Posted by: Harold Knight | 01/15/2011

Too-Old-to-be-a-Boomer- – The Visiting Nerds Association needed

The latest technology

The latest technology

Some significant events that took place in the first year I was on the planet are listed below. (The most significant event this year is I finally [after two weeks] have Office 2010 on the new computer I had to buy when my four-year-old laptop died.) 

I AM NOT A BABY BOOMER! If I were, this computer debacle would not have been traumatic for me. 

The US Census Bureau defines “Boomers” as born between 1946 and 1964. Landon Jones coined the phrase in his book, Great Expectations: America and the baby-boom generation. He said 1946-1964. William Strauss and Neil Howe (generational theorist) defined Boomers as those who are too young to have any personal memory of World War II, but old enough to remember the postwar American High (read ** below). 

The Golden Boomer Era begins January 1, 2011—that is, the era when all those Boomers reach retirement age. Notice the Golden Boomer Era hasn’t begun yet. I, however, have reached Golden Age. So don’t blame me for the population explosion. Don’t blame me if you don’t get your Social Security benefits. I ain’t no Baby Boomer! 

The first significant political event I remember is President Truman’s 1951 removal of Douglas MacArthur as commander of the US (and therefore, the international UN) forces in Korea. I remember it because my dad vehemently denounced Truman for it (never mind Congress’ finding later that MacArthur had violated the Constitution by refusing orders from the Commander in Chief). I remember knowing at that point that politics meant controversy. 

I remember the death of Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio on July 31, 1953. I remember because of my dad’s reaction. I remember saying to him, “Does that mean if he had been elected President, we wouldn’t have a President now?” Obviously our household was interested in politics—conservative Republican politics. After all, we lived in western Nebraska, and my parents grew up in Kansas. A long time ago. Conservative in those days meant something quite different than it does now. A Senate committee under John F. Kennedy decided in 1957 that Senator Taft had been one of the five greatest senators in US history.

My personal (non-political) memories are a great jumble. I remember my parents’ telling my brother and me we were going to have a baby brother or sister (1949). I remember riding on my grandfather’s shoulders at the circus (1948—I was recovering from serious burns from falling into a tub of almost-boiling water). I remember a things I won’t write about. 

All of this is to establish my credentials as a technophobe.

When we Too-Old-to-be-Boomers were the age of my grandnephews (4 and 6), I wonder what defined our lives. We did not get new desktop computers for Christmas (they did). By that age I was playing the piano. My brother and I played outside most of the time. We have pictures of us in the snow in Kearney, Nebraska—we moved from there in 1952. In the summer of 1955 we moved to a tiny house on the edge of town in Scottsbluff, Nebraska; only the three acres we could call our own made that place tolerable. We ruled those three acres. In 1956 a blizzard blew up that nearly covered our house. One of those Nebraska blizzards. Not like the blizzard of ’49 we were told, but ferocious. Besides being out of school for a few days (schools hardly ever close in western Nebraska because of snow), I remember that blizzard because it was the first time I played outside after a snow storm in bright sunlight long enough to sunburn my eyes. 

Did playing in the snow define who we were? 

I remember some things that seem now to be significant in defining who I am. I was intrigued (excited?) by my brother’s best friend in Kearney (I was six or seven and they were eight or nine) who had visible muscle development. Six or seven. I don’t think I was consciously deciding to be gay at that point, but I certainly remember that boy. 

Did playing the piano or being excited by an older boy’s muscles define who I was? 

We went to church all the time. It seemed we lived at the church. Dad was the pastor, so we spent more time there than any other kids did. When I started taking organ lessons (I still have one of my first organ music books with a note from the teacher that I was to practice on a certain page for June 1,1955), I began spending hours at the church when no one else was there. 

Did going to church or playing the organ define who I was in 1955? 

Here’s what I think about this new computer, about my new Nook, about my fossilized cell phone, about Facebook, about the difference between three “G’s” and four. They will never define who I am. 

A friend of one of my friends on Facebook lamented the other day she wanted to learn to play the fiddle, but a music professor from the University of California at Santa Cruz told her she’s too old—that her brain is “hardwired” (no clue what he meant by that). I don’t know how old she is, but I suspect she’s about the same age as my friend, which would mean she’s eight or ten years younger than I (a Baby Boomer). 

I told her the professor is crazy. She wants to learn to fiddle? Learn to fiddle! In fact, if my neurologist’s advice is worth anything—he’s responsible for my trying to learn to think and use my feet at the same time (his suggestion for a new skill to learn to keep my brain young) on the square dance floor—she not only CAN learn to fiddle, she NEEDS to! 

I understand that. 

But I don’t understand iPhones or “Apps.” I don’t  understand the GPS system in my sister’s car although I sort of learned to use it—except the volume went down so I couldn’t hear it, and I couldn’t figure how to make it louder—using her car while she was in Mexico. My niece had to explain to me (after a year) how to write on someone’s “Wall” in Facebook. I don’t understand Twitter or iTunes (my sister sent me some Christmas music I still can’t listen to). It took me three days to get my Nook set up on my wireless line at home and registered so I can buy a book—and I still have no clue how to download the dozens of PDF files on my computer—which was the reason I bought the Nook in the first place. I don’t understand PDF files, by the way. I just use them.

Shall I continue? Or shall I simply say you all live in a world I cannot comprehend. I will stick to playing the organ and typing on my computer and using my cellphone (on which I have eliminated “texting” because I can’t see the tiny words), and perhaps square dancing. And reading books—perhaps on my Nook eventually. 

I’m that strange, befuddled, living-in-the-past old man your mother warned you about. Even the real Baby Boomers probably understand what’s going on better than I do. After all, they invented all this stuff. 

I can’t believe I’m writing this. I’m not stupid. I’m not even incompetent (except at balancing my checkbook). I want to stay au courant. Really, I do. But I think there’s just too much stuff. And those of us whose brains are hardwired (maybe that professor was right) to play in the snow and practice the organ—who had to learn this stuff well after we were six years old—need a Visiting Nerd Association to get us through the Golden Boomer Era. Maybe Medicare will cover it. Emergency treatment.

**Military/Political Events in my lifetime:
February 4-11 Yalta Conference
February 13 Dresden destroyed (why?)
March 7 Allies take Cologne
April 12 Allies liberate Buchenwald
April 30 Hitler commits suicide
May 8 Victory in Europe Day
July 16 First US atomic bomb test
July 16-August 2 Potsdam Conference (direct cause of Korean War and Cold War)
August 6 First Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima
August 9 Second Atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki
September 2 Victory over Japan Day
October 24 United Nations is born|
June 25 North Korea invades South Korea
July 7 UN force created with Douglas MacArthur as commander|1951:
April 11 Truman fires MacArthur
November 4 Dwight D. Eisenhower elected President
July 31 Senator Robert A. Taft (R-Ohio) dies


  1. There are simply too many things to be interested enough in all of them to bother learning them. The new technology that comes out baffles me until I need to use it either for work or home or whatever. I’ve got better at figuring things out but I have also got better at filtering out what is useful to me and what is w distracting waste of time. It took me almost 2 years of using Twitter to get the hang of it; and now there’s Quora coming along and people are bleating about how it will replace Twitter.
    Personally, I’m the kind who’d have stuck with the old hand axe until it became blindingly obvious that the new axes and so on worked better. If I need it, I’ll learn it. I’d imagine you’re the same.


  2. If I need it, I’ll TRY to learn it.
    But not always successfully.


  3. […] more than most people my age (66) because no middle-class or academic or healthy American (no baby boomer—which I am NOT) wants to admit that what we thought was old when Eisenhower was President is no […]



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