This year’s Gen Y college graduates were (for the most part) born in 1986 or 1987, so they grew up in a world quite different from Gen Xers. Gen Y offers a unique perspective: they have read about the Cold War, yet were too young to remember watching the dramatic footage of the Berlin Wall come down in 1989. As the recession looms, I thought of my own experiences as a Gen Xer graduating in the early 90s pre-Internet boom, during a slow economy reminiscent of today. The 1980s offer us quirky lists of what 2008 graduates might want to remember.
1. Margaret Thatcher being elected—the first time.
2. East and West Germany.
3. Seeing Manuel Noriega on the evening news (La Pina Cara).
4. Tiananmen Square as the sight of a massacre—not the Olympics.
5. Ryan White.
6. Beaches without medical waste.
7. Bumper stickers that read “Save Ollie North.”
8. Iran-Contra affair as dinner conversation.
9. Robert Bork on magazine covers.
10. Exxon—doing anything but—spilling.
11. TV evangelists like Jimmy Swaggart just, well, preaching.
12. A world before the voluntary (and involuntary) use of DNA samples.
13. Making fun of First Lady Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign.
Pop Culture and Entertainment
14. Michael Jackson and Tom Cruise as seemingly normal, talented stars.
15. Only having Bud—and a handful of other beer choices.
16. The unavailability of Prozac.
17. Thinking benefit concerts, like Live Aid, were unique.
18. Autobiographies that could only be found in bookstores, not on MySpace or Facebook.
19. Watching new episodes of Moonlighting.
20. Johnny Carson live.
21. When videos were shown on MTV.
22. Phil Donahue (not Oprah).
23. Pac Man played with no irony.
24. When Time and Warner were not one.
25. When Seinfeld was new.
26. The introduction (and failure of) New Coke.
27. Parents suing Judas Priest over subliminal messages.
28. Watching early Indiana Jones films in the theater.
29. The Brat Pack (Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, James Spader, Robert Downey, Jr., and Andrew McCarthy) when they were young and cool.
30. When salad in a bag, microwave popcorn, and Snapple were new.
31. Seeing product placement in movies for the first time (see Reeses Pieces in E.T.)
32. When Law & Order was new.
33. Car windows without “Baby on Board” signs.
34. Crazes: break dancing, Trivial Pursuit, Rubik’s Cube, and Cabbage Patch dolls.
35. Feathered hair, shoulder pads, Jams, and all things Ocean Pacific.
36. Banana Republic as a Safari-themed clothing company (pre-Gap).
37. Madonna with body fat.
38. When laptops were not available.
39. Television before reality shows (see The Real World).
40. Pre-Internet library research.
41. Feeling odd about IMing or texting the person sitting next to you.
42. Buying a fax machine.
43. College without cell phones.
44. A Sony Walkman (and thriving record stores, boom boxes, albums, and tape cassettes).
45. Car windows that manually roll up.
46. Learning about genetic engineering—from the movies only.
47. Using the first Apple computer as a computer—not as a fish tank.
48. Video games not in 3D.
49. When Microsoft felt new.
50. Life before virtual reality.