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Who Says Gen X’ers Aren’t Tech Savvy?

Hardwarewordprocessor.pngMuch has been written about generational differences, with emphasis on each generation’s relative strengths and weaknesses. A Business Insider article examines the results from an EY study, where 1200 professionals are asked about their perceptions of the strength and weaknesses of their peers.

Some of the results matched my own perceptions, but one in particular bothers me. According to the EY study participants, Gen X’ers aren’t very tech savvy. They rank 18% vs. Millennials at 78% and Boomers at 4%. I can see why Millennials rank quite high, but we Gen X’ers were the very first early adopters.

We witnessed the technology explosion of portable music devices, gaming systems, and telecommunications. We went from listening to records to Walkman cassette players to CDs. We went from Atari to Nintendo to Sega to PlayStation. We learned Pascal in college. I had a beeper before my first cell phone and I actually typed my term papers on a 7-line display word processor. Most of us probably even remember some basic DOS commands.

While Millennials benefit from a myriad of digital capabilities via seriously sleek devices and UIs, they don’t know much about the inner workings of all this technology. I content that Gen X’ers have a deeper understanding of technology, even if we don’t use the ever expanding inventory of social channels and digital devices as frequently as our Millennial peers. Fellow Gen X’ers, I think our tech savviness is underrated. What do you think?

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Originally posted on The XM Files

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  • Couldn’t agree more. Where do people think all this technology in which Millenials are “savvy” (allegedly) comes from? It was created by Boomers and Gen Xers! And come Zombie Apocalypse we’ll be the ones who will actually be able to run the DOS commands and write code in Assembler. 🙂

    • That’s funny, Jelena! I had to learn HTML eons ago, and when my teens see me working on “code” they are amazed. And that’s just HTML!

  • Most of us probably even remember some basic DOS commands.

    My personal favorite always was TREE, because of the nice structure that would be displayed. 😘

    Funny enough I sometimes still need my DOS prompt on one my servers to do stuff. ^^

    So yeah, I can absolutly agree with you, too! And nobody who knows me personally would think that I wasn’t tech-savvy. Okay, I’m also in IT, but even if I weren’t I’d still had my laptop and videogame consoles etc at home.

    IMO the Millennials are just more in focus, because they are the “new thing” and most of them were raised around all that technology and probably because now there are more toys than ever instead of the more professional use of technology in the earlier years, because it became so much cheaper and affordable for a wider audience.

    I got my hands on a computer for the first time when I was 15, so had a late start in comparison to the youth now. But since then I never stopped using them and it’s not like I’m confused around technology. 😀



    • Steffi, don’t you love going back in time and thinking about all the old games? We seriously thought Pong was digital magic! And remember when MTV played music videos?!

      • I really don’t mind all the mind-blowing graphical awesome games now, but I still remember how a simple game like Columns or Tetris could entertain me for hours. I know Pong, but I think I spent more time with Mario. 😀 But that’s from “back when”, too, so… ^^

        Btw… I learned enough html to create webpages because I really wanted to know how to do it, as a hobby. ^^ But it helps me in my job now, too. So I guess, nothing is really for nothing. You never know when you could need that knowledge (or having at least seen this stuff before). Well, I guess I’ll never need Pascal again… or will I? Assembler could come handy, when the Zombies finally strike!

        @Carolyn: So true about MTV. Now I feel old!

  • I’m right there, too, as someone born on the cusp between ‘boomers’ and ‘gen-x’.  I may not use as many social networks as my post-millenial daughter, but I can build a computer from scratch and explain what the different parts are for, and she can’t do that (and had no interest when I offered to do it with her as a project).  I used to teach DOS commands.  Oh, and yeah, I learned Pascal (and IBM System 360 Assembler) in college, too.  Haven’t seen either much since, though….

    • Matt, it’s the same with my teens. I tried to talk them into learning basic HTML and they just aren’t interested in *how* all their devices and social networks work!

  • “In my day we browsed the web in a unix shell using lynx and we liked it”.  A lot of the social stuff today we do via automated tools/sleek UI’s was done by hobbyists in the late 90’s.  The difference was it wasn’t mainstream and more hobbyists.  The modern social tools just make the barrier to going much eaiser.  The old technologies made you “learn that tool”.

    I think it’s more that perhaps the older generations don’t share as much.. however it would be interesting to see fundamental survey by age of basic IT knowledge without using “wikipedia to look it up” during a pen an paper test on computer science topics 😉 .  How many folks stil get to take a programming class where the final exam is hand-written and points are taken off for syntax errors.

    To me that’s real technical savvy when you know how to build the foundation and not just understand how to share 1000 selfies in 5 minutes(although that would also be impressive).

    Take care,


    • I think you’re right about older generations not sharing enough. Yet oddly enough, I suspect more business blogs are authored by Gen X’ers and Boomers than 20-somethings. It’s just that the blogging universe is still small relative to its potential. So many great ideas out there that we’d all benefit from if people would just share!  

  • I think tech savvy between Gen-X and Millennials is a matter of perspective.  I’m sure more Gen-Xers know command-line jargon, know what modems were for, and had to play with jumper settings and IRQs than millennials.

    But on the flip side, millennials probably are better equipped to tell me when I should be Tweeting my Instagram Pintrest Facebook Vines.  (Whaaaat?)  As a Gen-Xer, I feel out of touch with that stuff, but I think it’s just a generational difference depending on what you consider to be tech-savvy.

    • Consider this theory – younger gens share smaller snippets more often, and older gens share deeper content but less often. I’m with you on the whole Pinterest/Vines idea (and I would add Twitter): these platforms provide such small snippets without much context that it’s hard for me to get excited about them.

  • Love this blog. And it’s spot-on too!

    My first tryst with computers was a boot-camp in LOGO (is that what it was called?) and my first computer game being Galaxy (or whatever it was called… Im getting OLD). I even learnt 8080 Microprocessor programming while in college.

    Having said that, the newer generation are quick learners too. My just-turned-two daughter knows expertly how to handle my Samsung Galaxy III, Blackberry Playbook and Laptop. She of course loves to watch her Nursery Rhymes and current-favourite Masha and the Bear. Our only intervention comes when we need to “type” something in the search bar for videos that are otherwise not available in the “recently viewed” or “similar videos” section.

    • I think a key distinction is that the younger generation gets sleek interfaces and a huge selection of tools and platforms. We got DOS and had to patiently wait for each new game. So, we Gen X’ers are tech savvy and patient. 😉

      • Hmm that must be it. It involved shooting down alien objects in the sky from your spacecraft!


        EDIT: On second thoughts and some Googling I think it was Space Invaders or some imitation of it!