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My “Lost” Generation

May 5, 2012

Experts cannot agree when Generation X ended and Generation Y began. Some say X ended in 1977 and others conclude it ended in the early 80s. Most agree Y started in 1982. So if, like me, you were born between 1977 and 1982, where do we belong? Which generation should we relate to best? To better understand this gap (77-82), let’s explore what happened during this transitional period and why most experts agree that X ended and Y began during this timeframe.

The biggest obvious changes from 77-82 revolve almost exclusively around technology but pop culture was significant too. In 77, Apple II computers went on sale and GPS technology was introduced for the first time. Then in 78 cell phones were unveiled and the first BBS’s (bulletin board systems) came online. Bulletin boards in particular were significant because this is how peer-peer file sharing got started before the internet was a word. In 79, Sony releases the first ever tape-based Walkman player, paving the way for iPods decades later. That same year the snowboard is also invented. In 80, fax machines are first used in Japan. CNN becomes the first ever 24 hour news network. John Lennon is shot to death, bringing an end to an era of music where names like AC/DC and Black Sabbath now rule the air waves. Our country changed forever in 1981. The first ever space shuttle blasted off, the first test tube baby is born, MTV bursts onto the scene, IBM launches its first PC, Microsoft releases MS-DOS and most importantly the term “internet” is used for the first time. Rounding off our five year period, in 1982 Japan introduces the CD player, Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” is the computer and Michael Jackson wows the world with his “Thriller” album.

These events helped usher in a new generation of tech-savvy, pop culture-aware children. But I still haven’t answered my own question. Where do we belong? Which group do I belong to? And what if I don’t belong to either? What if I belong to both? Perhaps those born between 77-82 are XY children; affected by the historical calamities of generation X and comfortable with the technology and popular culture which have shaped generation Y.

For example, while I can’t relate to the early history of generation X (the 73 oil crisis, Iran-Contra, the Cold War, etc) I can relate to some of of it. I definitely remember the “Just Say No” campaign against drugs in the early 80s, AIDs becoming a national crisis, the space shuttle Challenger disaster and I was glued to my TV at the young age of 13 when Desert Storm was underway. I also vaguely remember watching Peter Garbriel (Sledgehammer) and Michael Jackson (Billie Jean) videos while MTV was still in its infancy.

Nintendo didn’t release its first gaming console in the United States until 1985, just as Atari’s system had worn out its welcome. Nintendo is definitely associated with generation Y children. At 34 years old, I was 8 when they released Super Mario Bros. Over the next ten years or so, my “lost generation” were literally raised with a controller in our hands. It became as familiar to us as a hammer is to a carpenter. In addition to gaming, I also relate to generation Y as a bunch of “internet kids.” I remember downloading an 8 MB game over a 2400 baud modem and it taking ALL NIGHT to complete. I was in high school just as Nokia were releasing their trendy cell phones. I was raised watching the Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and cartoons when cartoons were still cartoons; not this lame garbage which airs on Saturday mornings these days.

I remember taping music off of the radio in the early 90s but I’ve owned an iPod for ten years or more now. I’ve owned a VCR, a DVD player and now a Blu-ray gaming console. A gallon of gas may run you $3.50 or more these days, but I remember in 1992 when I was learning to drive, it was just $1.05. Facebook and Twitter have exploded amongst generation Y kids but I remember when e-mail was still a new concept and nobody was text messaging. Or at the very least, for a long time Americans had to pay for every single text they sent. Imagine a generation Y kid with a pay-per-text phone these days! I’ve seen TVs go from $1000 for a 32 inch tube display to $600 for a 50 inch flat screen. I can relate to late 80s pop culture but most of my movie & music tastes came out of the 90s.

Long story short, I relate to both generations because I was born at a time when both of them were relevant to me. And that’s the point of writing this. Even though I may be a generation X kid to some and a Y to others, I don’t fit into either box neatly. I embrace parts of each experience and I’m grateful that I grew up “on the bubble” so to speak.

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