After writing an article about Millennials (Gen Y), I couldn't help but get my thoughts down about the next generation. This article covers their age range, why they are different, and what we can start to expect from the new generation. In response to them being called the iGen or iGeneration, which is branding attempt from Apple, I'm calling the Digitarians.
Before diving into the mindset of a Digitarian, I want to first touch up what it was like growing up as a Millennial.
The Millennial Preface
My first experience with a computer was my sister booting up Nintendo NES to play Super Mario Brothers. This was in the late 80s, putting me at 5 or 6 years old (born in 1984). What a thrilling time, and it beat the hell out of watching TV. These games challenged my mind, and I couldn't get enough. Playing puzzle games like The Legend of Zelda helped build logic solving skills at a very early age, and mostly likely is at fault for my severe ADHD diagnosis. Gaming systems got better: I wanted a Super Nintendo so badly when I was 8, but my father came home with a PC and a bunch of floppy disks instead (thank you Dad!). So in order for me play games on a computer, you had to know how to use the command line. You could imagine how boring school got when you could boot games like Leisure Suit Larry (yeah that explains a lot) from MS-DOS in 1992. Booting a game then was very different than booting a game now:
MS-DOS Command Lines to install the video game Doom from a floppy disk in 1993. Thanks @eesn. First pop the floppy disk into the A drive on your PC tower. Then in DOS:
... (install/configuration screens appear)
C:\> cd \doom
Ohhhhh then the midi soundtrack drops, it felt so amazing. Doom was a thrilling, beautiful, and addicting. If you do not know what i'm referencing, watch this video with commentary. Shortly after, Microsoft released a consumer graphical user interface (GUI) and you could use the mouse to open games, and store more data to your hard drive. In 1994 my dad had a modem installed in our PC and got an AOL account. The first second my parents left me home, I beelined to that computer and figured my mom's password out (our dog's name) after three tries. I was on the internet, I started communicating with people I didn't know on the chatroom #AOHELL then in IRC, these random people taught me to download and share software, they taught me to hack. Since then, there has only been a handful of days that I haven't been connected.
Always Connected: the Digitarians
There are two very computer forward kids (born in 1999) that I have had the pleasure to mentor. There are also a handful of others from the Digitarian Generation in my wheelhouse that I'm using as references in these statements. Each Digitarian has always had a device connected to the internet, has been taught to type, and in some instances was taught how to program early in school. This is a major difference between early Millennials and Digitarians. Millennials were not taught to type or code, they had to self learn. Another difference is Digitarians were raised on a "safer" internet that wasn't as raw, less exploited, and less commercial. In the 1990's the internet was less policed and monitored, so you rarely got caught experimenting. For Digitarians, growing up always connected meant access to limitless information, the best video games, and access to the largest library of software. Digitarians were born into great technology and high speed internet. They never experienced a phone call disconnecting their dial-up connection to conversations instant messenger.
Generation X left the early Millennials a blank canvas in which they crafted the user experience Digitarians are growing up using. How we Millennials decided computer interfaces should work is the way Digitarians experienced computers and the internet. Right or wrong, what Digitarians know about computers is what we built for them. Let's take a look at how this started!
Generation X gave Millennials the operating system and web browser. Millennials saw the operating system as sufficient and looked to the web browser as their open canvas. They started building services and products 100% deployed through web browsers. This is still happening today, as we see SaaS becoming the standard. Digitarians expect everything to be immediately accessible through their internet browser; this by Millennial design.
Digitarians know apps, games, and web browsers. They don't know DOS, the blue screen of death, or about upgrading their hard drive. Unless they go into a profession that requires them to learn about computers, they will never need to know. It is not necessary because software and hardware are now packaged into devices that are quickly customized to match their desired user experience.
This means Digitarians will not accept interface mistakes. We host a Zesty.io program with USD every semester. When the students run into the bug, they literally look at us like we are computer dumb, like "jeez why doesn't this just work?!". If an interface does not work the way Digitarians expect it to or there is an apparent bug, you bet your ass they move on before you can apologize and release a patch. Just think, Digitarians grew up in an age where you download software on your phone. With app downloads there is no support and there is no insight to a next update. This is mostly Apple's fault by not giving developers a way respond to customers. So when apps do not work they get a new app. Millennials grew up in the wild wild west of software; the good times, the times you were grateful if a new technology even worked part of the time. Not Digitarians, it better be perfect, or you better not be in the software business.
Digitarians will not shape the internet, because that has already been done. What they will do is adopt and demand better technology like self driving cars, embeddable devices, and interfaces controlled by gestures.
As Millennials continue to connect and automate the world, the Digitarians will come in to make the experiences we crafted smoother than ever. My hope is Digitarians will continue to clean up the mess left by the industrial era and take us beyond our solar system.