Tag Archives: young people


by Tom McBride

The first time I heard the word “obsolete” was when I overheard my father talking to a stranger on a bus. They were speaking about a new expressway that the city had built, and the stranger said, “That thing was obsolete before they ever opened it.”social media MS OFFICE

I was impressed. I went home and looked up the word. And in time I realized the stranger was right. The builders of the new road had put in four lanes but should have put in six. Soon enough, traffic was snarled, and eventually cars started avoiding the route altogether. Then the side streets became overcrowded with autos. The whole thing was a mess.

“Obsolete” was a terrible word. It still is. If something or someone is obsolete, then he, she, or it no longer works. He, she, or it languishes in irrelevance. And then he, she, or it comes to be avoided altogether. Everyone would rather take the side streets. Obsolete things are just in the way. They are like old professors on college campuses. The young sneak behind buildings in order to avoid them.

Today’s Millennials are not obsolete—yet. Born between 1980 and 2000 they came to this planet during a fairly prosperous time, so they represent a population glut. There are already more Millennials alive than Baby Boomers, who constituted the mother of all population explosions.

percent of workforce MS OFFICE

Corporations are working overtime to figure out how to market to this bunch of fickle young consumers, who have an embarrassment of choices. Human resources directors are wondering how to motivate them in the workplace. They are praised for wanting a more healthy balance between work and life (some of them think overtime is evil), and they are feared, almost, for being digital natives. Unlike the rest of us, they grew up high-tech, so what do they know about cyberspace that we don’t?

phones and tablets MS OFFICE

Others can’t stand them—why won’t they look us in the eye at Starbuck’s instead of staring at their phones all the time? And a few of us older people see them as symbols of a world we don’t want to have much to do with. The whole idea of “looking something up on your phone” (which has more data than your local public library) seems repugnant somehow.

infographic MS OFFICE

But there’s one thing these non-obsolete Millennials can’t avoid: In time, they will become obsolete, like the city expressway of my childhood. They will seem irrelevant. They will be in the way. Young people will hide from them. The new generation will have to work around them.

The question, though, is how can Millennials tell when they’re becoming outmoded?

startup venture MS Office

Like, invest in my startup, huh?

The answer is simple. It’s when they start beginning sentences with “These kids nowadays…” I’ve heard early rumblings of this sentence, as when an older Millennial said of younger Millennials, “These people just take wireless computing for granted.” He was too young to say “these kids,” but give him another ten years.

loft MS Office

The truth is that older Millennials are already far enough along to have teen-aged children. A Millennial born in 1980 is now thirty-six and may well have a fourteen-year-old around. In just ten years that will be true for Millennials born in 1990. They will enter that most dreaded source of becoming old-fashioned and resented: parenthood. And then you will hear such sentences as these:

“You kids have it so lucky. We actually had to flip switches to get lights on in a room—none of this decadent voice-activation stuff.”

“You’re lucky, you kids: When I was your age we couldn’t get our genes edited at birth to make us better-looking.”

robot MS Office“When I was your age, we didn’t have to pay extra to get an actual human being to teach us calculus—unless you kids can learn on a machine, you’re going to bankrupt me.”

“Yes, that’s right, kids. Only when a political party isn’t in power does it object to big government deficits. That’s the way it’s always been. Don’t think that you kids can change it!”

“You kids just trust technology too much. I don’t want to have a robot remove my appendix even if it is cheaper.”

Do you hear the notes of weary impatience in these sentences? Do you detect the tone of resentment in the voice of older people when they encounter the youth and idealism of their kids? Do you sense the envy of the young? Do you pick up on the fatigue of bearing parental burdens?

time magazine MS OFFICE

Yet every one of these sentences will be spoken by…a Millennial. They will be speaking to their offspring, which will be called something like Generation Alpha.

And what about the rest of us—old Boomers and Gen X types? Most of us will be even better than obsolete. We’ll be dead.

But don’t you feel better knowing that these young whippersnappers today will also go the way of all flesh? That’ll be true even if, as predicted, people will be immortal by having their brains downloaded into a computer.

Eventually, even the computer will become…obsolete! Ha!

Cell Phone Girl MS Office

Tom McBride is co-author of The Mindset Lists of American History

and The Mindset List of the Obscure,

and the author The Great American Lay: An All Too Brief History of Sex.

He lives in southern Wisconsin.

Graphics from MS Office.

This article appeared in News From Heartland



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Mark T Wayne Techweek – Part 2

Mark T Wayne – Special Correspondent

as told to John Jonelis

Permit me to proclaim that, next year, children—yes I say children, should organize Techweek. The event will gain from it. I have good evidence for such speculation, as you will see.

The first truths I learn are these: The map I brought is wrong. As I register, a polite lady kindly provides me with a new map in a slick brochure. It also is wrong. The events are scrambled and nobody knows with any certainty what happens when. They provide a mobile app to keep us all up to date. It doesn’t work. Few can even access the internet within these concrete walls. Meanwhile, the uproar is more than a man’s ears can stand. I must shout to make myself heard! This is mass confusion. Execrable, I say! Execrable!

I throw my program to the floor in disgust and stomp on it several times. My heel grinds it to pulp on the concrete floor. Then I plunge headlong into the crowd, bent on finding something of value. I paid dearly for this ticket—$30—and I will not squander my funds!THE WRONG MAP

The Expedition

My foray into the teaming multitudes does not immediately bear fruit. The clamor of a thousand voices assails me as I squeeze down isle after isle of swarming humanity. With amazing alacrity and skill, and with great speed, I get lost and disoriented in the bazaar of booths staffed by business people and hired models, all hawking their wares. THE MERCHANDISE MART

This is the Chicago Merchandise Mart—a building with more floor space than almost any other in the world. Techweek occupies an entire floor—has its own special elevator!



I am a lost soul, until—is this providence or accident? While wandering through this wasteland of corporate exhibits and almost calling it a day, I stumble upon a rare treat—an oasis—a flower growing in a junkyard.


The Champion Robopop Team

I am at the booth of ROBOPOP, an amazing exhibit of mechanical automation designed and built by schoolchildren. Children I say! Not typical squirming urchins with faces smeared with peanut butter and dirt, but intelligent young people who dare to compete against the whole world. This little group of scoundrels has won award after award—four years straight! Here they are:


  • 2010—Rookie Team Award
  • 2011—Robot Design Award
  • 2012—Champion’s Award
  • 2012—#1 in Robot Performance
  • 2013—Champions of the North American Open in California

And this is not a science class project. No sir! They do this on their own time, apparently for sheer enjoyment.


The Robot’s Challenge Course

When I was a boy, we played ball, planned pirate capers, convinced our loved ones of our physical demise, and then attended our own funerals! A couple of us escaped down river for weeks in a homemade raft. No end of mischief! And perhaps these children find time for such pursuits—I cannot honestly credit it otherwise. But the contraption I see before me appears significant enough to take all of a child’s free time, and it is constructed entirely of Leggos.


Zach Hogan

I ask Zach Hogan, age 12, how he got involved in such an ambitious venture. 

“I really like Leggos” he says, “And when I heard that our school was doing a Leggo group, I said sure. I didn’t even know we were going to be doing programming.”

A precocious young lady, age 14, is a retiring veteran of this diminutive team.

“At the beginning of the year,” she says, “We’re given lots of Leggo pieces and told, okay build your robot. We have to build one that interacts with every mission (that the committee assigns). For example, take that pill bottle and bring it back to base—that’s one of the missions…The robot must act entirely independently.”

And she demonstrates this thingamajig for me. This machine performs one task after another flawlessly, automatically, with superb precision! I tell you, this is astounding!


The Robot Runs Flawlessly

These marvelous children hail from Prince of Peace School in Lake Villa, IL. Just to put this in its true perspective, I’m talking about an elementary school for children from 1st through 8th grade. They are not old enough to vote, drink, drive, or escape the clutches of their parents. But here they are at Techweek among the most brilliant inventors, striving entrepreneurs, prestigious corporations, and sneaky politicians in the world. And they’ve shown ‘em all up!  Yes sir, they’ve pulled it off in a big way!

I tell you sir, this exhibit is the best thing I’ve seen the whole day!

Lest you think these children confine themselves to Leggo construction, permit me to set that straight.


Lucy Tarcha

Lucy Tarcha, age 12, displays an entirely homemade automated machine that dispenses patent medicine—I believe they refer to it as prescription medicine these days—at just the right dose and at just the right time.

Here is the Robopop championship team: Samantha Case, Madelyn Case, Zachary Hogan, Natalie Koenig, Colin McElduff, Angela Rauch, Margaret Rauch, Michael Rauch and Lucy Tarcha. Brian Case and Sam Rouch serve as adult coaches.







Prince of Peace School website.

Techweek Chicago


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.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved



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