Parents sharing stories about their childhoods and the miles of snow they had to walk through to get to school is not a new pastime. In fact, these anecdotes are often used to compare current technology with the tools used by children of previous generations. Kids of Generation Z, those born after 1995, have never seen a cassette tape or used a rotary-dial phone, for example. The youth of today can access a world of information with just a quick search of the internet on their smartphones. Movie night DVDs have almost disappeared in place of digital streaming services accessible with a remote control. Even the news is shared in a different way with physical newspapers becoming scarce in the wake of real-time social media.
With the appearance of each new technological gizmo, the ways in which these devices mold our lives is harder to ignore. As our daily routines become dependent on digital reminders and notifications, it’s easy to forget that our high-tech world has risen to power only recently. In fact, comparing a day in the life of a Generation X child from thirty years ago to that of a Generation Z kid of today highlights just how significantly technology has changed our lives forever.
Today, many Generation Z kids wake up to the chorus of their favorite song, playing from the speakers of their smartphone on the nightstand. Before their feet hit the floor, they are already scrolling through their social media feed and responding to texts that arrived while they were asleep. Depending on their plans for the day, they might click a weather app to check the temperature for the day before getting dressed. After popping a pre-made breakfast meal into the microwave, they’ll likely keep their eyes on their phone, liking, reposting, and responding to events on social media to make sure they don’t miss a thing.
On the other hand, the children of Generation X did not have smartphones to wake them up with a catchy tune. Instead, they might have woken up to the sound of an alarm clock. If anything interesting happened during the night, kids wouldn’t have learned about it until they saw their friends in person. If they wanted to know what the weather forecast for the day was, they would peek out a window and take a guess. Generation X kids may have eaten a home-cooked breakfast and chatted family members (instead of emojis) until it was time to leave for school.
Generation Z youths sit in classrooms with flexible seating options as their teachers conduct interactive lessons on multimedia blackboards. Instructions are written with a plastic stylus—or maybe even a fingertip—in various colors and designs with just a simple tap or drag. Kids take notes on their laptops and follow along in digital textbook. Before recess, a child of Generation Z might receive a notification on their smart watch from a friend who would like to sit with them at lunch. Almost all communication between friends can occur with emojis or memes—complete sentences becoming antiquated and irrelevant.
Generation X students watched their teachers write with chalk on a real blackboard. They took notes with pencil and paper while a heavy stack of physical textbooks weighed down the corner of their desk. And if someone wanted to send a message during class, a folded piece of paper was passed from desk to desk until it landed in the right hands.
After school, kids from Generation Z spend a few hours playing video games and surfing the internet, giggling over viral videos and silly Snapchat filters. After ordering the evening meal from a food delivery app, their mother sends them a text to remind them to start wrapping up their game. Later, Generation Z families log into a video streaming service to watch a few episodes of their favorite television show before going to sleep. They are able to choose exactly which show to watch, and they can pick up where they left off on an episode from the previous night.
Generation X kids used to meet up with other neighborhood kids to spend time outside after school. They would race bicycles around the block and explore each other’s backyards. When one mother called another on the landline phone at dinner time, names were shouted between porches and everyone pedaled home. After a dinner cooked at home, Generation X kids watched a few minutes of whatever looked the most interesting on the handful of channels available on the family television, centrally located in the living room.
When comparing everyday life between the two generations, it’s easy to see the advancements in technology we now take for granted. Many of the changes and improvements keeping technological development moving forward can be attributed to none other than the semiconductor. Though we may not think about them, we interact with semiconductors every day. They are in our smartphones, automobiles, medical wearables, and just about every other electronic device we use. As we close out this year, we’ll be eagerly watching the many opportunities for semiconductors to improve our lives across all the generations to come.