Last, month we asked representatives from a whole range of generational cohorts what they liked about the time into which they were born. As a member of the tail end of Generation X (sometimes referred to as a "xennial," or by my preferred nomenclature, "the Oregon Trail generation"), my 40-year old self identified more with the older folks in the video than with the younger, primarily because teenagers are snapchatting aliens who don't understand the true struggle of having to memorize all their friends' phone numbers because get off my lawn or something (and speaking of lawns, why can't I buy a fool-proof automatic lawn mowing robot in 2018?).
This time around, rather than have folks reflect on the ups and downs of their own generation, we took a bunch of really nice kids and threw them into a specially designed basement crammed full of '80s stuff—Nintendo Entertainment Systems, record players, Polaroid cameras, and a few other odds and ends—and told them that they had to figure out each of the gadgets or we'd keep them locked down there while the rest of us devoured the craft services table.
Ha, I kid. There was no craft services table. We spent the craft services budget building the '80s basement dungeon.
“Shake it like a…”
I have to give it to our intrepid youngsters: they were extremely nice. Possibly too nice. I'm not sure what their parents told them, but every single one of them came into this video playing things totally straight, and rather than crazy overblown forced reactions, they gave us some solid, genuine "Hmm, yes, the '80s were an interesting time" thoughtfulness. They even keep their cool when we asked them to figure out a portable record player—something that would have struck me at age 12 as weird and anachronistic (I've never owned a record in my life—in 1989 when I was 11, all my music was either on cassette or CD).
Instead, the kids politely stumbled their way through the passel of old gadgets, doggedly trying to figure out some of the technical challenges of the time. I found it particularly fascinating that the kids didn't know that you have to press down on a game cart in the original NES before turning it on, but they appeared to almost instinctively know to shake Polaroid pictures (even though that doesn't actually help). Some behaviors have just kinda inculcated themselves into the collective unconsciousness. (The kids also wondered if they needed to dip the Polaroid pix in "water," presumably because they've never encountered film themselves before but movies and TV shows still regularly portray people doing stuff in darkrooms.)
Not gonna lie: this one was especially fun to film and edit. If you guys have as much fun watching it as we had making it, we'll see if we can round this gaggle of kids up again and make them do some more stuff. Maybe we should take a page out of my own past and make 'em try to add and configure an HP DeskJet 500 in Windows 3.1!
Listing image by Aurich Lawson