Saturday 19 February 2011

The "Now" Generation

Whilst watching the Star Wars trilogy on video (yes I do mean tape!) with my children this week it made me realise how things have changed since I was their age. They found it hard to wait for the videos to rewind when the movie had finished and not being able to skip to the menu and miss out all the adverts! Did those of us born in the 20th century have to learn more patience than those born in the 21st century?

Here are a few ways that things have changed in my lifetime growing up in the 1970s and 80s:


Not only was TV quite often still in black and white but children's TV was restricted as to when it was on. I remember that we had our after school slot on the BBC but then "grown up" TV came on with documentaries, quizzes etc. Yes at the weekend we had a full morning of programmes such as Tiswas and the Saturday Swap Shop, but the majority of output on the 3 channels was aimed at the adults. Even adult television was cut off at the end of the evening with the National Anthem heralding the end of the broadcast.

These days children have their own dedicated channels some of which even run 24 hours a day. They can watch their favourite programmes at anytime due to both On Demand services and services such as Sky Plus and BT Vision recordings. They can even use the Internet to download them onto the computer or games console.


It wasn't until I was a teenager that the ZX Spectrum and BBC Micro made home computers affordable for families like mine. We were still in the minority and I can remember my primary school had 1 computer for all 250 pupils and my grammar school had a suite of 8 for the 800 pupils! These computers would seem very alien to today's children. Programmes were loaded from tapes and the memory on the actual computers was minute. The number of games available was pretty limited too and you had to have a lot of patience to play them with very basic graphics. Windows hadn't been invented and so we were all having to learn DOS to do anything at all!

My children have grown up surrounded by computers of all shapes and sizes and the majority of homes now have at least one. Schools not only have computer suites but PCs in every classroom and Smart Boards or similar allowing children of all ages to interact with them. Even my son's nursery has an interactive whiteboard and another PC for the 3 and 4 year olds to use. There are 100s of 1000s of games and applications available for them to use and with the speed of modern machines it is all very fast.

The Internet

I can remember the very early days of accessing things remotely with a modem which you slotted the telephone handset into to contact the outside world. Even when you got an e-mail address there weren't many other people to contact. I think that those of us with an interest in family history must have been amongst the first to use this changing technology.

Today's children take the Internet for granted. You often hear them saying "you can Google that". If they want information fast then they just jump straight onto the Internet whereas we had to go and find a book! My daughter even has her own blog and is learning how to be safe in cyberspace. Who would have dreamed of things such as Facebook and Twitter back in the 1980s!


During my childhood we either had a home phone or had to use telephone boxes. In fact we were taught in Guides to always carry the correct coin for making an emergency call from a phone box. I am trying to remember if this was a 2p or a 10p!

Mobile phones have really changed all of this. Even quite young children often have their own mobiles. I have told my children they have to wait until they are 10. This gives everyone with a mobile instant access to telephone or text contact with everyone else who has a mobile (subject to getting a signal!). Combined with the Internet this makes us all almost constantly able to contact the people we know with very little planning.


Most of us at secondary school certainly had a compact camera of some description. We would load in the film, wind it, take a photo, wind, finish the film and rewind. Then we had to send it off to see whether we had taken 36 decent photos or in some cases ruined the entire roll!

Digital cameras make for an instant view of whether you have taken something decent. My kids, if photographed, instantly say "can I see?" as they don't have to wait for developers. We take 1000s of photographs because we can and share them instantly via computers and mobiles. The combining of cameras and mobile phones has made this an even more rapid sharing process.


As a young child music was either on vinyl or cassette and in the car it was only on tape. Recording the Top 40 off the radio onto our bedroom radio/cassette players was the bees' knees. The invention of the Sony Walkman gave us music on the go and then CDs were an amazing breakthrough.

Nowadays iPods, MP3 players and digital downloads have completely changed the way we listen to music. We can take all our favourite tracks with us were ever we go with many Gigabytes of storage we can have 100 of hours of music in our pockets. My children love jumping tracks on my iPhone and choosing just the ones they like.


The cinema wasn't quite such a big thing with as many blockbusters. I do remember being very excited about what I think was my first movie in the cinema which was Star Wars. This seemed so amazing to the 7 year old me with its then cutting edge special effects. I can't remember when we first had a video recorder at home but it seemed amazing to be able to record from the television and to watch films when we wanted.

DVDs really changed the way we watched films at home. Everything was crisper and you can control them much more easily. My children have only ever known this way of watching films until I dragged out a few videos that I had lurking in the back of the cupboard! Video was much more cumbersome and you can't take them with you like you can with everywhere like you can with DVDs.

There are lots of other things that our children take for granted with their instant access which is why I called them the "now" generation. What else can you think of that has changed so dramatically?


  1. Things you can take apart to find out how they work. I was very good at that.

    Airfix kits they take time, effort, glue, paint and sharp knives.

    When you got a phone call it was important. I now sometimes just do not answer my phone as it is not normally important.


  2. Forgot about toys Matt!
    However my 2 still have Playmobil and Lego as favourites that require effort on their part to make....

  3. Mind you young kids still tend to prefer the box the present came in rather than the gift.

    My guide for buying little kids a gift is to ensure that it arrives in a very large box.

    Toys are strange as the most complex funky things have a life time of about 5 mins. Cardboard and their imagination runs wild.

    Books also seem to work well in the right setting (parents who read with them) I came a cropper on that though. A friends child wanted me to read with her. Unfortunately the book she chose was written in Polish. So she taught me how to read it :)


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