which are now ninety years old, something that wasn't any sort of option for me when I was young, since most mass media basically didn't exist from ninety years prior other than books and periodicals.

Holy shit, Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes in 1893. Sherlock Holmes is to me what Gone With the Wind is to kids these days.
posted by rikschell at 10:03 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]


I was just thinking yesterday that my mother was born before penicillin and Pluto and King Tut had been discovered. Movies were silent -- she was older than Nosferatu! -- and Laurel and Hardy were new. Time is hungry.
posted by pracowity at 10:04 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


Contestants on the long-running British TV quiz University Challenge tend to be in their early twenties - which is to say they're a little over a third of the age I am now. Whenever they fail to correctly answer a question about the culture or politics of my own youth, my first instinct is to scream incredulously at the screen "But how can anyone not know that?!"

A nano-second later, I remind myself that there's no earthly reason why they should know it - any more than I knew about the world of the 1930s when I was their age. No matter how often I remind myself of that fact, however, my first instinctive reaction of utter incredulity never changes.
posted by Paul Slade at 10:06 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


With how things change and move, to many a child born today, the idea of the 1300s is gonna feel really more like that of the 1200s, ya know?
posted by riverlife at 10:07 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]


I'd watch Fury, Lassie, I Love Lucy, and early episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies or whatever, and it all seemed ANCIENT in a world of color and video.

Weirdly, because of Nick at Nite showing all of those old shows when I was a kid in the early 90s, for me they're all fondly remembered parts of my childhood that feel as contemporary as then-current shows.
posted by the legendary esquilax at 10:15 AM on January 2 [9 favorites]


Growing up, I had a rotary phone, which was uncool to anyone who had a push-button phone. In 1989, I bought my first combination phone/answering machine, which used a mini tape cassette. I bought my first mobile phone in 1996, accompanied by a pager. I bought my first smartphone in 2003 (Sony P800). I bought my first iPhone in 2008. Pay phones were still readily available...

"Candlestick" phones were as distant to me when I was born as rotary phones are to someone born in 2010.

My children have only had smartphones their entire lives, and were quite young when iPods were still a thing.
posted by Chuffy at 10:16 AM on January 2 [6 favorites]


I was in a somewhat hip coffee shop the other day and some teens were nodding along to "Fight For Your Right To Party", a song that came out in 1986. That would be the equivalent of me, in 1986, nodding along to the top hit of 1952, which would be "Blue Tango". Do you remember how the chorus of Blue Tango goes? Of course you don't, because Blue Tango, the #1 hit of 1952, was a fucking orchestral number. That's how old Blue Tango is.

If you see a teen nowadays listening to the Beatles, that's the equivalent of a teen at the height of the British Invasion cranking up the old Victrola and listening to songs about how our boys are going to whup the Hun.
posted by phooky at 10:19 AM on January 2 [42 favorites]


If you were born in the 80s or earlier you probably had a grandparent (or even parent) who was involved in WWII (as a soldier or civilian support). My grandfather never talked about the war, of course, but it was still a strong reference point for me. But few people who were adults during WWII are alive today, and I would argue that the war became less important (in terms of understanding the modern world) after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. For people in their teens and 20s, WWII is just another old war. (And that's as it should be, but it also breaks my brain a little.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 10:24 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


If you see a teen nowadays listening to the Beatles, that's the equivalent of a teen at the height of the British Invasion cranking up the old Victrola and listening to songs about how our boys are going to whup the Hun.

Sort of. But there's also something to be said about pop-cultural S-Curves. The slow rise of R&B and blues for decades, the explosion when the white kids discovered them and added their own alchemy, and then the ubiquity of rock and roll not just as pop culture but as art.

Seeing a kid at the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid looking at Guernica in full size and being wowed by it isn't all that different from watching a teenager discover The Beatles. There's something there that still speaks to us now, in our popular culture, that Mantovani or Percy Faith doesn't.

There is a certain level of "now" that crystallized in the tumultuous latter half of the 60s that never quite went away, which is why The Beatles still have some currency but Blue Tango doesn't. That doesn't mean that the pop-cultural curves haven't continued, but the pop music of today, modulo a LOT of production values, still shares more musical/stylistic DNA with the pop music of the 60s than the 40s.
posted by tclark at 10:33 AM on January 2 [20 favorites]


Goddamn, the older I get, the more I relate to Abe Simpson's quote about aging and no longer being part of the zeitgeist:

"I used to be with ‘it’, but then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now what I’m with isn’t ‘it’ and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary to me. It’ll happen to you!"
posted by bawanaal at 10:40 AM on January 2 [22 favorites]


There is a certain level of "now" that crystallized in the tumultuous latter half of the 60s that never quite went away, which is why The Beatles still have some currency but Blue Tango doesn't.

The first pop-rock as we know it came about in like 1954-1956, and kids may not know Blue Tango but they probably know Get Your Kicks on Route 66 by Nat King Cole, or In the Mood by Glen Miller, if you are talking the original artist, which are slightly older.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:42 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I'm a sysadmin, and 9 years ago I died inside when a puppy eyed teenager asked me what it was like to chase hackers in the 90s.

Seems like an open door to some primo-grade dad-style bloviation, and I hope you took it after you recovered.

"It was a real game of cat-and-mouse, let me tell you. Of course, in those days, the internet shut down at 5PM - 9 on weekends - so it wasn't like your newfangled 'cybercrime' at all, no siree."
posted by ryanshepard at 10:44 AM on January 2 [13 favorites]


In the long view, any of us old enough to have any version of this conversation all grew up during the beginning stage of mass media. Talking about 'old' and 'new' in cultural artifacts of recording and communication technologies is really only micro-dissecting the lift-off stage of a cultural change that will affect human beings for as long as we continue to exist.

We're living through the first stages of, like, agriculture, and wondering that the kids don't remember the difference between parallel and cross-row plowing (or something, this metaphor is maybe limited) when what really matters is that we've all lived through the first few generations of post-hunter/gatherer culture. The larger changes have brought a shared cultural experience to all generations currently alive that is far more similar in its impact than any smaller details make it different. I mean, if the comparison is something like 'my kid thinks of Nine Inch Nails the way I think of the Rolling Stones,' imagine how different the conversation was when it was 'my kid lives in a house with electricity and indoor plumbing and telephones and flies on an airplane to travel, and I had to hand-cart drinking water from our well on the walk back from the outhouse and never met or spoke to any of my grandparents because they lived in a different country'. The biggest generation gap in recent human history is pre- and post-mass communication and media.

So, I guess, when this kind of cultural gap makes me feel old, I think about how alien half of what I talked to my grandmothers about (both born in 1910, both lived into the 2000s), and most of the world they lived in while I knew them, must have been. And then I go figure out what the hell a 'VSCO girl' is, and am glad that I have the internet to help out.
posted by LooseFilter at 10:44 AM on January 2 [14 favorites]


My grandkids don't even care about how I won the Iron Cross.
posted by thelonius at 10:55 AM on January 2 [8 favorites]


I am really glad to have been part of the transition generation. Seems like my childhood and even adult life have been beset by major organizational shifts in humanity. No new people will get to be on both ends of so many things, like the internet. And fuck, nobody born now can ever know privacy, they can't have as much liberty. There used to be a time where the idea of a government spying on you privately seemed outlandish, something that happens in spy movies against high level state actors and shit. Now, you're being spied on as a matter of course, no matter who you are, just for having existed around civilization.

I'm not too worried about being left behind or out of the loop, the same internet that speeds all that up also allows me to catch up. I think that's a cool thing for people of newer generations, there's little reason to not know anything, not when you can just look it up. Then again, dis/mis/mal-information are still widely spread so maybe it's no panacea for knowledge to be able to google every question you ever have.
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:55 AM on January 2 [11 favorites]


If you were born in the 80s or earlier you probably had a grandparent (or even parent) who was involved in WWII (as a soldier or civilian support).

This one definitely gets me because the war - also, the Depression! - was absolutely still a thing in living memory for me and now it's almost not.

But then this also runs into one of the problems with "generations." I'm a Milennial, my parents are Boomers, my grandparents were, you know, the war guys, the Tom Brokaw generation. Those are kind of long cycles - there are people alive out there who are my age, but their grandparents are my dad's age!
posted by atoxyl at 11:02 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


I am really glad to have been part of the transition generation.

Me too! I mostly feel like Guy Fleegman: "I'm just jazzed about being on the show."
posted by LooseFilter at 11:07 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


I'm not too worried about being left behind or out of the loop, the same internet that speeds all that up also allows me to catch up.

This sorta is the other half the equation, it isn't just a "kids these days" thing, but as much an adults these days one. When I was younger, the adult world was more closed off from the teen/child world, with some intersection around sports a little TV and of course all the family events and traditions. Adults I knew weren't really interested in what kids liked for their own purposes, they had a separate set of interests.

Over time that line eroded and adults increasingly seemed to try and hold on to at least some areas of popular entertainment that once was aimed more at young people and wanted to continue to shape it for their own interests. This seemed more the case with adults who tended liberal and educated, a continuing want of education in popular entertainment that wasn't really there when I was growing up, save for those occasional opinion pieces by some hip academic or another comparing the Beatles to Mozart or some such. Growing up with mass media seems to have created a desire to remain current for some that is somewhat new and does effect the media young people now consume.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:10 AM on January 2 [5 favorites]


If you were born in the 80s or earlier you probably had a grandparent (or even parent) who was involved in WWII (as a soldier or civilian support).

I was born in the early 70's, but most of my great-grandparents, and all of my grandparents and great-uncles and aunts were still alive, so I spent a lot of my childhood surrounded by people born in the late Victorian, Edwardian, and Roaring 20's eras. WWII and the Great Depression felt like something that had just happened as there were still a lot of raw memories and feelings surrounding those events. Now all those relatives except two (one who is about to turn 100 this year, and the other who is not far behind) are gone, and it is all just ancient dusty history to my kids.
posted by fimbulvetr at 11:26 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]


Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes in 1893.

Spoilers!!! Jeez, kids these days just don't care about posting spoiler alerts.
posted by zsazsa at 11:31 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]


My parents, especially my dad, really liked old-time radio shows, and when I was a kid they felt television was Very Bad for Children. As a result, I ended up listening to a lot of stuff like The Jack Benny Show, Fibber McGee and Molly, The Shadow, Challenge of the Yukon, etc. growing up, and not much television except The Disney Show on Sundays, Doctor Who, and the occasional cartoon until sometime in the early 80's when my dad (an electronics engineer) decided to build a home-made satellite dish. My parents became television converts and never looked back after that. The home-made plywood and chicken wire contraption was soon replaced with a commercial model, and every night was television night. But as a result I have a weird hole in my pop-culture memory that is filled with stuff from decades before I was born instead of teevee shows from my own childhood.
posted by fimbulvetr at 11:38 AM on January 2 [6 favorites]


Metafilter has existed during four decades.
posted by gwint at 11:39 AM on January 2 [12 favorites]


"I used to be with ‘it’, but then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now what I’m with isn’t ‘it’ and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary to me. It’ll happen to you!"

That quote is 24 years old.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:45 AM on January 2 [21 favorites]


Bobb Bruno now has a lot of grey in his beard.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:48 AM on January 2


Time makes hypocrites of us all.
posted by lon_star at 11:50 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


That quote is 24 years old.

4 more years than the time was flashing back to.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 11:52 AM on January 2 [11 favorites]


I have comic books that I bought off a Hey Kids! Comics! rack that are older than my co-workers.
posted by SPrintF at 12:31 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Now somebody do this for 1920.
posted by clawsoon at 12:43 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


The weird thing is how people seem to feel that not having gotten old yet is some kind of accomplishment to be proud of. I was the same way, of course; don't get me wrong.
posted by thelonius at 12:44 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


I've been reading some Fourth World comics which were published in the early 70s. One of them had an appearance by Don Rickles. I've heard the name but nothing else. It didn't feel worth it to look him up on Wikipedia but at least resources like it exist so that I could look it up if I wanted to. If I was reading this when I was a kid in the 80s I'm not sure what I'd do, go to the library? Ask a random adult if they knew who he is?
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:44 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


It's kind of either canon or non-canon, rather than old or new, now

I feel like this is a crucial point. High schoolers of the seventies and eighties were rebelling against their dad's favorite bands - somehow by the late nineties it wasn't at all uncommon to see someone in a Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin t-shirt, and most of the Millennials I know, who are in their late 20s and early 30s now, seem to be aware of Weezer and the Beatles in equal measure. Plenty of older stuff makes the cut, but the eighties-to-naughties stuff is a little harder for me to parse, I guess because that spans the decades in which I was the target audience for pop culture.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:09 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I am really glad to have been part of the transition generation.

I graduated from college in 1994, and first got online in 1995. All of my pre-grad-school life was in the analog world, but I was young enough to transition easily to digital life as it grew. I do feel like people my age have a really interesting perspective in that we completely remember a world that is completely gone. Constant global connectivity changed so much. Sure, every modern generation experiences transitions, but pre- and post-internet is a huge one.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:20 PM on January 2 [22 favorites]


The weird thing is how people seem to feel that not having gotten old yet is some kind of accomplishment to be proud of.

For me, I never want to become contemptuous of younger people. I might not entirely understand the stuff they like, but it doesn't mean it's automatically bad. I've heard so many older people be dismissive of anything young people like; I have to remind myself it doesn't necessarily go hand-in-hand with aging.
posted by airmail at 1:34 PM on January 2 [13 favorites]


The trick is to start being contemptuous of young people while you're still young yourself.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:42 PM on January 2 [12 favorites]


I think the article is missing something about media availability.

> Also, remember when Jurassic Park, The Lion King, and Forrest Gump came out in theaters? Closer to the moon landing than today.

All of those movies are available on streaming sites today. (Only Lion King is part of a subscription package rather than a pay-to-rent-or-own thing.) However, in 1994, you couldn't just pay a few dollars to watch the moon landing. There were two documentaries available - The Space Movie (1979) and For All Mankind (1989) - but you could only see them if your local video store happened to stock them.

A better comparison might be a movie, since "the moon landing" isn't exactly a single event but a series of them, and since it made international history; I don't think comparing it to three mid-90s movies is fair. Easy Rider came out just a bit before the moon landing - and in 1994, it was "award-winning movie from the late 60s." Some video stores had it, and you could track it down if you cared to, but you didn't assume everyone had seen it or even knew it existed.

I bet a lot more people today know about Jurassic Park, Lion King and Forrest Gump, than people in 1994 knew about Easy Rider.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:50 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


we completely remember a world that is completely gone.

This is so true. I graduated college in '93. I knew one kid in my dorm in '91 who had his own computer. One.

What's changed so much is the kind of context for old things that younger people have instant access to nowadays. I was born at the end of 1970. Growing up, I had very little concept of the prior decade. My dad did four tours in Viet Nam, but that was just the name of a place he went to. Sure, there were some slide photos he had that we saw infrequently (maybe 3 times in my life) but other than that, I had no context of what that war was. He didn't talk about it. He does talk about it a very little bit today, but I generally don't ask. I know he was in firefights, and I know it affected him deeply. But the concept of that entire family-rocking event remained a blank space in my consciousness for decades.

As a 10 year old: how could I even access that information? Go to the Adult section of the public library? Read an article from a Time magazine that was lying around? See some quick news story on one of the 4 broadcast TV channels we had? Music of the '60s to me was my uncle's Cream, Beatles and Rolling Stones records I heard once in a while. My parents had old Sergio Mendes albums they never played. I knew next to nothing about the 60s except the occasional joke about hippies, or mention of Woodstock. And those things were only around ten or so years old at the time! The only way I could know about any of that stuff was by asking older people, who generally didn't care much about those topics anymore. Yes: books existed and were important. But kids had to rely on adults for guidance there, and access to those books, and how many books could you even carry home?

Pop Culture back then: Someone gave my brothers and me a notebook with Yoda on it about a year before Empire Strikes Back was released. We all saw Star Wars in the theater, and knew a sequel was coming. But we had no clue who Yoda was gonna be. Good guy? Bad guy? He looks funny, like a bad guy, but he looks nice too, so maybe he's a good guy? How could us kids know? There weren't dozens of TV shows about upcoming movies on TV. And where would we have gotten our hands on a film-buff or SF magazine? I suppose we theoretically could have, but it just remained a mystery until we saw the movie. I wasn't frequenting large news stands at age 12.

The Net-genie is out of the bottle, so no point in arguing what is better. It's just hard to express how different things were pre-internet, especially for kids. You had a very tiny bubble of current pop culture you could absorb on the radio and TV. And the toy store. And older culture was in the form of random magazines lying around, contextless black and white movies on TV, old yellowed paperbacks from the '50s. "I think this book/magazine/thing belonged to Grandma and it's from a long time ago" was about all I knew about some things. Other stuff was literally oral history: asking older relatives to tell you stories about old times. Hear a song on the radio you knew was old, but knew nothing else about, and had almost no way of finding out.

It's so different now. And it's different in a way I could never have expected it would be different, watching the Internet grow up, bloom and be swallowed by Corporations over the last 20 some years. Google is as common as Kleenex now, but the mere concept of such a thing was nearly unthinkable back in 1980, unless you were heavily into computers then. But it was still decades away.

Our technology has not just continued to change more quickly. It has now changed the entire way we think about things changing, and how we can add context so easily to things that existed in a time that just 30 years prior would have been lightyears away. We are closer to the past in some ways more than ever. At the same time, we are so much further away from the past.
posted by SoberHighland at 1:53 PM on January 2 [30 favorites]


That's a really good summary of my experience as well (graduated 91, I was the only kid with a computer but it was a TRS-80 so it was only good as a word processor). Also (for me anyway) in college you didn't really have TV, either. No one I knew had a TV in their dorm rooms (because you couldn't get individual cable), so if you wanted to watch something you'd go to the lounge and watch whatever the popular consensus was. So I missed a lot of the TV shows that were big during that four year window, and a lot of movies as well since we didn't have a multiplex near campus. So even now, someone will talk about something that was popular in the late 80's / early 90's, and while I've heard of it, I'd never actually seen it. You couldn't easily discover something first.

Music was the exception to all this - every city seemed to have its own college or alternative radio station, plus record stores generally let you listen to anything that looked interesting, and you could sort through all the options and explore. If anything, music may be harder to learn about now than it was then, because there's so much of it now. And the whole album concept has mostly disappeared. So it's harder to find things you didn't even know you wanted without it being fed to you by an algorithm.
posted by Mchelly at 2:19 PM on January 2 [7 favorites]


we completely remember a world that is completely gone.

This is so true. I graduated college in '93. I knew one kid in my dorm in '91 who had his own computer. One.


I was that kid and it was a Macintosh. (Class of 1991)

Gen-Xers really do have a unique perspective on recent history, as the sea change from analog to digital (in the most general sense, and all that accompanied it) occurred in a span of years from our coming-of-age years to our making-our-way-as-adults years. I teach teens, and they're always surprised when I know the memes and initialisms and slang and so on. I tell them I was on the internet before it was a visual medium, and show them what website code looks like. They're mostly stunned that you could "write" a web page.

But even with this technological shift, as massive as it is cultural-historically, 'twas ever thus. My best friend's kids were toddlers in the early 2010s, and I remember one of them walking up to the tv we were watching and tapping on it, and getting frustrated that nothing on the screen moved or changed when she touched it. Of course we laughed and chatted about all the generational differences their kids will have.

When I relayed the story to my father, he reminded me that, when I was five and in the hospital with pneumonia, I asked him to fix the TV in the room because "all of the color is gone."

Plus ça change.
posted by tzikeh at 2:24 PM on January 2 [10 favorites]


so as not to abuse the edit window:

Also (for me anyway) in college you didn't really have TV, either. No one I knew had a TV in their dorm rooms (because you couldn't get individual cable)

That's fascinating - we're exactly the same age but everyone at my university had their own TV in their room, but the TVs all had rabbit ears. I had a VCR too. We all got together in the floor's common room to watch the big stuff like Star Trek: The Next Generation or Twin Peaks.
posted by tzikeh at 2:27 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


I would watch the crap out of a Wonder Years reboot voice-over-ed by a 30-something Milllennial reminiscing about the years around Y2K

have you seen Pen15?

I remember when the internet was just a bunch of people reminiscing about amaaazing shows they'd taped off PBS in the 80s-90s. I used to track some of those shows down with our DVD-through-the-mail Netflix subscription (loved Blackadder and Twin Peaks, never "got" Buckaroo Banzai or Red Dwarf). It's astonishing how many things are easily available through streaming -- and somehow even more astonishing when something isn't available.
posted by grandiloquiet at 2:29 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


And now I'm 50. When I look in the mirror, however, I don't see a 50 year old (and neither does anyone else)...

That can be an odd/funny one when it does finally catch up with you. For me, it happened last summer, riding the train (BART) and suddenly people are offering me their seats, the ones reserved for “seniors” etal. Took me entirely off guard.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 2:46 PM on January 2 [9 favorites]


I did this recently (i.e. in 2019) when I pointed out to someone--maybe on the blue?--that Purple Rain came out 35 years ago, which is as far from now as it was from "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (1949).

Also, as far as we know, John Tyler's grandsons are still alive.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:48 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


>> 93. I knew one kid in my dorm in '91 who had his own computer. One.

> I was that kid and it was a Macintosh. (Class of 1991)


That's funny, because I started college in 1981 and had my own computer in my room certainly by 1983 or so. Apple ][ and used for word processing mostly, but still.

By the time I graduated mid 1980s certainly multiple roommates and people I knew had their own computers, including one with an early Mac and some PCs. And there were tons of computer labs around campus where you could basically do all of the computer things you would otherwise do with your very own computer. Most people did use those labs rather than setting up their own computer.

Starting my master's degree in 1988, first thing I was get a luggable PC clone for about $300-$400-ish that I used for all kinds of mischief.

I realize that not every college student had their very own computer at that time, but an individual having their own in their apartment or dorm room was not uncommon at all.

WordPerfect for both Apple ][ and IBM PC/clones was a hell of a program.
posted by flug at 2:59 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Likelihood of computer ownership in the dorms back in '91 probably correlated to overall tuition costs of the schools we are talking about here. I didn't know everyone in my dorm, but having a computer was rare for undergrads at University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana.

Somewhat interestingly: I was friends with Marc Andreessen of Netscape and Time Magazine cover fame. He lived in the same dorm as me, just down the hall... Even he didn't have his own computer that year! He used to go to the Lab to do computer work and was big into fractals at the time.

edit: this all would have been 1990. 2nd edit: Marc used to sleep in a pile of blankets on the floor, and his nickname was "Dog-Boy"
posted by SoberHighland at 3:11 PM on January 2 [11 favorites]


Yeah, I knew people (in the early-mid eighties) with Apple ][s, and even someone in the dorm of a high school friend who went to another school who had, O my droogs, an Osborne.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:12 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


Also, too, WRT SoberHighland's comment above: one of the factors at UIUC (at least when I went there in the early nineties) was that they had a whole bunch of computer labs, all over campus, including some with NeXTcubes.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:14 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


One more Marc Andreessen story: He was an obsessed computer genius. But sort of clueless about more hands-on things. Was doing laundry with him once. He'd shove like 3-4 loads of wet clothes into a single dryer, then have to wait there and keep feeding it quarters because it would take hours to dry. I suggested splitting it up into multiple dryers which would cost the same but get the job done in a third of the time. He was kind of wowed by that.

Of course, he went on to become a billionaire. And I didn't.
posted by SoberHighland at 3:33 PM on January 2 [9 favorites]


Music was the exception to all this - every city seemed to have its own college or alternative radio station, plus record stores generally let you listen to anything that looked interesting, and you could sort through all the options and explore.

Yes. Between grades 5-10, I went to schools near UW-Milwaukee, and one could listen to that local college station (which was micro, really; its signal didn't go farther than a half mile from campus).

There was also an indie record store, Ludwig Van Ear/Atomic Records, that had all the indie pop/rock/soul/UK imports, and I could listen to them on their turntables. Bless those guys for not kicking me out. I couldn't afford their wares. Recently I was at a bar, and upon hearing XTC's The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul, I geeked out over it. I had to explain to my puzzled late-20-something Millennial friend how I'd gone to Atomic Records one day, age 17, to specifically listen to Skylarking on their turntable after hearing this song on WMSE. "Did [the store] have 8-tracks?" he cracked. "Yeah, in the 'used' section." "Wow, I was just kidding!"

It occurs to me that, as an 80s teen in Milwaukee, almost as important was that Violent Femmes were making their come-up when I was 13, and it was WMSE and word of mouth that helped them. I suppose platforms like Bandcamp and Soundcloud are the equivalent of Atomic Records and WMSE combined for teens today.

---------------
The first time I saw a laptop was ~1990: the PowerBook 100, owned by a guy who turned out to be very rich and a 2nd year in law school. I also knew a guy in one of the engineering departments who was able to show me how my school connected to whatever the 1991 version of ARPANET was, with the coupler and modem and all that. We had rooms at the both the big student libraries filled with Mac SE's by 1990. I'm sure being a Big 10 land grant school affiliated with the DOD had something to do with that.

----------------
That can be an odd/funny one when it does finally catch up with you. For me, it happened last summer, riding the train (BART) and suddenly people are offering me their seats, the ones reserved for “seniors” etal. Took me entirely off guard.

As long as the collagen holds out until I can find a better job (I'm deep in a search right now and am terrified of age discrimination), I don't think I'll feel so bad about that. There are days now where I'm starting to wish kids would offer me a seat!
posted by droplet at 3:38 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I think that the odd Zietgiest that we're addressing here is that our collective sense of time & history is in the process of getting disoriented. Back when I was youthy, "Time And History" were a measured succession of events, often violent and traumatic (and often written incorrectly) but always marching forward into the future in a somewhat comprehensible manner. Now it seems like our sense of time & history are just a bunch of random things swirling around in a boiling pot.

(I'm old enough to remember that the title of the 1976 film 'Jonah who will be 25 in the Year 2000' sounded funny)
posted by ovvl at 3:48 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I remember the exact moment I wanted to study history. When Nixon was on TV with his resignation. History and time seem distorted from previous chronology because, imo, the computer and the web.
I call it automatic history.
posted by clavdivs at 4:09 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


This is just a reminder that "generations" "theory" was developed for marketing / right wing policy purposes, not by academics, and it has inspired Steve Bannon, among others.

There s another, age-based construction of generations, based on the insurance industry.

Right wing economic planning has moved on, to micro-targeting, so the idea is out of date, and not used like it was.
posted by eustatic at 4:11 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


My grandkids don't even care about how I won the Iron Cross.

I often threaten young miscreants with a one way trip to where the iron crosses grow ... and they just don't get it.
posted by philip-random at 4:50 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who always reacts to these things by thinking that -- culturally at least -- things have really slowed down?

In the original Back to the Future the 50s and 80s were nearly unrecognizable to each other. Marty McFly could play heavy metal (requiring zero technological advances) and leave the audience wondering what the hell they were listening to. Is there anything today that would elicit the same reaction from kids of the 80s?

My kids watch Toy Story (25 years old) and as a technological artifact it's ancient, but apart from that it's barely dated at all. That's (almost) like me watching Leave it to Beaver when I was a kid, except I never watched Leave it to Beaver when I was a kid because literally everything in that show felt like it came from some alien world.

I see pictures of my parents when they were my age, and apart from the hairstyles they look a lot like pictures of me. I see pictures of their parents at the same age, and you would never ever be confused about which was from which time period.

My feeling is that in the 60s and 70s the US moved from a fairly restrictive monoculture to something much more open to idiosyncrasy, and it was like going from a one-lane road to an open field -- it's no longer the case that "we" are all in a particular spot and moving together, instead everyone is wandering every which way across the whole landscape.

Since people are free to go where they are most comfortable, and people don't really change that much, a lot of those spots are popular across generations. (The "wearing jeans and a t-shirt" spot, for example, has been continuously occupied for decades.) At the same time, it's much rarer to find a place that's really new and available to be "claimed" by a given cohort.
posted by bjrubble at 5:02 PM on January 2 [24 favorites]


More time has passed between when I was born in 1964 and now than between when I was born and:

Roald Amundsen's expedition to the South Pole (1911)
Arizona became the 48th state (1912)
RMS Titanic sinks (1912)
Construction begins on the Lincoln Memorial (1914)
Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand/World War I starts (1914)
Babe Ruth's major league debut (1914)
World War I ends (1918)
Great Molasses Flood (1919)
19th Amendment gives US women the vote (1919; ratified 1920)
Black Sox throw the World Series (1919)
posted by kirkaracha at 5:09 PM on January 2 [7 favorites]


“the weirdest thing about kids today: most of them will live to see the 2100s.”

My first thought was “if they’re lucky.”

But I feel a great deal of existential dread about climate change and nuclear war. Then again, my kids were born in 2016 and 2018 and oh my god they’re going to see the FUTURE.
posted by liet at 5:21 PM on January 2 [5 favorites]


This type of problem comes up in some of the choirs I've sung in that tend to trend white and older. Last year we sang a swing/jazz type concert that our director talked up as nostalgic for the music your childhood home had on, that your parents listened to. Stuff like Tuxedo Junction, which came out in 1939. That would have been the music my great-grandparents listened to.

I look forward to singing a tight choral version of "The Chain" someday, as the music of my parents' home was Fleetwood Mac.
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:36 PM on January 2 [5 favorites]


Am I the only one who always reacts to these things by thinking that -- culturally at least -- things have really slowed down?

Depends on where those things are on the pop culture S-curve. The The Beatles's early hits weren't far from 60 years ago, but kids "get it" better than they would get things just 10 years older, and they aren't as alienated watching Toy Story now as we would've been watching Bedtime for Bonzo.

But there's stuff on the steep part of the curve right now, taking off on the S-Curve into cultural ubiquity, or on a Gaussian Curve of fad and back to irrelevance. Streamers, E-Sports. Instagram celebrities, "Influencers," and probably a handful of things just on the cusp of the fast takeoff that I haven't yet noticed, some of which will be part of a New Normal for decades. There are Youtubers with 10 million subs who the 5th graders lost their minds over last year, and now those 6th graders sneer at for being passe.
posted by tclark at 5:46 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


i'm going to see the future in a minute

but i'll just respond to this theme ...

i'm old enough to have memories of the cuban missile crisis and kennedy's assassination, having been born in 57, along with the space age

my first exposure to music was the adult station in town (lots of frank sinatra, steve and edie, commercial nat king cole, that kind of stuff) and my dad's collection of 78s which were mostly big band era wtih some odd outliers here and there - there were also some 45s of 50s rock and roll including little richard's tutti frutti

that was my musical education until i started listening to top 40 radio in 1967, which was mind blowing

i find it sick and incomprehensible that there are so many rock stations playing the same damn songs i was hearing in the 70s - i have younger brothers who seethed mightily that rush was not in the rock and roll hall of fame while madonna, "she's not rock", was in

(for the record i like madonna better - i like madame X ...)

my kid brother had a computer by the early 80s - i had his old atari XE130 by the late 80s - for whatever reason the crowd i was in with were early adopters

i know as i get older that it's getting very hard to keep up with things, but i can't comprehend people who don't even try

my kid's into death metal - we listened to darkthrone on the way to ft wayne - but if i mention trap music or nicki minaj or whatever she's like what's that?

but that's not what i came here to say

i've done some mental math and have realized that with people leaving from my factory of 150 or so people, i'm about to become the 2nd oldest person working there, even though i'm going to be no 15 in plant seniority

HOW THE FUCK DID THAT HAPPEN, GOD????????
posted by pyramid termite at 5:57 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


I have the 20th Anniversary of the Summer of Love compilation LP from Shimmy Disc, which is more than 30 years old now.
posted by larrybob at 6:02 PM on January 2


And where would we have gotten our hands on a film-buff or SF magazine? I suppose we theoretically could have, but it just remained a mystery until we saw the movie. I wasn't frequenting large news stands at age 12.

I think that Starlog was on the newsstand at mall bookstores like B. Dalton and Waldenbooks by about 1978, in the wake of the success of Star Wars; of course, if you didn't have one nearby, or your family did not go there, or give you money for that kind of thing, that wouldn't help you.
posted by thelonius at 6:06 PM on January 2


If you were born in the 80s or earlier you probably had a grandparent (or even parent) who was involved in WWII (as a soldier or civilian support).

Heck both my paternal grandparents were born in the 19th century and three of my great-grandparents were born during the civil war. My great-grandmother on my mother's side was not only born in 1863 but on a plantation in North Carolina.
posted by octothorpe at 6:29 PM on January 2


I graduated college in 2000. 98% of the scientific literature that I read were photocopies or ill prints from a physical library. Started out with a Pentium laptop.

When I graduated with a MSc, 98% of the scientific literature that I read were electronic downloads that were read on a screen or printed out for annotations. Started with a P2 laptop.

By the time I got my PhD, it was essentially 100% electronic downloads and a majority read on screen. Started with a P3 laptop and switched over to an i7 two years in. I still have that i7.
posted by porpoise at 6:53 PM on January 2 [5 favorites]


Google Glass selfies are definitely an era look.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:24 PM on January 2


Here's the thing:

The Internet (and computerization more generally) is at least as big a thing as the written word. It is the same basic idea of offloading of memory but exponentially more powerful and immediate.

But there weren't really people who ever experienced such a distinct "before and after writing", because it was a process that gradually morphed from notched sticks to clay tablets organized by tallymen in grain storehouses to priests with scrolls to the printing press. There is nobody in history who would clearly be able to articulate "I remember before we had writing, man you kids and your crap memory...". The people who were around pre-Internet are witnesses to the most unique event so far in our history of consciousness.

It feels to me like the Gahan WIlson cartoon with the old couple in a busy street - "Didn't everybody used to have faces?" This future really is that different for us 70s and 80s people, forget the "we didn't have electricity", that is nothing compared to this.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:14 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


I've been reading some Fourth World comics which were published in the early 70s. One of them had an appearance by Don Rickles. I've heard the name but nothing else.


I read those comics in the early 70s and I had no idea who Rickles was either. That's because I was reading them here in the UK, where was he was (and remains) completely unknown.
posted by Paul Slade at 11:55 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Meatbomb: This future really is that different for us 70s and 80s people, forget the "we didn't have electricity", that is nothing compared to this.

I will respectfully disagree. Before electricity and all the appliances invented for it, pretty much all women either had a maid or were one. Add all the fossil-fueled energy together, and your average Canadian is running on power equivalent to about 200 "energy slaves".

If the Internet goes away, our material lives will be much as before - less efficient, less entertaining, but essentially similar. If electricity goes away, we will all get dramatically poorer, sicker, and most of us will have to work much, much harder.
posted by clawsoon at 6:03 AM on January 3 [11 favorites]


Streamers, E-Sports. Instagram celebrities, "Influencers," and probably a handful of things just on the cusp of the fast takeoff that I haven't yet noticed, some of which will be part of a New Normal for decades.

Ah, thank you. Now I feel old, and I'm totally ready to go shake my fist at that cloud.
posted by bjrubble at 10:34 AM on January 3


I've been reading some Fourth World comics which were published in the early 70s. One of them had an appearance by Don Rickles. I've heard the name but nothing else. It didn't feel worth it to look him up on Wikipedia but at least resources like it exist so that I could look it up if I wanted to. If I was reading this when I was a kid in the 80s I'm not sure what I'd do, go to the library? Ask a random adult if they knew who he is?

All you really need to know is that Goodie Rickles was absolutely real.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:55 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I have my great grandfather's (D.O.B 8-24-78) last drivers license issued in 1970.

I got my first license 13 years later.
posted by clavdivs at 6:19 PM on January 3


and know all Star Wars content inside and out

It just hit me that there is still a big divide with Star Wars. I was a teenager when the first prequel came out and up until then I had lived in a world where there were only ever going to be three Star Wars movies. It's hard to convey how that colors my perception of every Star Wars movie that has come out since the original trilogy.
posted by VTX at 9:05 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I was eighteen when the first Star Wars movie arrived in 1977. The hype was huge. I saw it on opening day ... and was underwhelmed. It wasn't bad. I guess it just felt a little juvenile, my being eighteen and all, thinking it was time to leave kid's stuff behind. Which is still what informs my impression of pretty much all Star Wars stuff. I'm not the target audience. It's aimed at a younger crowd. Adults can enjoy it but nobody's going love it like a ten or fourteen year old.

Which I hope begins to convey my ongoing bemusement with the profound and enduring commercial success (and cultural impact) of the whole Star Wars universe. Like being trapped in the periphery of somebody else's never ending childhood.
posted by philip-random at 9:15 AM on January 5


I was eighteen when the first Star Wars movie arrived in 1977.

I was 10. And yeah, my peers and I basically thought we had died and gone to Paradise. All we cared about was spaceships shooting lasers at each other, even before the film.
posted by thelonius at 9:38 AM on January 5


I saw it in the theater when I was 3 and vaguely remember hiding behind the seat in front of me during the scary masks and gunfights and then being hypnotized by the space and space ship battle scenes.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:47 AM on January 5


I'm just the right age to have Spaceballs in my brain just where people a few years older than I have Star Wars. To me, Spaceballs basically is Star Wars and only the first three films have ever existed.
posted by wierdo at 10:27 AM on January 5 [1 favorite]


I guess it just felt a little juvenile, my being eighteen and all, thinking it was time to leave kid's stuff behind.

I'd have been 19, but otherwise my experience was identical. There's a very clear dividing line between people who first experienced Star Wars in childhood - and for whom it seems to have remained a touchstone ever since - and those of us who were just that little bit too old to do so. We stare across the chasm at one other in a state of mutual bafflement.
posted by Paul Slade at 12:03 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Ten years
posted by thelonius at 4:39 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


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