Generation game

I hear these phrases like ‘Millennials’ and ‘Generation Y’ in the media and realise I have no idea what they mean. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have kids, and so don’t know which pigeonhole the tabloids and marketing agencies want them to occupy!

I know roughly when ‘baby-boomers’ were born, but that was a phrase invented in the seventies to describe a genuine phenomenon visible in historical data. And I presume ‘millennials’ are people born around the turn of the millennium. But when did it become trendy to label other generations? And who decides on the boundaries and the letters? (I suspect the culprits are the same people who tell us that this is “International Year of the Aubergine“ and things like that.)

I have no more idea of which ‘generation’ I fall into than I do about my supposed star sign, and I suspect they are almost equally fictitious constructs. I’m guessing someone invented ‘Generation X’ because, while it was easy to say ‘grew up in the fifties’, it’s just too silly to say ‘born in the noughties’ (or whatever Generation X actually means). We really don’t have very good words for the last couple of decades. It’ll be easier in a little while when we can talk about a ‘twenties kid’. And if (as I assume), Gen X and Y (and I think there’s even a Z now) all came after Millennials, then they can’t really be generations, can they? There’s not enough time for them to have 20-30 years each… At least they’ve run out of alphabet now, so perhaps they’ll need to start using some meaningful names again soon.

Still, I was distressed to see the single-letter-generation-labelling game going on even in reputable newspapers recently, so I’d better go and find out what they’re supposed to mean, and what unicode character they’re going to adopt for my great-nephews/nieces expected in the spring. Perhaps it’ll be an emoji. I like to think they’ll be part of ‘Generation 😁’.

Yes, I’d better go and look it up. Otherwise I risk being relegated to that no-man’s land of the ‘post-boomer-pre-wikipedias’…

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Oof. This nomenclature is arbitrary but I also find it quite helpful if you think about waves of personal computing…

Boomers are the generation who grew up in the economic recovery post WWII. They first encountered computers (if at all) in adulthood, at work.

Gen X (which is what you and I are!) were born from the mid-sixties to the early 80s. More likely to have had both parents at work when we were growing up – “latchkey kids”. Late Gen X got 8-bit home computers in adolescence.

Millennials (or less commonly, Gen Y) were early 80s-late 90s birth. The first digital native generation.

Gen Z (or Zoomers) were late 90s-early 2010s birth. The first mobile digital generation.

Generation Alpha was born early 2010s to now. Emojis and social media…

The reason you don’t know you’re Gen X is because everyone forgets Gen X, despite the fact that we deployed the internet and clearly had the best music.

Hey Q. “Gen Xers were the first children to have access to personal computers in their homes and at schools”, according to and also see:

I think I first became aware of the term because of Douglas Coupland’s book, although I don’t remember actually reading it, but it was popular amongst friends for a few years. But yes, I agree, nomenclature of the generations is not particularly memorable. I’m sure you could invent something better, but it’s pretty much impossible to rename now, like many protocols! Just have to live with it 😉

Which Unicode characters are allowed in baby names?

Apologies to those who received this by email and got an enormous smiley!

Mailchimp has an option to scale images to a sensible size for outgoing emails, but unfortunately it decides to scale all images to the same size…

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