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Youth of today

I am a forty-something, which means I am out of touch with what passes for common knowledge among 18 year olds today. (Dodgy joke about keeping in touch with 18 year olds deleted in the interests of good taste.) Beloit College in the USA used to maintain a list for their staff, to explain what the world looks like to an 18 year old freshman: here's their 2006 list. It's heavily biased towards (obviously) American 18 year olds, but it got me thinking.

I write novels for adults. (And I'm not about to start writing YA now, for various reasons.) A typical novel takes 1-3 years from the initial pitch to the first publication, and stays in print for 5-10 years; this means that a gap of up to 15 years separates the initial conception from the final "new" reader.

Now, reading as a habit is something you either pick up in childhood, or never acquire. Then most adolescents stop reading as much. A small proportion then go back to it after their hormones settle down (sometimes a long time later), and these people will continue reading for the rest of their lives, as a rule. And they — if you're reading this, you're probably one of them — are the people who ultimately pay me a living. It's therefore a good idea for me to know what today's 18 year olds have grown up understanding about the world, because an 18 year old who's about to reacquire the reading habit today is probably going to be the 33 year old who picks up the last reprint copy of, say, "Halting State", some time in 2021.

So. In writing SF, I not only need to imagine what the future will be like — I need to anticipate what my future readers will enjoy reading. But, unlike the fictional future, they're here today. So I can meet them halfway by looking at where they've been ...

The year is 2008.

An eighteen year old today was born in 1990.

They don't remember Margaret Thatcher. John Major stopped being Prime Minister when they were seven. The huge political scandals of the last conservative government are history.

Labour are the natural party of government and fiscal prudence. They're also in favour of nuclear weapons, privatization of what's left of the public sector, and friends with George W. Bush (who is the only American president they really remember).

The Soviet Union, the East German Stasi, Nazi Germany, and Napoleon Bonaparte are all boogymen out of ancient history. The Apollo Project — wasn't that an old Tom Hanks movie?

They probably remember 9/11 vaguely, and all the grown-ups being very upset. They were ten at the time.

The Simpsons have always been on Sky.

Kylie Minogue has always been a singer.

AIDS has been around forever, but there are meds you can take to cure it [not true, but a common misconception among the young].

Every adult had, and has always had, a mobile phone. They've had one of their own since they were eleven.

The internet has always been around. Cable or satellite TV has always been around. CDs and DVDs have always been around (and are boringly bulky). Freeview has always been around. iPods have been around since they were ten. They've never seen a Sony Walkman, though they've probably heard old farts mention them. And what did the coffin dodgers do with those big black round things, exactly?

Nobody they know expects to ever hold a job for more than three years.

Homosexuality has always been legal. Abortion has always been legal. The morning-after pill has always been available over the counter. Handguns have always been illegal.

Nobody they know who is under 36 and not already a home-owner expects to ever be rich enough to buy a house. The average house costs as much as a helicopter or a high-ticket Ferrari.

They'll probably go to university, and come out of it with debts equal to two years' worth of their starting salary. (Roughly what somebody twice their age paid for their first apartment.)

Lots of people take antidepressants. Everyone slashes themselves; it's no big deal. (Statistics show a third of UK teens self-harm at some stage.)

They had their first drink when they were 11 or 12. They first had sex when they were 15 or 16. Only about 50-60% of them have passed their driving test yet, although 90% are planning to before they reach 20.

There have always been cameras in shops and schools and other public places, although there are more of them than there used to be. Old folks grumble about privacy, but really, you're being watched wherever you are. If you don't like it, get a hoodie.


Anyone got anything to add? I'm in a list-making mood this week.



I don't know the young well enough to be sure, but I suspect that environmental issues have had a place in their consciousness. Whether they really understood and participated is another matter. In my day, the response would definitely have been WTF.


Dang, I forgot environmentalism: it's as big an issue among younger folks as Imminent Nuclear Annihilation™ was in my youth (the 1970s and 1980s).


I'm just about twice the age of the people Charlie mentions, and I remember school assemblies about the ozone hole and CFCs, and the greenhouse effect and global warming (never "climate change", not then) were also perfectly obviously on the radar. I'm sure there were plenty of people calling to Save the Whales and saying Nuclear Power? No Thanks! as well.

Thing is, has it changed the behaviour of twenty and thirtysomethings since they grew up? It doesn't exactly look like it. Perhaps the old (Churchill?) maxims about it the natural change from socialist to conservative outlooks needs updating.


"Albums" have always been free.

Computers fit in you pocket. Heck, everything worthwhile fits in your pocket....

(I loved the comment about Apollo. I remember, in a previous job, starting a tutorial with talking about the moon landings. The look of confusion on the students' faces..... Which I guess is your whole point!)


That's the great thing about teaching college (or working in a college library, which I do)--I get to hear about these things *all the time*

Let's see now...oral sex isn't really sex, and isn't that big a deal.

Privacy's overrated. Share everything with everyone. "TMI" is a meaningless acronym.

There's no such thing as a tv episode you can't wait for in repeats or see online.

If you want to know the latest hip clothing, you can find out right away.

  • Only old people type slowly. (Whether into a phone or a computer keyboard.)
  • You can identify old people from the way they insist on using correct punctuation, capitalization, and spelling in emails / text messages -- and fail to understand most of the abbreviations you use.
  • Typewriters only ever appear in historical dramas.
  • Computer games have always been cool.
  • You don't have to buy movies or music in the shop, you can just download them off the net for free -- though adults say you shouldn't, everyone does it anyway.
  • You schedule your TV watching around when you're free, not the other way around.


About 10 years ago my nephew went to a Yankees game with his grandfather, after the game ended my father-in-law gave him some change and told him to to call Grandma to tell her that they were on their way home, the kid found some public phones, tried to call Grandma but failed.He had to go get his Grand-father to help him. The public Phones had rotary dials.


As an American teen, it's interestingly recursive to read a list about UK teens, based off of a list about US teens, concerning what adults think about teens! Mirrors reflecting mirrors.

As for 9/11, I remember watching the aftermath in math class. The teacher was from new york, and was very upset.

I also remember the first cell phones, only they were called *car* phones, were as big as a phone book, and had a twenty minute battery life.


>the East German Stasi

In Germany, it is the first generation of born after unification. Older maps of Europe
might look strange to them.


There has always been a war in Iraq (well, as far back as one care to remember, at least).

There's apaedophile hiding in every bush. Or so the adults say.


Meme's travel at the speed of light. I know today what I want tomorrow because people all over the world are talking about it 12 hours before the meridian hits me.

Fashion identifies me now as part of a global community. No longer the mods and rockers of the past (WTF?), but I'm a goth, or an emo, perhaps I'm even a somewhat retro man.

I am 18 - I am a (wo)man. In this country, nothing is now age restricted to me (in a general legal term).

Yes, I have a laptop. And I know how to make it do things. I might not be a programmer - but the GUI on any one of my tools would make a 70's user crap his pants.

I'm not smarter than you were 20 years ago - I've just got access to the world (er...though not all of 'the world' is as impartial as you'd hope it'd be)


ALSO: You can instantly tell how old someone is by how big the text is on their screen. Big bold text? The other window is open to a page of coffin prices. Because they're old and about to die, you see. It's funny, shut up.

  • The only phone numbers anyone has to remember are their own, so that they can pass them on to others.

I don't buy your premise about the readership. I may be a 50-something codger (it creeps up on you eventually), but I and my peers never stopped reading avidly during our hormone charged years. (Actually reading slowed down only during the frenetic early work years). While I accept that my particular world view may preclude me from fully understanding some older works, it never stopped me from reading and appreciating them. A C Clarke was my favorite author and I still enjoy dipping into his old novels and short stories, reveling in the feel of the stories, much as we did with Verne and Wells.

You seem approach your readership from the global marketing perspective. I would suggest that perspective is wrong, you are not selling the equivalent of toothpaste. Your readers are probably a miniscule niche market that look to your works for a particular style or content. I seriously doubt trying to gauge the general reader's experiences will be of that much value, even if it is fun to contemplate.


Air travel has always been routine transportation for just about everyone; they probably took their first plane flights when they were so young they don't remember them.

"Cash" is an old-fashioned, slightly shady concept, kept around by their parents to hobble their spending practices while they were dependents or used to hide purchaes from authority figures; credit is how you buy everything (and the kids who are now 8 probably won't know what a credit card is; by the time they're making routine purchases of snacks and makeup they'll be using their phones).

There are two body types: anorexic and obese. Everybody else is a wannabe.


The word "digital" feels strange in "digital camera", "digital TV", "digital music", etc., since of course these things are digital. You have no idea why a "digital watch" or "digital alarm clock" would ever have seemed exciting or futuristic.

You either do not care about politics, or you obsessively follow political news, polls and statistics. Either way, you probably do not vote.

You think nothing of changing your phone handset or provider every few months. It would never occur to you to repair, rather than replace, broken electronic equipment. Even so, your data is far more important than the device, since you view phones, cameras and computers as essentially disposable.

You have never had to wait to get photos developed.

Anything which you have and don't want will probably get sold on eBay.


Let me add to my last comment that I have always known telephones, radios, cars, commercial air travel, antibiotics, volunteer-only armies. But that environment does not affect my appreciation of historical novels one iota.


Just had this round about the Google generation....


@15: >Air travel has always been routine transportation for just about everyone

My parents are still convinced that only very rich people can afford to fly. _Normal people like us_ of course take train.


Much is made of the big bad GENERATION GAP but it seems to me that it has little or no real-world effects and hasn't since the term was coined in the 60's or 70's.

Kids have cell phones now and text each other... whoopeee. It hasn't done much to change the chewing experience of being a teenager (at least in America).

Some read, some don't. Some smoke weed, some don't. Some skateboard, some don't. Some play SNES (I mean Xbox) some don't. All react to the opportunity to getting their license . Most are preoccupied with their social situation. Most have a weird affinity for music produced in the 1970s.

Even free and unfettered access to pornography via the internet has failed to significantly alter the experience of being a teenager.

The guiding principle of teen-ness seems to be a construct of non-teens who are obsessed with distinguishing THE TEENS from THE HUMANS and inseminating them with their own hope and fear.


Alex(17): I wonder if the strength of your denial masks an actual affirmation. Perhaps your enjoyment of historical novels is enhanced by all those things you have known. Just imagine the wonder of a world where fates hang on how fast a trip between London and Paris one can make by horse and ship. Why, it's almost science fiction!


Old doesn't start when someone starts to have gray hair. Old is anything above 25-ish.


In Ireland, the 18 year olds are the ones who have no memory of the austerity, nay poverty of Ireland in the old days.

They've known nothing but economic boom, really. But now the boom is ending (though we don't yet know if it will be with a whimper or a bang) and to paraphrase Morrisey, 'their sense of entitlement won't keep them warm tonight'.

Unlike my generation, the only news they've ever heard about Northern Ireland (when they bother to pay it a smidgen of attention at all, of course) has related to the peace process. They know nothing of the grim parade of horror which was conveyed into our living rooms by the nightly news, the seemingly endless round of bombings and assasinations. . .

It also seems to be fashionable among the youth of today to adopt a superficially right-wing political stance, just as it was fashionable among their predecessors of 40 years ago to adopt a superficially leftist stance.

One thing that's true of young women in the US, UK and the Republik of Aaarghland: a constant pressure to conform to a lumpen ideal of feminine beauty, to look like a half-starved human Barbie doll. A tragic indictment of the modern era, I think you'll agree.


Only about 50-60% of them have passed their driving test yet, although 90% are planning to before they reach 20.

Disagree; I reckon cars will be a slightly fusty concept (50s tech! ugly! smelly! ungreen! I mean, cars?), as well as damned expensive. (ObCharlie, Accelerando: A world of cheap broadband and expensive gas)

And if you didn't get your licence between 17 and 18, you won't be paying for lessons or cars or petrol as a student at McUniversity, or for quite a while afterwards. By which time you may well have lost interest. However, we're not going to run out of hackers any time soon, thanks to free software and courseware.

I think at some point there'll be an anti-suburban terror group, but it won't be driven by Kunstleroids, but instead by inchoate financial rage, like all insurgencies. Like the Sons of Glyndwr burning second homes, but in London.


Transcontinental planes being cheap enough to use more than once a decade may be a historical blip. The generation after this one, or the one after that, may once again follow the "jet set" vicariously in the gossip media, and wonder if they'll ever be that rich.

I grew up working class in a big house in London, that my dad and stay-at-home mum were able to afford for us all on his building-site labourer's wage. Tell that to young folk today and they don't believe yer.


Being very old and ignorant, I have appealed for the truth from those who know. Some is already covered above, I'm afraid:

"Um - just a couple.. Talking on the phone is a slightly uncomfortable-making experience - things are so much clearer when you IM or text (actually, that one's spread up the age-ladder as well - nobody in my office seems to use the phone).

Also, since today's 18-year-old has been using a computer since they were in the womb, they can touch type at 140wpm but have the handwriting of a drunken baboon (again, I'm generously including myself in the 18-year-old category here).

If you don't have >250 friends on Facebook and Myspace you're a loser. Whether you've actually met them or not is irrelevant.

Music is for free and always shall be so, it's far better to spend the ??? on actually seeing the acts live in the flesh (I would tend to agree with this, actually, nobody likes playing to an empty house).

Using too many plastic bags and gratuitous carbon consumption are worse crimes than strangling, cooking and eating your neighbours, but anybody worth knowing has a houseful of gadgets and gizmos that are on standby at all hours of the day and night. Even brushing your teeth requires batteries.

Kids these days don't get guilt-tripped about uneaten food through epic spiels on the suffering of the starving children of Africa. Those children are still starving but hell, have you seen how fat people are around here? Suddenly our own inability to get off our fat asses has totally eclipsed little worries like malaria, AIDS or famine.

I'm going to stop now, I'm making myself angry. Not that things used to be any better, they really didn't. But possibly people were a little less sanctimonious about f**ing carbon miles and organically produced this and hand-milked that and individually scalped the other. Not that it's not important, it really really is. We do have a big climate crisis and an international trade disaster and stupidly unhealthy lifestyles that are going to stop us from living to 200 when really there's no reason we shouldn't be able to do that. But does everyone have to be so annoying about it?

Rant over.



Parents have all taken drugs and hardcore porn has always been legal, readily available and free.

An interest in anything can be met online. No more sitting alone in a village and wondering if you are the only one who thinks, feels, sees this way. A community of the previously outcast is waiting.


The above was from a mid 20's, through university and well into the world of work as a magazine sub editrix.

Here's the response from EC, 20, second term of university. Warning: young person's tone:

"Oh yeah, talking on the phone is like the MOST uncomfortable thing ever. I
hate it. Especially to none-family members. I just don't understand why
you wouldn't text someone instead. Ugh.

Also, none of us really expect to ever pay off our student loans. But at
the same time none of us have really got to grasps with the concept of
'choosing' between two things, like buying one top INSTEAD OF another.

I don't think this is true of everyone - actually, I have a friend who
doesn't have a laptop - but I know that Carly and I can't sleep unless we
can see the little blinking lights on our laptops.

'Responsibility' is an impossibly old-fashioned concept. Definitely in my
seminars anyway.

Everyone I know would rather be a chav than a rah, and most of them feel
like they were cheated of something by growing up middle-class.

Umm everything you need to pass an essay is on Wikipedia or BBC news? Or
Dinosaur Comics if you do philosophy.

Hmm I can't think of any more but my interest has been piqued.

Love love.


"If you don't have >250 friends on Facebook and Myspace you're a loser. Whether you've actually met them or not is irrelevant."

Maybe this explains several friending requests I've had this week from strangers whose profiles display no perceivable reason for them to be interested in a small press author...

However, I'm a middle-aged fart barely younger than Charlie, and *I* have a lot of friends for whom meatspace contact is irrelevant to the relationship. Of course, in my case, there is actually some connection between these people and the pre-LiveJournal definition of the word "friend"...


Cutting behavior--or worse--in one in three? Something is wrong, very wrong.


An interesting counter-tactic of drug panic organizations to the "parents have all taken drugs" problem has been their insistence that today's drugs are New And Improved, not like that harmless stuff you used to smoke, missus. Drug dealers are happy to go along with the product promotion.


I know what I think when I encounter an undergraduate student who thinks you can pass a course by referring solely to wikipedia.

I think 'I could crush this student like an ant. . . but that would be too easy. . . ', while stroking a large white cat. . .


I'm going to turn 30 this year, so the gap between me and them is about the same as between me and people like Charlie. Now I understand a little how it must feel talking to adults that much younger...

And regarding environmentalism, I remember it being an issue but in a different way than today. The big concerns were pollution -- Exxon Valdez, dumping in the oceans, etc. -- or endangered species. Global Climate Change wasn't even a concept on our radar. The Ozone Layer being eaten away by CFCs was a bigger worry than greenhouse gases - we thought we'd all get skin cancer just walking outside by 2008 (I lived in Arizona at the time).


Kylie Minogue has always been a singer. We have always been at war with Eastasia


Whew. As a parent of a 13-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy, I can sympathize with everything here. Absolute number one for change is the Google thing. There has always been Google available to tell you anything about anything. I think that makes an incredible difference in outlook.

Nobody knows phone numbers at *all*, not even your own -- they're stored in your phone and you read them in off the screen of your friend's phone (or just get called) and then forget them forever. Memory prosthesis is the most natural thing you can imagine, in other words.

Meeting like-minded people online, true dat.

Also: all the out-of-school chatting in my daughter's 8th-grade class is through Facebook and IM. They only get together in groups to watch movies, but they talk every evening anyway. They also collaborate on homework by IM, by the way -- emailing parts of essays back and forth as needed.

My son has recently realized that his massive Lego and Transformer collections are feeling a little passé. Everybody else is focused on Gameboy and Playstations. And Wii. Since my wife and I refuse to invest in such specific timewasting technology, this is a bone of contention. My god, the kid already has a laptop -- at 8! -- and if it's not available in a PC version, I don't care what game is currently considered cool. (He manages OK, using driving games and whatever Flash stuff he can find online. And visits to friends, of course.)

Everybody has always had their own computer and broadband Internet, by the way.

Environmentalism, yes. Veganism! Just because they feel like it's nice! My daughter was close to being vegan before she got Crohn's Disease -- that really makes you focus more on eating what you can.

Everybody has always had diagnosed chronic diseases. Betcha you didn't think of that one. Also: having a chronic disease is a status symbol. Braces -- status symbol. Glasses -- status symbol (to a lesser extent). It's all kind of jewelry now.

My daughter and I took a language class together when she was 8 or so (five years ago). One of the example hobbies was collecting records. She didn't understand what the picture was supposed to be.


A couple of other thoughts (after a battle with my computer):

You don't repair, just buy a new one.

They don't know what "blue screen of death" is (well, I can dream, can't I?)


How about this? Although the world may end with an overheated whimper in a century or so, it is not going to end with a thermonuclear bang within the next few minutes.


What I remember most of being a teenager was the feeling that the whole world could end in a flash, caused by faceless men far away. I didn't obsess about it all the time, but it was always there in the back of my mind. I didn't realize how much it affected me until the Berlin Wall fell, and suddenly the world was a different place — it was like coming out of a long bout of depression I hadn't known I was in, or getting glasses for the first time and really seeing things for the first time…

Talking to some of my kids now, I wonder if the world has already ended, and we just don't know it yet. That the damage has been done by faceless men who will be gone before the bills arrive…


Prague is where you go to get plastered while paying peanuts.

Poland is where the plumbers come from.

And everyone who works in a hotel/pub/restaurant in London comes from Eastern Europe.

Trains have always been privatized - british rail? what that?

Red Bull has always been the drink you have when clubbing - the only question is what you mix with it.

What is an 'O' Level? is that easier or harder than an A Level?

What is MS-DOS? Or Windows 3.x? or Windows NT?


"Braces -- status symbol."

This was apparently also true in the 70's. Though I wasn't around at the time Jodie Foster's character in the original Freaky Friday really doesn't want to get her braces removed.


If there is any truth at all in peak oil theory then the current crop of teenagers could have a very tough adjustment period ahead of them. They have been, explicitly and implicitly, promised eternal good times and they may be very short lived - witness the current $100/barrel oil price.
Physical effort of any kind is now totally out of fashion and the teenager of today is totally out of touch with basics like food production (veg garden?), making a fire, non-car transport like cycling or, god-forbid, walking!
They may not be very pleased with all those who used up all the cheap oil either!
Just a thought


More phone data: we realized that our two children are not "learning" how to answer the phone or take/make calls like we did when we were their age. We don't call people "at home" any more - we call individuals. So kids are not part of that communicative process. On the other hand, there is no danger to them giving away a home alone status.

Media: we do not watch broadcast, contemporary television in our home, but our children are very familiar with British programs of 1965-1985 thanks to DVD and internet. Other programming of earlier times is available online through resources like Joost and Miro, or via Torrent(s).

Memory prosthesis is the most natural thing you can imagine, in other words.

This is the part that is most familiar. The quantity of data carted around is huge, and the rest is a couple of mouse clicks away. Emphasis is now on "how to find" rather than "remember this." There is just not that much you HAVE to remember. Emails are searchable, google is always there and someone has posted a summary to wikipedia.


Personal computers have always had GUIs involving windows, icons, menus, and a pointer (a mouse or the moral equivalent).

You may have found the interface difficult when you started to learn how to use it, but you just had to suck it up and deal, because you can't expect future versions to be significantly more usable.


Will Ross @26: apropos the sanctimony, public displays of Deep Greenery are the new Puritanism. Nothing new to see here, Oliver Cromwell would have recognized it clearly -- the diminishing echoes of the Black Death echoing down the ages.

Michael @35, the chronic disease thing is true, but didn't occur to me. (Severe atopic eczema which I only got over about five years ago -- severe enough to need hospital dermatologist treatment from time to time -- and myopia augmented by whacky retinal trouble: I knew there was a reason I always felt several years ahead of my time ...)


Hong Kong is a part of China not a British Colony

The currency in Europe is the Euro (and until very recently you get 1.5 of them to a quid)

Trades Unions and strikes are strange things that they have in France and cause delays when we go on holiday


Oh and you wrote:
They had their first drink when they were 11 or 12. They first had sex when they were 15 or 16. Only about 50-60% of them have passed their driving test yet, although 90% are planning to before they reach 20.

Thinking back 2 decades to when I was 18 (I'm only a few years younger than you) and I think the same applied to me and most of my mates at the time.

e.g. I got drunk for the first time at 11, smoked and had drugs for the first time (mushrooms) shortly after - all these occurred in my first year at secondary school (lost my virginity there too) - and passed my driving test just before I was 19. I didn't drive much for quite some time afterwards though...


:The cool thing (in whatever field) changes monthly, if not weekly, if not daily... (eg, friendster -> myspace -> facebook -> ???)
except WoW. WoW seems to big to ever go away (from my point of view, but what do I know, I'm 29)

:There's been harry potter books as long as they could read
:Lord of the Rings is a Film
:International calling is easy. Interstate calling (in Australia at least) is not something that requires planning and budgeting for


Phones and cameras are inseparable. Everyone has a camera with them at all times. Whenever something even mildly amusing happens, taking a picture is not out of the question.

Scanners are for offices or specialized uses. No point in printing the picture just to scan it again, when the picture's digital in the first place.

Music doesn't come on CDs. Films still take some time to download, but it's usually not worth buying them. Software doesn't come on big boxes with CDs, diskettes, or big manuals.

Floppy disks are ancient tech, 3.5 or 5.25 inches are esoteric meaningless measures. Much less 3 inch two-sided floppies you have to flip over. 1 megabyte is small. 1 gigabyte is the normal size for a complex software suite or a quite high quality film. 1 terabyte is a lot, but not science fiction. Kilobytes or kilobits are more likely to be measures of bandwidth than of storage capacity. Modems do not make strange noises, and they don't block the phone line while you use them. You don't respond to your e-mail offline to save phone charges. Usenet is esoteric, gopher is extinct, archie is something archeologists might care about.

RAM comes in quite a few varieties, but you don't measure it by its number of pins.

Mice no longer use serial, keyboards no longer use PS/2, printers no longer use parallel. Scanners don't talk SCSI, are you high? Everything talks USB, except for some high-end hardware that talks IEEE1394.

CRT screens are quaint. Computers don't have turbo buttons, and rarely reset. 9600,8,1,n, what the hell is that? A null modem cable? 25-to-9 converter? Fiddling with BIOS setup is something geeks do when they're bored, not normal users when they changed hard drive.

Battery technology still sucks, but normal people don't know what memory is.

set blaster=a:220,i:5,d:7,p:330,t:6 is not a necessary incantation to get sound to work. You turn on the machine, when you buy it, and sound is working, even if it runs Linux.

If you run Linux, you don't know what recompiling a kernel is, or what anyone would do that for. /etc/ppp/options doesn't bring bad memories.

If you chat on-line, it's probably not through IRC. If you use IM, and let's face it, you do, it's not through AIM or ICQ. If you do VoIP it's probably through Skype, not NetMeeting, and you don't have to know your friends' IPs to use it, or what an IP is for that matter.

Keyboards have always had a windows key. Mice have always had a scroll wheel. You probably remember mice with balls, but not with 2 buttons.

To be safe in your computing, you either need a BSc in comp sci, or an antivirus, antispam, antispyware, daily updated threat definitions, a software and hardware firewall, and a surplus of luck.

Your microwave oven has 4 megs of RAM, your mobile phone at least 64, your computer at least 1024. And it still takes more than a minute to boot.

IPv6 has been going to be adopted real soon now for your whole life.

OK, got a bit carried away maybe, and clearly this is too geek-centric, but it surprises me how little 18 year olds have in common in terms of tech base with me, and I'm just 25.


For perspective on this post, I'm a 30 year old yank.

Don't underestimate what young people know. A lot of these items underestimate what they will know about events during their youth. People don't just ignore everything in the world until they are 14, like some of these items imply.

Kids who saw 9/11 at ten were plenty old enough to remember it clearly. Heck, I was 9 when the Challenger disaster happened and I remember it as a significant event. 9/11 is more likely to be this generations' version of the JFK assassination, with everyone remembering where they were when it happened.

"Nobody they know who is under 36 and not already a home-owner expects to ever be rich enough to buy a house. The average house costs as much as a helicopter or a high-ticket Ferrari."

Wow, that one is bizarre to me as an American. I'm 30 and bought a house at 26. Here in middle america US$150K isn't unusual for a house, and older houses can be had for half that easily.


The one for 2018 will be even more interesting. I have coworkers whose children understand the notion of a playlist, but had to have this concept of “album��? explained to them...


Cameras have always been digital - you take a picture, then check it on the screen and, if you don't like it, delete it.


Cameras have always been digital - you take a picture, then check it on the screen and, if you don't like it, delete it.


For reference, here's the BELOIT page for 2007:

I don't see that they've done 2008's yet.

I'm a 50-something and a lifelong reading addict, married to a reading addict and father to a reading addict. I love your books (but have not as yet hooked the other 2 persons in my life on them, though my wife loved "The Atrocity Archives" as much as I did.)

I've in the past marvelled at the thought that the VietNam war is as much "in the past" to my 23-yr-old as WWII is for me.


One of the big issues of my college years (the late 1980s) was apartheid in South Africa, now not even a memory to most 18-year-old Americans. Nuclear war and the Soviets were still scary back then. Now it's (to me) the even scarier terrorists, who have no common leader to negotiate with.

One of the biggest social changes seems to be the normalization of unmarried couples living together. Back in my youth the idea that a man needed to pretend to be gay so he could platonically share an apartment with women was a good enough premise to base a sitcom around. At least where I live now, it's hard to imagine anyone batting an eye at men and women cohabiting. And there are TV shows where the characters really are gay.


Bob (@21)"Perhaps your enjoyment of historical novels is enhanced by all those things you have known. Just imagine the wonder of a world where fates hang on how fast a trip between London and Paris one can make by horse and ship. Why, it's almost science fiction!"

While current historical novelists might be thinking about their market, ala Charlie, I doubt that actually novelists like Dumas did. They wrote well, and any age or age group I can still enjoy "The Three Musketeers".

As a movie buff, I do enjoy noticing how the period affects the assumptions in the movie. For example, "Gentleman's Agreement" ends with the thought that the world (well the US at least) would become a prejudice-free place (didn't happen, but caught the post WWII zeitgeist). On a lighter note, in "Back to the Future" (1985), Marty is telling Doc Brown that "everyone knows the best stuff is made in Japan". Another 20 years and we might be saying the same about China. The premise of "Goldfinger" is that countries are on fixed exchange rates backed by gold. 30 years later, Soros becomes a sort of hero for breaking the bank of England but shorting sterling. Then I just love the apparent forecast failures in SF movies. "Blade Runner" (1982) has no cell phones, even though they existed in brick-size form factors at that time. And presumably "everyone knew" that the future would be full of flying cars.

While I think it can be cute to insert explicit period sensitive stuff into books that might connect with the reader, as a reader, I think it is a mistake, like putting product placements in movies. I mean, the Data General laptop Floyd uses in "2010" looks ridiculous.


Pop culture is shared by young and old people. You may or may not listen to the same music as your parents, but if they did, it would not be a problem.


I'll give you another reason for the lack of 'youth' reading books these days:

Teenage boys avidly buying/swapping and reading James Herbert books because of the lurid sex scenes - not really necessary in these days of online porn...

Or being excited when the new Freemans catalogue dropped through the letterbx and you could liberate the old one for, ahem, 'research' purposes... (sorry)


Yes, things are very much the same here in the U.S. I was at a mall about a week ago with my wife buying ink cartridges for my printer(I have not been in a mall in a very long time) and I noticed that the majority of the kids hanging out at the mall were a bunch of spoiled N'er do-wells. They had zero respect for the adults around them and all seemed to generally have bad attitudes. I think that it comes from a lack of discipline from their parents due in part to the overall idea of what discipline is and how it should be administered. When I was a boy, I received lashes with a belt when I deserved it from my father. I am glad he did this now and I am glad that I was disciplined in a well-rounded way. I believe that discipline is essential to raising a child. But again, discipline has taken on a new meaning in this day and age. In some places, just the mention of spanking a child and the authorities could be called on the parent.

In other words, 18 year olds of today have been brought up very differently than when I was 18 (I am 36 now). 18 years ago I was 18. In that short amount of time, the idea of parenting and discipline has changed radically.



They may think that the PowerBallad is a new thing. Grunge music is their disco. Laptop has always been an exaggeration. James Bond never drove a British car? (I forget about the details of the Dalton movies, but who doesn't?)

My personal pet peeve is that we still have wires. Why does my PAN still involve wires?


Kids today:

- prefer graphic interfaces
- shortened language use (sms language)
- correct spelling and grammar unimportant
- short attention span
- excellent multi-taskers
- excellent thumb users
- culture of instant gratification
- graphic presentation (bio looks) important
- brandname indoctrinated
- less intense about important issues
- more promiscious
- porn is normal
- technology taken for granted
- more risktaking
- less taking of responsibility
- feeling of hopelessness to change world
- very influenced by peers (cellphones)
- more willing to try recreational drugs
- generally lazier than prev generation
- more interested/respect for/in Japanes culture
- males - gaming/ tattoos/music/tech
- females - looks/botox/fashion/music

okie dokie


I have nothing to add, other than the fact that I suddenly feel VERY FUCKING OLD!!!


Ed @ 59 -- I'm in the US too, and only a few years younger than you but I remember lots of kids hanging out in the mall when I was a teenager. We used to do it all the time, even when we weren't buying anything. And I'm sure we annoyed the hell out of adults.

Maybe it's the part of the country -- I was living in Orlando and Phoenix.


The South African version of this involves the fact that the current "matriculating" high school class (all colours) have no memory of apartheid or what it was, nor have they ever lived in a period of relatively low crime rates where you didn't need bars on all doors and windows.


Okay, I know I could Google this, but so many of you have mentioned it, I think you ought to tell me. What did Kylie Minogue do before she was a singer?


I remember hearing a list like for 18 yr olds in the year 2000. Three items I remember were
* they have never "dialed" a telephone
* the PC has always been around
* Cats has been playing on Broadway for their entire life


I think pretty much everything has been covered already.

In fact, that pretty much sums up my attitude to the recent past.

I was 19 in December 2007, born in December 1988. My point of view is this:

There is nothing left to be rebellious about - baby boomers dealt with social-taboo-breaking, drugs, pornography, sex, sexuality*, even the environment was a "hippy cause".

My generation are surrounded by widgets and gadgets that we barely understand. I don't have a clue about most of the underlying principles of this keyboard or screen or Windows XP (sorry Charlie).

For the first time the "younger generation" are not perceived as rebellious by the older generation.

Moral panics concerning the youth of today have become few and far between, and when they do occur (as with the recent spate of possibly web-assisted suicides in Bridgend, Wales) they seem more directed at our mindless nihilism and relationship with technology than our political/social/economic beliefs.

*Paedophilia is probably the only sexual proclivity that remains taboo and untouchable. My guess is it'll only become socially acceptable once adults can choose child-like bodies (that is assuming the attraction is based on physical attributes rather than power/dominance relationships).


Regarding shortened language use - weirdly, I find it's the other way around. The young people I know use proper spelling & punctuation in their email & SMSes, while my older relatives don't.

Young people have far more international friends than they did back then, and it's become perfectly normal to know people on the other side of the world.


God, the texting. I resisted the text instead of calling for forever but no one will call anymore and no one answers anymore either. It's all in text.I remember being 18 in 2003 and getting my first cell phone and they told me how much texts cost and I had no fucking clue what they were talking about and no one ever texted me for years. But now I'm lucky if I don't go over my 1500 texts a month and hardly use 100 minutes of 450 every month. I don't think my 14 year old brother uses his phone for talking at all.


As an 18 year old that has recently (a little more than a year ago after a 2-3 year hiatus) gotten back into reading, I'd have to say the ubiquity of an internet connection. My family got our first (AOL, I believe), internet connection when I was about 10 or 11, and cable shortly afterwards. In my early days of school it was not uncommon for most people to not have access to a computer or internet connection. Now the teachers don't even ask. Information is easily available from anywhere.

Although, I'd like to see a lot more ubiquitous computing and universal wireless access like in a few of your books.

And as for cell phones and "texting," you can gag me with your texting bill. The rate for the amount of data we're pushing through is unholy, at least in the US.


I'm from the US so I suppose this might not apply to UK kids, but there is a growing feeling that death will not be inevitable barring accidents. This is also assuming that we don't fall prey to some disaster that turns the world into some dystopian wasteland.


The mashup and the remix are standard modes of creativity. Creating something new is a matter of grabbing pre-created parts and fitting them together in new ways.

As a consequence, many young people have little grasp of the concept of plagiarism. You can see this at work right now in some fanfic communities, where some younger writers apparently find it entirely natural to create a story, not by creating something from scratch, but by transcribing various bits of assorted novels, lashing them together, and changing the characters' names to Harry, Ron, Hermione and Draco.


Marilee @ 65:

Kylie was an actor, coming to prominence in the Australian soap opera Neighbours. I don't know how popular this show was in its native land, but in the UK it was HUGE. Essentially late-afternoon filler, it hit an easy-watching demographic and became one of the biggest things on TV. SO Kylie became a TV star in Britain, then got together with British extruded-popular-music producers Stock, Aitken and Waterman and had some hit singles. Surprisingly, she managed to build a musical career on these unpromising foundations, and is now one of the UK's best-loved performers.


As a twenty-year-old American reader of your works, I think it proper to mention that even folks of my generation are grumbling about gas prices now. It's the next one over that'll really think that >$3-4/gallon is the normal state of things... and, yes, I realize that it's even worse right now across the Atlantic.

Oh, and also, Google as a verb is definitely one of our.


How about: China is not a country full of rice munching, bike riding paupers, but the place where everything comes from. Japanese cars aren't junk. Southeastasia isn't just the theater of a gruelsome war decades ago, but a growing economic power. (Even Malaysia plans its own moon program ...)

Oh yeah, and in 18 years people might start to see, that a savings ratio of -0.5% is not a sign of a stable economy.


How about what hasn't changed -- Castro is still in charge of Cuba and the US still has an Embargo. Fusion is still 20 years away. AI will happen as soon as we get computers a little faster. No one has sent an astronaut to Mars...


Iain @73: NEIGHBOURS was huge in Australia, too. In fact, it was huge (for "bigger than Dallas" values of huge) just about everywhere in the English-speaking world except the USA.


I recall news reports that Neighbours was basically being kept going by overseas sales, particularly to the UK, but I guess that was some years after its Kylietastic heyday.


I think I have one.Definition of charity: seeing a video presentation on a cause du jour, and then going door-to-door or standing at the entrances to supermarkets and other high traffic stores with a can asking for cash for the previously mentioned "charity". Making other people give you money for a cause rather than actually doing anything or learning more about the issues, is what charity means to an 18 year old.


Apologies if someone said this already, but I think the reason SF has any currency at all is because it doesn't address these questions directly. What excites me, anyway, is sf which looks to the meaning of fundamental truths. Theodore Sturgeon for example will be relevant to generations we can only dream of let alone sire.

The cardinal mistake is to look at what the herd are looking at for inspiration. Sure, see what they're looking at but generally, find your own stuff to look at and think about. Then draw your own conclusions. Then if you're a writer, write them down.


I was sitting outside a cafe one night last week where some 20-somethings with a guitar and decent lungs were singing along to Piano Man, Your Song, The Time Warp etc and I realised that I was the only there who had been born when those songs came out. I also remember them when they came out (and I'm the same age as Charlie)


Big black discs exist solely so that DJs can scratch and cross fade music in clubs. An 18 year old is unlikely to recognise them as being retro tech as such, as their parents didn't own them.

Also, like cutting, tagging is just something you went out and did when you where a teenager. Everyone was doing it.


Andrew @63

Yes, I did too. I was using the mall scenario as an example. It seems that the whole attitude towards disciplining children has gone down the tubes, that's the point I was trying to make.



Nobody whom you personally know and love has died. In historical movies and TV shows, people actually used to have parents, grandparents, siblings, children, spouses, and lovers die, and it was very emo and weepy. Romeo and Juliet. Stupid. Death is quaint. I'm immortal. All my friends are immortal. So far, right? Always been that way. You can't kill Superman except with Kryptonite. They keep trying to kill James Bond, but he kills them first, and has lots of sex and smokes cigarettes and drinks booze and drives fast cars and is really cool for an old fart. Sean Connery Who? Oh, the Dad in Indiana Jones. Anyway, like in that ancient classic Lara Croft Tomb Raider, “she died four times and the fifth time around she got out alive��? and, you know, that really really old Reboot cartoon. And some breeder geezer told me something about a novel called Rogue Moon by a friend of Shakespeare named Algis Budrys, but I googled and couldn't find the text, and there's no movie, so screw it. There's no such thing as Death. Except as a character in Death Metal and other entertainment, like Terry Pratchett's Discworld and other Grim Reapers, like a black-robed skeleton carrying a scythe. Goth. And a reason for cloning. And a way to get zombies. Except that we have to save the planet. No save point for that, just a tipping point. I think.


don't remember scheduling your lives around your favorite tv show.

man this list makes me even feel old i'm only 24


Star Trek is old, slow and creaky.

Doctor Who is new, fresh and entertaining.


Only 5-10 years in print for your novels? "The Stars My Destination" (originally published in 1957) is still frequently in print ...

My kids (31-25) couldn't conceive of the fact that we didn't have VCR's growing up, so that we couldn't watch our favorite movies 100 times and memorize the dialogue.

I'm definitely way old, my kids are old school per this survey ...


I guess I kind of get where today's eighteen year-olds are coming from--you know, they *didn't* grow up with tv's (crap, I almost thoroughly dated myself by saying "television sets"--you know--those blocky things with the tubes) in their family SUV.

They probably had VHS tapes put in for them to watch when they were very small--but the kids eighteen years from now will look on VHS as 8-track. TV was always digital. Screens were always flat. Internet was always high-speed. Elections may very well be done by Facebook twenty years from now (I shudder.)

For them, I don't think the concept of "neighborhood" will exist quite the same way it did for my generation, or the Y's. Their "tribe" will be global. Movies made in the 90's about shows I watched as a toddler will be forgotten classic films to them.

coldthing@85--we had this thing in the 90's called "must see tv." People all sat around, let's say on a Thursday night, and watched the same primetime line-up so we'd have things to say to one another at work the next day. But I guess even the act of programming the VCR or Tivo to record a thing you want to see is a form of scheduling (in the 80's, my family would catch the VHS of Saturday Night Live on Sunday morning.)

Heck, I guess I'd still schedule time for a favorite tv show if I wanted to catch what the chat room fans had to say about it (real time or post-viewing--or both, since I live in front of my computer) instead of chatting about it way after the fact.

But for Tom@67--Baby Boomers did sometimes wonder where GenX-er's heads were at. (TV example--Alex P Keaton, Family Ties ) We didn't take to the streets, our hair wan't long, our music (until about grunge, I think--see 1991, Nirvana)was for the longest largely pop and hair metal. A lot of us went to business school and looked like we were trying to be "The Man" -in-training. But then again, we grew up with 12 yrs of Reagan/Bush in the US (Thatcher/Major, UK), and were interested in getting past McJobs and student debt however we could. Arguably, we came off as less "rebellious" than *our* folks.

Now, though, I think rebellion is still a youth thing, it just isn't a "movement" thing. There isn't as much of an identifiable generation gap with respects to attitudes on grugs, porno, sex, etc.


"Star Trek is old, slow and creaky."

When was Star Trek ever cool? I remember hiding all my Star Trek paraphernalia the first time I ever had a girl that I liked come to my house at 14. There was no way I was going to sacrifice myself for a few VHS tapes and some action figures. Besides, kids watching Star Trek now are going to have to ask where the Singularity is.


There is never a "season" for Fruit and Veg, merely a change in price. And like meat, it most likely comes pre-washed and pre-processed in packets from a supermarket.

Tesco has always opened 24 hours.

There's always been a Starbucks near you.

Every high street in every town (only some of them will even be able to differentiate between a town and an urban sprawl) is roughly identical. The only local shop is a corner shop run by somebody of Asian (not Indian) descent.

Surrey and Essex are part of the London catchment area. A daily commute to london from a coastal location such as Folkestone, Dover, or Brighton, is not unheard of.

There's always been a big dome thing in Greenwich, though most of them won't rememeber what it was used for. The London eye has been there as long as they can remember. Similarly the Jubilee line has always gone as far as Stratford, and there's alwyas been a Eurostar to Paris, though most of them will have never taken it, as planes are cheaper. Night busses are a fact of life.

Computer games have always been 3D. Doom? They've heard of it, but probably have not played the first tow editions of the game. Email has no hyphen. They may have sent a letter when they're young, but not since they were about 8 or so. 8-bit and 16-bit are things that "retro gamers" know about. They've lived through 32-bit, but life's all abotu 64-bit. That is if they care. They All have a hotmail, gmail, or yahoo mail account, and don't use an email address given to them by their ISP. ISPs do that?

They have always been able to watch video on a computer. Full screen, no less. Some may not even have a TV other than for watching broadcast telly, some not at all.

There's a divide between "London" which really means the South East, and "The North", which is everywhere else. The west country is something they've heard of but never think about, if they're in the south east.

They grew up with Tellytubbies and probably The Cartoon Network. Japanes Animation (known as "Anime" rather than "Manga" is cool, and is available on TV. They've played Pokémon obsessively. There has always been 24-hour rolling news, and it's alwasy seemed full of sensationalist pap.

Diana (not Lady Di) died when they were 7. The Daily Express has been obsessing about it since then. But they probably don't read a newspaper anyway. What's with Page 3 of the Sun? You can get better stuff on the net, for free.

They're likely to have a whole host of friends they've never met in person, only online, from all over the world. They roughly know the time difference to USA, but not for business purposes, but to chat to their friends over there. They probably have a number of friends they've known in person for a long while, but know only their "nick" (never a handle, and possibly a username or avatar on some service), rather than their real name, though recently Facebook has allowed them to find these out.

They have always known ASBOs, and probably know someone who has one. In some areas, they're a badge of honour. Gangs carry guns. Knives have always been illegal to carry.

I may go on later, but I think that's enough to go with for now.


To actually answer your question, Charlie, rather than "talk about" the idea of such a list (!) -- I'm late-30s with lots of 18-24 year-old employees -- the biggest ones I notice are:

*governments have never been responsive to massive public rallies. Rallies might be useful for other reasons but they effect no discernible political change

*lots of bands playing short sets in rotation in a possibly rural setting is something that happens several times every summer (and always has) in most countries

*people have always blown themselves up in public places

*apologizing either automatically means you were at fault (in an auto accident sense) or has no relationship to fault whatsoever (in a governments apologizing for historical events they had nothing to do with sense). "Apology" meaning something meaningfully offered and accepted/rejected is an obsolete usage

*"bankrupt" is just a position on a legal gameboard that might be reached if you go a "bit too far" with your personal credit. It carries no social stigma

Then again, these may all just be my employees! :)


As Ed Finley (59) and Craig M (79) have demonstrated, there's at least one thing that hasn't changed and likely never will. Old people have always been whining about Young People Today, are still whining about Young People Today, and can be expected to continue whining about Young People Today for the rest of eternity.


#91. Conversely, it's also shown that young people still tend to believe that theirs is the first generation evah to be, like, apathetic and shallow...


"Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everybody is writing a book"

-- Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BCE)


There has never been a command line interface. It's been so long since I used it regularly that I've forgotten most of the commands and PCs have been going straight to the GUI since 98, so casual users have never seen a DOS prompt.


Shan (#90) makes a good last point. I'd offer as friendly amendment:

To an 18-year-old, "Bankruptcy" has always been a standard exit strategy for a high-tech start-up, though not quite as nice a liquidity event as acquisition by Google or Microsoft.


More discussion on the livejournal feed of this post:


and friends with...George W. Bush

Except that the polls I've seen show contemporary American 18-to-25s to be the most left/liberal group of that age in decades, and certainly not pro-Bush.


Japan is where your dad's car comes from and where you get those cool comix and animation from.

China is where all the good electronic devices are made.


Paul McCartney was always somebody like Cliff Richards, somebody who you're not sure what they did but who your grandparents like and who you only know because of that one legged woman...

You can't understand why Harry Enfield or Paul Whitehouse were popular.


The word mail doesn't exist in my son's vocabulary. He uses the term "email" for sending even physical mail. Like, I need to "email" uncle Joe a letter.


A few years back (2004) American Conservatives were smugging about how demographic trends -- the growth of edge cities, suburban and rural Republicans having more babies -- were going to guarantee a future with Red states from sea to sea.

They really believed that crap. It apparently gave them endless jollies, and a sense of assurance akin to that of a Communist reading about dialectics inevitably leading to their ascendence.

Reading the original article, and the comments above . . . wow, conservatism is toast. Sure, you'll always have a steady supply of dweebs who get their heads whacked around by Atlas Shrugged, but for the most part the yoots of tomorrow are going to be so incredibly weird that the traditional tropes that the GOP uses to appeal to people will seem incomprehensible to them. Within a generation, calling somebody a commie will be as quaint as accusing them of being a Whig.


I'm a Baby Boomer (born in 1955) and I was rebellious. I'd be more rebellious now if I wasn't disabled. When I was 13 I led my school's contingent on the March on the Pentagon against the Vietnam war. I kept all my buttons from back then and find I'm using them again now. I may just know smarter young people than some of you, but the ones I know are interested in politics and have a good knowledge of history.


Marilee J. Layman wrote:

"but the ones I know are interested in politics and have a good knowledge of history."

Really? Most of the ones I know have no idea man has been to the moon, what happened at Pearl Harbor, have no idea what the Supreme Court is or what the Justices' names are, etc..... I could go on and on but most of the kids I know have no interest in politics or history. They're more interested in getting a 5-star rating on Guitar Hero.



@103 and 104

This is a matter of selection and perception. The brain is an exceedingly bad statistician, so don't fool yourselves into thinking that you have an even remotely accurate picture of what young people in your society ( I think you are talking about the USA.) know and don't know as a whole. It is almost impossible to compensate for the bias in perception, even when you know it is there. It is a bit like looking at a a Necker cube, trying to make your brain see(!) the only possible, realistic interpretation of the picture: there is no cube, just a set of lines.



Yes, you're right. There are always exceptions to the rule.



When I was a boy, I received lashes with a belt when I deserved it from my father. I am glad he did this now and I am glad that I was disciplined in a well-rounded way.

You're supposed to say "...and it never did me any harm."


South Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan have always been democracies with civil rights.

Album covers have always had the "Explicit Content" label on them.

Hip-hop has always been recuperated as part of mainstream consumer culture.

Japan has always been receding in economic potency and China rising.

Jazz has always been music for old white males.

House music is that plinky piano musak they play in hair salons.

The U.S. armed forces have always worn those sandy desert fatigues in every war they happen to be in on CNN.


Adrian @107: I was holding off commenting on that particular ... psychopathology ... but I think I need to add: these days we have a technical term for that kind of treatment: "child abuse". And I don't think the people who come out with that kind of statement realize that (a) they're accusing their parents of a crime, and (b) setting up their own children for the "at risk" register (if and when social services departments finally learn about google).


You can think about this not just as alienation caused by changes within a generation, but change over the course of a human lifespan producing alienation from the self, too.

I wrote a long and rambling comment about change in my Grandfather's lifespan (he was b. 1896, I was b. 1974) - but for the sake of brevity moved it to


Email has always existed and is something old people do. We don't use email, we have sms and facebook.


Castro is still in charge of Cuba and the US still has an Embargo.

But nobody can remember why; not even the yanks.

No-one is aware that Britain was once an imperial power; even though your mate in the TA has been deployed for 6 months in 18 for the last six years, always to locations east of Suez.

Nobody under the age of 60 cares about "national sovereignty"; Euroscepticism as a political movement keeps going because the staple pensioner vote remembers it. Doesn't change anything. (If you doubt this, look at the polls. Europe is a generational issue.)

Japan is where your dad's car comes from

Wrong. Japan is where the company head office is; the factory isn't even in China, it's on a greenfield site near a container wharf. Nissan Sunderland is today the most productive car plant in the Nissanosphere; they just hired another 800 ex-shipyarders to build more Qashqais. Interestingly, don't count on the R&D centre being in Japan either; the Qashqai is Nissan's first vehicle developed entirely by an overseas division.

We're already seeing the race to the bottom bottom out; Chinese textile companies are investing in old mills in Wigan so they can turn products around in less time than it takes a ship to get from there to here. In the long term, whole-system design beats everything.

Brazil is where the regional jets come from; and the best hackers.

Your parents won't just fucking DIE already.

Counter-surveillance is part of everyone's daily routine.


Labour are ... in favour of ... privatization of what's left of the public sector...

Only over-forties and labour party members think that...

Was privatization something to do with Army recruitment - turning people into privates?


Let's not forget that what Da Yoof listen to for pleasure isn't music, but merely noise.


Adrian @107 and
Charlie @109

My parents did not abuse me, they just gave me a couple of whacks on the backside when I needed it, that's all.

And no, it didn't cause me any harm. I would probably be behind bars now if I were not disciplined as a child.



They first had sex when they were 15 or 16.

I was somewhat appalled to hear that American junior high schools had recently undergone a veritable epidemic of

Admittedly, appalled wasn't the only thing I was. Wilde was right - youth is wasted on the young.


My parents did not abuse me, they just gave me a couple of whacks on the backside when I needed it, that's all.

You just came across a bit like a certain sort of caricature corporal-punishment enthusiast that is (I think) slowly dying out in the UK. The odd whack may not do much harm, but as Charlie says, savouring the memory of the belt like that might give a strange impression to some people.

I would probably be behind bars now if I were not disciplined as a child.

There's still time.


> get those cool comix and animation from.

Japanese animations (although not under that name) are around for quite some time -
I remember quite a lot form my childhood in the 70s (in Germany).


I know one person who got the leather belt and plenty of it when he was young. While he went on to be a productive member of society, he is also, shall we say, somewhat tightly wound, . . .


America has always been the only superpower.

The only form of socio-economic organisation is capitalism.


Ed @104, most of the teens I know are fannish teens. Heck, most of the people I see regularly are fans.

Ed @115, my father hurt me in some physical and emotional way at least once a day. Although I've never been arrested, I've been detained and in a jail cell several times for first amendment reasons. I don't think there's actually any causality between child abuse and acts considered criminal by the police.

And my own youth vs. adults for today -- they're used to using a mouse/touchscreen/etc. rather than their fingers. I use Quicken only because it's the only program my credit union will interface with. Quicken notified me a couple weeks ago that they were going to stop interfacing with my 2005 version, so I upgraded to the 2008 version (which has even more crap I don't use). Now there's a command where I'm used to putting numbers in, TAB, ENTER, that now requires numbers, TAB, TAB, ENTER. Why would they change that if they expected people to use fingers and keys? They think I'm moving my hand to the trackball and using that. I'll get used to it, but it's really annoying for now.


Marilee @121

I am sorry that happened to you. The man who rents my apartment went thru similar abuse. Thankfully, he came thru it okay.



@8, shouldn't you logically have watched the aftermath after math class?

(sorry, couldn't resist)


My son (8) went through a phase where all his friends had allergies. He kept asking (hopefully I sometimes thought) if he had any.

There is nowadays something called being media-smart - which we did not have to be in my day (b1954). My son still has to ask if things are real though.


Adam Smith:
My parents did not abuse me, they just gave me a couple of whacks on the backside when I needed it, that's all.

You just came across a bit like a certain sort of caricature corporal-punishment enthusiast that is (I think) slowly dying out in the UK. The odd whack may not do much harm, but as Charlie says, savouring the memory of the belt like that might give a strange impression to some people."

Adam, the guy's a traditional Tory politician. He believe in strictness and discipline (deep down inside, if you know what I mean). He possibly patronizes an establishment with some women who are also into strictness and discipline, but from a more capitalist perspective (again, if you know what I mean).

You shouldn't be so down on the values which made Britain Great :)


The time when all the adults were running around digging shelters and laying in stocks of bottled water was when everybody was going mad in preparation for the Y2K holocaust.


Charlie @ 109: I had the misfortune to go to kindergarden/first grade in Alabama in the 80s, where it was still legal for teachers to discipline using corporal punishment. It wasn't uncommon to get paddled in front of the class.

I can't say how it worked on other children, but pain never deterred me. I hated the embarrassment.


Light spanking using the hand isn't child abuse. With an object, possibly...

I know many people who suffered far more from emotional abuse and still bare the scars. Spanking would have been kinder.

I sometimes wonder if anyone has any idea how to raise children.


You can find out mostly anything whenever you want to, wherever you are. Even if it's the Wikipedia, there is always a source to bounce the information against.

And there's always more random information...


Thomas Laqueur treats 1989 as a kind of end point for his European history survey course at Berkeley. This year, it's the year when most freshmen were born. I have a piece of the Berlin Wall on my bookshelf. They never saw it come down.

(18-y-o kids in Britain today probably think supermarket trolleys have always needed a pound coin to liberate them from the horde.)

They've seen caravans on the road, but never spent a holiday in one. They mostly think in metric, and when abroad, in Euros. Most of them never walked further to school than from their parents' car or the bus stop. (The 90s being a decade of child abduction panic.)

Sunday is a day to go shopping. Or watch the football.


Celebrity- the easy career- no skills or education required. Sex with the right chaps or chapesses and hey presto! A legitimate career path embellished with lotsa money!

As are builders/ developers- a large number of middle class kids aspire to be developers!! In my youth this career path was at the bottom of the pile.



I spent much of my twenties working in such circles and these people were still obsessing about FDR.

I also disagree about the discipline thing, at least in America. Many of kids just coming out of high school are frighteningly organized and capable of multi-tasking. What they don't do well is repetititve.


@94 hereby nominated for the pithy quote award :D

@59 Ed, I disagree with your identification of "discipline" with corporal punishment here. While I agree with you entirely on the need for the former (although as others have noted, it seems every prior generation has thought the succeeding one could use more), there's plenty of evidence that the inclusion of the latter does nothing to guarantee the approach is "well rounded". At best, it risks perpetuating the idea that violence is an acceptable social response. Rather more often it's a lazy solution and at worst it's simply abuse.

On the subject of the post...34 and British so I'm not a great responder, but it seems to me that the disruptive technology of the generation is cheap mobiles - I know last time I was without service (in the US, before tribands were commonly available) I found I'd completely lost the ability to organise social events in advance. I can't imagine the modern pressure to be on, and online, 24x7 is confined to the work environment - no wonder voice is seen as intrusive.


C.S. is forty-something? Gawd that's old ;) Anyway, don't write a YA, but you know you'd be good at it. It might be fun to write. You can relate to anyone or anything you want to, if you try.


Andrew @ 128: My son (now a 28 year old NYC fireman) was spanked a few times when he was little. The punishment of choice, though, was making him stand in a corner for 5 minutes. [With an additional minute tacked on everytime he asked if he could leave the corner.]

I love my son, but I was his father before I was his friend. The result is that today he is a human being.


Here's another one:
They don't remember when Google was the 'alternative' search engine.


Just today, I suddenly thought that it seems certain to me that an interesting [computer] program has already been written by someone born in the Twenty-First Century.

I haven't recently checked the prophecy section of the 1983 version of the Book of the SubGenius for any more that have come true a little late....


Video games are something you do in front of your TV (or PC), seafront arcades are either dead or the home of a million cash gambling machines.

Ah, the joys of seeing what cabinets were new in your local arcade, newgrounds flash games just can't compare :)


Just turned 33 some days ago, so I'm somewhat inbetween and find this a quite nice debate. One point missed: the youth of today still has the possibility to explore the old SF classics, like (the real old work of) Heinlein, or the newer stuff by Gibson, Sterling, Egan and Robinson. And if they turned 15, 16 the right time, and read, they grow up with the idea that proper SF (besides the fluffy fantasy stuff like Erargon or Potter) means MacLeod or Stross ;-)


Arithmetic (beyond counting change) is no longer a human skill, even with a moderate level of machine assistance.

I was born in '61, and my class was probably the last that learned to use a slide rule. Kids These Days (TM) don't even own calculators. My work involves coaching and mentoring graduate new-hire engineers, and I've cemented my Eccentric Old Man reputation by insisting they own a calculator and know how to use it. I've given up on getting them to do mental arithmetic.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on February 1, 2008 11:50 AM.

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