The Class of 2014: What these kids don't know

Beloit College reminds us that today's college freshmen have never used wristwatches, dialed a phone, or written in cursive

Beloit College has published its Mindset List for the Class of 2014, an annual tradition designed to capture the "cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall" and to make the rest of us all feel extremely old and out of touch.

As New York Times blogger Nick Bilton notes:

The list was first developed in 1998 by Tom McBride and Ron Nief, faculty members at Beloit, with the goal of helping the school's professors avoid "dated references" and understand the perspective of the next generation.

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This particular mindset captures the generation of souls born in 1992, whose fingers never touched a rotary dial, who've never written a paper in cursive, who never had to choose from less than 100 channels of television, and who have never owned a watch because they get the time of day from their cell phones.

This got me thinking about my own mindset and those of my contemporaries -- at least, the ones who are still alive and not drooling into their pillows at the Bidawee Retirement Community and Knitting Sweatshop.

Life looks amazingly different now than it did just a decade or two ago. Remember when ...

* Spam was just a luncheon meat.

* Email was a tool that actually made you more productive.

* Cell phones were primarily used to make phone calls.

* Chat was something you did at the water cooler, and "IM" was just someone's way of misspelling "I'm."

* The office actually had water coolers.

* Steve Jobs was that guy who used to run Apple and now makes cartoons.

* The shows on TV were fictional and the news was reality based.

* Microsoft was one of the good guys, and Bill Gates was considered a genius.

* Google was just a word for a large number with a lot of zeros in it.

* Amazon was a jungle and a Yahoo was that jerk who lived down the street.

* Hollywood megastars had both first and last names.

* IBM made personal computers.

* Sex scandals were actually scandalous.

* Your disks were floppy and your drives were hard.

* Journalists prided themselves on getting stories right before they got published, not after.

* Wet-behind-the-ears 20-somethings had to learn how to write before somebody would publish them.

* Traffic was something you tried to avoid, not generate.

* Your list of friends was shorter than a phone directory, and if you had to you could probably pick most of them out of a police lineup.

* Companies chose names you could actually pronounce, containing a balance of both vowels and consonants.

* You had to buy a magazine to see pictures of naked people.

* You could hold InfoWorld in your hands without getting fingerprints all over the screen.

OK, now I feel even older. I could go on like this, but I think it's time for my nap.

What's on your mindset? E-mail me: cringe@infoworld.com.

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Robert X. Cringely

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