Twenty-somethings like myself remember being in elementary school and playing Oregon Trail on an early Macintosh with a floppy disk drive. For decades, generations of Apple computers have filled school computer labs thanks to targeted marketing and discounts for educators.
To a kid in the early 1990s, it seemed amazing that wagons could not only appear on the screen, but also roll across it and respond to your commands. (And don’t get me started on the magic of creating personalized birthday cards with the help of a dot matrix printer.) Meanwhile, Apple advertising told us to “think different.”
And who knew what was yet to come? Brightly colored iMac G3’s, then iBooks and MacBooks. The iPod changed the way we listen to music, the iPhone became a tool for life more than a way to receive calls, and the iPad is changing the way we read magazines, books and news.
On college campuses, it seems everyone’s backpack is a mini Apple store. Perhaps it’s the Apple college discount that allows students to justify spending more on an iPod than on a regular MP3 player. Or maybe it’s the peer pressure. Or the design. Or the desire to be different than your PC-loving parents. Or a dedication dating back to childhood.
Baby boomer professors and administrators also caught the bug. Many schools, including the University of Maryland, experimented with giving incoming freshmen iPhones. Abilene Christian University in Texas has done so since 2008 as part of a mobile learning initiative, which has brought national attention to the small school and earned it the nickname “the Apple school.” Virginia Tech has infused excitement into its computer science program by encouraging students to build apps.
On Twitter last night, I saw wave after wave of inspiring Jobs quotes, links to a commencement speech he gave at Stanford University in 2005, and messages like iSad and iGrieve. My Facebook feed filled with photos and links from numerous generations of Apple users, but mostly from millennials.
This news touched us. It reminded us of growing up with Apple and being told by its commercials and its turtleneck-wearing leader to think differently. To be creative. To do something. To look to the future. To keep growing.
But millennials are no longer the youngest generation. There are kids born in the late 1990s and early 2000s who will start applying to college in a few years. They don’t know a world without the Internet. They have grown up with streaming video, digital cameras and smartphones.
No one is sure what this new generation is called. An early contender: The iGeneration.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter, @wpjenna.