Generation Z or Gen Z (also known as iGeneration or iGen, Post-Millennials, or the Homeland Generation) is the generation after the Milliennials, typically are born in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s as starting birth years.
Most of Generation Z have used the Internet since a young age, and they are generally comfortable with technology and with interacting on social media and have grown up with an iPad, iPhone or Android in their hands.
That being said, almost all of them know and are starting to use Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook and just about any other technological social media platform out there. But let’s take a few minutes and look at some elements that we Generation Xer’s grew up with that our children will never know:
- The floppy disk: We all had them and stored our programs, documents and sometimes entire operating systems on them (depending on how old you are). They stored data magnetically and of course we all knew to NEVER take them near a magnet or your precious data would disappear. Eight-inch floppy disks were the first variety that were commercially available, introduced by IBM in 1971. In the late 1970s, they were replaced by 5 1/4-inch disks, which were in turn superseded by the 3 1/2-inch format, which ruled until the advent of USB drives in the early 2000s.
- Saturday Morning Cartoons: In an age of Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime, today’s children will never know what it was like to have to “wait” until Saturday morning when you could finally watch what you wanted to watch (and adults had to endure the onslaught of children’s programming and commercials for toys galore). We all had our favorites such as Bugs Bunny, The Globe Trotters, Star Wars Ewoks, The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse and Heckle & Jeckle, The Littles and my favorite Tom and Jerry. I will say that I AM very happy that my children do get to relive all of these wonderful characters through streaming media.
- The Pet Rock: You can call Gary Ross Dahl crazy for inventing The Pet Rock, but you gotta give it to the guy, anyone who can come up with an idea of grabbing a bunch of rocks our of his back yard and get people to buy it can’t be that crazy given that he made $1.4 million on his short lived venture. Anyone want to buy a Blade of Grass for $1.50? I’ve got a couple million I’ll sell you!
- The Pay Phone: “Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares.” You’re going to be late; you can’t find their house; you need to call home; you want some privacy from the house phone? No problem… use the payphone. A staple at almost every street corner up until the 1990s, the payphone was the best way to reach out and talk to someone. Once cell phones became mainstream, we no longer had a use for them.
- The Phone Book: While we’re on the topic of Pay Phones, how about the Phonebook? The good ol’ yellow pages (or white pages if you need to reach someone at home). These began to go the way of the dinosaur with the advent of 411 (Information) and of course with the internet and Google, they are now only good for standing on to reach that item on the top shelf. Sad.
- The Atari 2600: I wanted one starting around the age of 5 (I guess that dates me) and loved the idea of not having to go to an arcade to play a video game… but to actually be at home to play! Ted Dabney and Nolan Bushnell developed the Atari gaming system in the 1970s. Originally operating under the name “Syzygy”, Bushnell and Dabney changed the name of their company to “Atari” in 1972. Some of the more popular games for the system were Pitfall, Pac-Man and Yar’s Revenge.
- The Game Boy: Another product in the video game market. It was a handheld game console which was developed and manufactured by Nintendo and first released in the 100th anniversary of Nintendo in Japan on April 21, 1989. It shipped with Tetris as an included game, but you had to buy additional games if you wanted to play others. During its early lifetime, the Game Boy mainly competed with Sega’s Game Gear, Atari’s Lynx, and NEC’s TurboExpress. The Game Boy outsold its rivals and became a significant success.
- The Road Atlas: Atlases and road maps are rapidly disappearing with the GPS and the mapping technologies built into phones and tablets. Most of the time you don’t even need to enter an address in, you simply ask Google or Siri how to get somewhere and it automatically routes you. I challenge our youth to get us to the next state without an electronic device. Could they do it?
- America Online: Sort of a joke if you know anything about technology. To much of the world (yes they served not just USA), America Online (AOL) was one of the early pioneers offering home users the ability to connect to (what they believed was) the internet. I say it’s a joke, because the reality is, although you could browse the websites using america online – you were actually secluded most of the time to their private network which was based in Virginia. Their spin-off messaging application: AOL instant Messenger (AIM) was hugely popular from 1997 until around 2005.
- The Dial-up Modem: Continuing a little on the AOL item, many of us remember that familiar “pshhht, ding ding, pshhht” as your dial up modem negotiated with the server you dialed into. Dial-up was a form of internet access where your computer communicated through switched telephone networks to establish connections to internet service providers (ISP) such as Compuserve, AOL and Earthlink. The device technically used audio frequencies to transmit data compared to today’s digital signal. The devices were capable of transmitting at various baud rates (measure of speed communications can travel over a data channel).
Let me know in the comments what else you think today’s Gen Z will never know!