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The New Generation Never Used Cassette Tapes

Written by on March 2, 2012

Yesterday, while researching other things, I came across this t-shirt over at Threadless.

It reminds me of an experience I had a few years ago. I worked for this fashion company who (among other things) made clothes for teenage girls. One day I walked into the designer's office, and she was working in this new t-shirt-print incorporating a cassette tape into the design.

Without thinking I said, "Damn...that's out of date!"

The designer didn't take this very well. She very angrily told me that I was an idiot, that this was cool, retro and grunge and other such words.

I admit I wasn't thinking, and that I practically ruined her day (sorry about that!). But the point is that trying to sell a t-shirt with a cassette tape to a target market consisting of teenage girls not going to work.

The cassette tape went out of fashion in 1985, when the CD started to take over the world. That is 27 years ago - 10 years before these teenage girls where even born. Most of them won't know what it is. It was something their parents used.

The designer, who were in her late 30s, remembered the cassette tape from her youth. She had built up a memory of great times with friends listening to music. When she looks at a cassette tape, it creates a positive association in her brain. But today's teenagers don't have that memory, hence, no association (and no sale).

Note: The person who made the t-shirt on Threadless is 43-years old.

This is an increasing problem in today's world. As the world changes faster and faster, the new generation will have a very different past than the one we grew up with. For instance, they have never known of a world without the internet.

You need to make sure that the decision you make is not biased by things the new generation has never experienced.

To help you, Beloit College creates the "Mindset List". The purpose of it is to remind teachers what kind of world new college students (18 year-olds) was brought up in. I have selected a few to illustrate what kind of world students know today (or rather don't know).

  • They have never feared a nuclear war. "The Day After" is a pill to them ...not a movie.
  • The internet has always been around and, for most of their existence, been the dominant source of information and entertainment.
  • They never had a polio shot, and likely, do not know what it is.
  • Atari pre-dates them, as do vinyl albums and cassette tapes. They grew up with CDs, but don't use them anymore.
  • Popcorn has always been cooked in the microwave.
  • The Vietnam War is as ancient history to them as WWI and WWII.
  • They have no idea that Americans were ever held hostage in Iran.
  • Women have always been traveling into space. And traveling to space has always been accomplished in reusable spacecrafts.
  • Yugoslavia has never existed.
  • They have probably never dialed a phone or opened an icebox.
  • We have always been able to reproduce DNA in the laboratory.
  • There have always been ATM machines.
  • "Spam" and "cookies" are not foods.
  • Thongs no longer come in pairs and slide between the toes.
  • Hard copy has nothing to do with a TV show; a browser is not someone relaxing in a bookstore; a virus does not make humans sick; and a mouse is not a rodent (and there is no proper plural for it).
  • Drug testing of athletes has always been routine.
  • Volkswagen beetles have always had engines in the front.
  • The U.S. and the Soviets have always been partners in space.
  • Computers have always fit in their backpacks.
  • Datsuns have never been made.
  • They have never gotten excited over a telegram, a long distance call, or a fax.
  • Stores have always had scanners at the checkout.
  • They have always had a PIN number.
  • Banana Republic has always been a store, not a puppet government in Latin America.
  • There have always been non-stop flights around the world without refueling.
  • They don't remember when "cut and paste" involved scissors.
  • Heart-lung transplants have always been possible.
  • Iran and Iraq have never been at war with each other.
  • Pixar has always existed.
  • Digital cameras have always existed.
  • The Soviet Union has never existed.
  • "Google" has always been a verb.
  • Bar codes have always been on everything, from library cards and snail mail to retail items.
  • They have always been able to watch wars and revolutions live on television.
  • They have always had access to their own credit cards.
  • Dolphin-free canned tuna has always been on sale.
  • What Berlin wall?
  • They never "rolled down" a car window.
  • They have grown up with bottled water.
  • U2 has always been more than a spy plane.
  • Stadiums, rock tours and sporting events have always had corporate names.
  • Commercial product placements have been the norm in films and on TV.
  • High definition television has always been available.
  • Virtual reality has always been available when the real thing failed.
  • MTV has never featured music videos.
  • GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
  • Shampoo and conditioner have always been available in the same bottle.
  • The Warsaw Pact is as hazy for them as the League of Nations was for their parents.
  • Schools have always been concerned about multiculturalism.
  • Employers have always been able to do credit checks on employees.

If we move a little further into the future, to 2015, the coming generations will only know a world where...

  • Social networks has always been the norm
  • Print has always been dying
  • Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.
  • Clint Eastwood has always been better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.
  • Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.
  • Beethoven has always been a good name for a dog.
  • Having hundreds of cable channels but nothing to watch has always been routine.
  • It seems the Post Office has always been going broke.
  • Amazon has never been just a river in South America.
  • Women have always been kissing women on television.
  • Music has always been available via free downloads.
  • They won't go near a retailer that lacks an online presence.
  • The European Union has always existed.
  • McDonald's has always been serving Happy Meals in China.
  • Migration of once independent media like radio, TV, videos and compact discs to the computer has never amazed them.

What we define as the new world is, to them, how it has always been. It is not the new normal, it's just normal.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.


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