January 05, 2006

Page 3

The early 1980s were a peculiar time to come of age. Pretty Nena sang to us,
in German and English, of Spock and Kirk, of lost love and of accidental
nuclear holocaust. The Berlin wall hadn't come down yet and the Soviet Union
was still intact. The end of the world seemed to be perpetually just around
the corner, although no longer with the immediacy of the US-Soviet face-offs
of the 1960s, and life went on.

Socially, the jonesers were growing up in the shadow of the baby boom, and the
media were still the mass media, so the marketers and the demographers
targeted the big group and the beginning of the demographic bulge and ignored
the tail end. Later on, when the media and the markets fragmented, each sub-
generation would be identified and targetted individually, but the jonesers
slipped through the cracks between the end of mass-marketing and the beginning
of targetting. Likewise, at the end of the century, when the X and Y
generations were adopting new technologies because they were young and the
technologies were cool, and the boomers were taking them up because doing what
everything else does is the thing to do when you're a boomer, the jonesers
were in their mid-30s and were too busy building lives and careers to jump
onto this Internet thing in the sorts of numbers that those older and younger
were doing.

Speaking of the Internet, in the 1980s the Internet was still a very closed
network. It was just making the transition from military to scientific, and
more and more research and education users were getting aboard. There were no
commercial backbones in that era, and the backbone links of the scientific
Internet was jumping up from what would later be known as modem speeds of 56
Kbits to a relatively capacious 1500 Kbits. However, the true dawn of the
Internet as we know it in the early 21st century was still a decade in the

On January 25th, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger blew up on its way to
orbit. In many ways, this marked the close of the American Space Age. Up to
Challenger, there was still some hope that NASA would blaze the trail to a
full civilian involvement in space activity and exploration. Afterward, the
space program seemed to hunker down, and it became evident that the shuttles
were a closed system, operated solely for NASA use, and that they would never
become the core of a greater program. Nevertheless, on January 26th, 1986,
Scott collected signatures on a petition to his Congressman requesting that
space activities be resumed sooner rather than later.

The political event of the age was the collapse of the Soviet Union. The fall
of the Berlin Wall, the rapid formation and breakup of the Commonwealth of
Independent States, and, for a brief while, the marches in Tiananmen Square,
seemed to foreshadow the total collapse of international communism and the
victory of American democracy.

There were other political events, of course. Few jonesers were politically
aware enough to feel more than a vague outrage over Watergate, and Vietnam was
never an issue for that generation. By the time of other scandals such as
Iran-Contra, jonesers were of age, but it was hard to get worked up over the
corruption of the Reagan administration when Ronald Reagan himself was so
cheerfully clueless.

Toward the end of the decade, a few small pockets of jonesers began to realize
that they were different from the boomers before them, but it wasn't until
later, when generation X was identified, that jonesers were able to fully
understand their status as a separate group. Still, perhaps the best example
of the alienation between boomers and jonesers was illustrated by their
differing reaction to the television show "30something." The boomers, who
were themselves that age, loved it. Jonesers, however, saw a bunch of whiny,
complaining, annoying old people and could not stand the entire pack of them.

In part, this alienation between boomers and jonesers was fostered by what the
jonesers saw as the betrayal of the ideals of the baby boom. These days, many
people have probably forgotten that the baby boom generation acquired for
itself the name "The Me Generation" in the 1970s. The youthful idealists got
a little older and a lot more selfish and self-centered. Prior to that, the
jonesers looked up to their olders brothers and sisters and cousins. After
that, it got harder, and by the time of "greed is good" in the mid-1980s, the
schism was complete. The jonesers, still idealistic themselves, saw the move
to materials on the part of the boomers as the final betrayal, and they never
forgave the boomers for that.

Posted by scott at January 5, 2006 03:58 PM