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Generation PC, 1964-73

Never really liked any of the names for my generation, but Generation PC is not bad.

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Never really liked any of the names for my generation, but Generation PC is not bad. I first used a computer in 6th grade, learned a little BASIC and Fortran in high school, even owned a Timex-Sinclair that used a cassette player to store programs on, etc. I started writing college papers on a typewriter, but by the end of my time at UT, was using a computer and a dot-matrix printer. In other words, computers were growing up at the same time I was

We PCers were in our teens and 20s in the Eighties (1984-93; not to be confused with the ’80s); and in our 20s and 30s in the Nineties (1994-2003; not to be confused with the ’90s). Our immediate elders — the OGX — managed to squeak through the Seventies without being noticed by lifestyle journalists, management consultants, marketers, and pop demographers — because, according to the statistics, they were the tail end of the baby boom. This made OGXers feel neglected, and they preferred it that way; in fact, they built a negatively-charged generational identity around their non-Boomerness.

A 1993 New York Times story described “the postboom, pre-millennium set” as baby busters, baby boomerangs, New Lost Generation, twentysomethings, Generation X, slackers, 13ers. (All of which were actually attempts to name the cohort I’ve called the OGX.) The NYT writer went on to list some harsher labels — latchkeys, technobabies, videos, cyborgs, posties, protos (for proto-adults), borders, downbeats, mall rats, nowheres, burnouts, remotes — before settling for blanks. All very confusing.

If you ask me, these various latter terms were attempts (by frightened and resentful older Americans) to capture two unique aspects of PCers.

1) PCers were the first American generation to grow up with PERSONAL COMPUTERS.

Personal computers — which were less powerful, and cost much less than (first-generation) business, scientific, and engineering-oriented desktop computers — entered the market in 1977, with RadioShack’s TRS-80, Commodore’s PET, and Apple’s Apple II, all sold for purposes of education, game play, and personal productivity use. In 1981, when the oldest PCers were turning 17, IBM introduced its PC; in ‘84, when the youngest PCers were turning 11, Apple introduced the Apple Macintosh. Although my family had a personal computer, I brought a typewriter to college in ‘86; the following year, the school’s new computer lab opened, and typewriters suddenly became obsolete.

As Time would point out in a “Whoops! We were wrong!” cover story in 1997, we PCers (no longer called twentysomethings, by the perennially confused magazine, but Generation X; this error is compounded by the fact that — this time — Time was lumping together PCers and older members of the Net generation) weren’t slackers, after all. In fact, we were “flocking to technology start-ups.” During the dot-com boom of the Nineties (1994-2003), PC-savvy PCers founded Yahoo!, Google, eBay, Amazon, Razorfish, The Silicon Alley Reporter, CNET, Excite, Hotmail, theGlobe.com, Feed, Suck, Netscape, PayPal, and Tripod (full disclosure: I worked at Tripod), among other pioneering outfits. More recently, PCers have founded or developed: MySpace, Wikipedia, Gawker Media, Second Life, Blogger.com, Fark.com, plus KaZaA, Skype, Joost, others. Oh yeah, PCers also started Linux.

(click here to continue reading Generation PC, 1964-73 – Brainiac – The Boston Globe.)

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A few of my cohorts:

Spike Jonze, Christy Turlington, Rick Perlstein, Philip Rosedale, James Frey, Marilyn Manson, Jason Bateman, David Grohl, Jason Priestley, Bobby Brown, Jennifer Aniston, Chastity Bono, Donnie Wahlberg, Mariah Carey, Arthur Phillips, Paul Rudd, Sarah Vowell, Renee Zellweger, RZA, Everlast, Susan Choi, Aimee Bender, Rebecca Odes, MC Ren, Kelly Link, Ice Cube, Jennifer Lopez, Elliott Smith, Daniel Radosh, Edward Norton, Noah Baumbach, Wes Anderson, Christian Slater, Jack Black, Alison Smith, Dweezil Zappa, Kevin Corrigan, Gwen Stefani, Elizabeth Gilbert, Trey Parker, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Matthew McConaughey, Ellen Pompeo, Jay-Z. Elsewhere: Sophie Okonedo, Cate Blanchett, Edwidge Danticat, Matthew Perry, David Mitchell, Rachel Hunter, Marjane Satrapi, Pankaj Mishra, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Hari Kunzru, Julie Delpy, Linus Torvalds.

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