“Boomer”, “Generation X”, “Millenials: are generational cohorts based on ubiquitous technology more meaningful?

from Mediawiki CC BY-SA 4.0 cmglee

Demographers started using the term “Baby Boomers” for those born during the postwar baby boom [in the West: the former USSR never saw that boom to that extent because so many Russian men of reproductive age fell on the Eastern Front]. The terms for subsequent generations emerged gradually, and overzealous sociologists and journalists make much of real and imaginary divisions between those generations.
[Full disclosure: I was born on the conventional seam line between “boomer” and “Generation X”, yet I’ve never really identified much as either.]

But perhaps a more meaningful definition might be possible: not by birth years, but by technologies you have never truly known life without, and which you have always taken for granted. Those generational cohorts may vary by geographical location, as some regions of the world were earlier or later adopters of a given technology.

  • Generation Radio: the latter half of so of the Greatest Generation, and definitely the Silent Generation, never knew a world where radio and wireless communications weren’t a thing.
  • Generation TV: have never known a world without television. For the US that would be essentially all “boomers”, but even in the West, TV broadcasts were only widely watched rather later. (Sure, there were experimental broadcasts in the UK by Baird, and in Germany by Nipkow, even before WW II, but I’m talking about a technology being a part of daily life for most.)
  • Generation PC: have never (really) known a world without personal computers. [By that criterion, I’d be clearly generation TV but not generation PC, as the first time I could lay my grubby hands on an early Commodore computer was in my junior year in HS.]
  • Generation Internet: never knew a world without online access. [My daughter would qualify, as we had internet access (however slow) from when she was a toddler.] France is a tricky case here, since it had a pretty sophisticated pre-Internet messaging system called Minitel, but because of that was comparatively late to the broader Internet.
  • Generation Always On: never really knew life without ubiquitous online access (via smartphones or more powerful devices).

Or perhaps replace “never knew life without X” by “always had X in their formative years” in all of the above.

3 thoughts on ““Boomer”, “Generation X”, “Millenials: are generational cohorts based on ubiquitous technology more meaningful?

  1. I like “X in formative years.”

    I’d be generation PC, even if it was mostly at school until I was a teen– my parents are TV, their parents Radio; my kids are Constant Access.

  2. It’s an interesting way to split the generations. I’m either late Boomer or Early Gen X, Gen TV in your distinction. I certainly feel no strong attachment to the Boomers. I always kind of thought shared cultural/historical happenings might act as a defining shared item. The kind of thing we say to each other “Where were you when X happened?” I think the first one of these is defining to a group. To wit I think the true defining point of the boomers was the JFK assassination. I was alive but a toddler, whereas my older cousins were at school and remember it distinctly. For me the space program in particular the moon landing(s) are something that is defining, although could argue for Nixon resigning or leaving Vietnam. For my 10 year younger sister in law she was in diapers when man last left the moon. But she remembers Challenger as like many school kids her class was watching the launch. For my daughters its 9/11. After that it’s less clear, certainly the 8th graders my elder daughter teaches were born after 9/11 (hell the College freshman my wife teaches were born after 9/11). It’s definitely imperfect but its another gauge.

    • That’s another useful one, too– my mom’s only memory of the JFK thing is two images, that JFK’s picture was on the wall with the Pope’s on either side of Jesus’ (following statement: “and I can’t remember which was on His right”) and coming home to find her mother crying, but the moon landing was when she was a teen.

      Husband and I are both 9/11 generation.

      They have predictive power for identifying worldviews.

      Formative years would be something like….. 9-24, sound good? Maybe even 12-24?

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