Silicon Insider: Video Gaming

It won't be long now — say 10 years — before the Gamers rule the Zeitgeist.

I remember, as a boy in Mountain View, then Sunnyvale, Calif., right smack in the middle of what would become Silicon Valley, having certain hobbies and favorites that bordered on fanaticism. For example, I read Mad magazine until I gravitated to National Lampoon. I knew the models, engine displacement and options of every Detroit muscle car (my favorite was the GTO) and eventually had a girlfriend who drove a '67 Firebird 400 convertible.

At different times in my childhood, I had pictures of Rat Fink, the Beach Boys and Jimi Hendrix on my school binder, and I knew the dirty lyrics to "Louie Louie." I variously wore surfer clothes, Beatle boots and paisley shirts with white collars. I saw Traffic at Winterland and Frank Zappa and the Mothers at some place I don't quite remember. I wandered around Haight-Ashbury, danced to the Doobies in a Santa Cruz Mountains biker bar, and I was supposed to go to Altamont, but bailed at the last moment when I heard about the traffic jam.

In other words, I'm just another dreary Baby Boomer, one born early enough to have been a proto-hippie, but late enough to have caught the beginning of Yuppiedom.

If you are younger than me (which the actuarial tables say you most likely are) you've have heard this Boomer crap until you are ready to puke … even as you go out and buy the latest Beatles collection. And I don't blame you.

Except for the music, I was never really that impressed by my generation, which largely managed to convert a historically unique advantage in prosperity, education and numbers into a narcissistic blight on American history. It will take 50 more years for America to get over the damage wrought by the Baby Boomers … and, hey, sorry.

The New Generation

But that's not my reason for writing this. Rather, consider those cultural signifiers listed above. My parents, busy building a life and dealing with all of the social cross-currents that emerged as the '50s turned into the '60s and '70s, barely registered any of these events. That was just odd stuff their kid did or wore or hummed.

Asked back then to predict the future they likely would have seen a continuation of the present, circa 1960: better business suits and fedoras made out of the latest miracle fabrics, bigger color TVs, faster trains and planes, and longer cars with fancier dashboards. What they couldn't have guessed — and one my 83-year-old mother still doesn't quite accept — is that this essentially silly and puerile sub-world of rock 'n' roll, cars and pop style would become the dominant cultural life of American society.

Even my old man, who was infinitely more open to new ideas and technologies than I am, who even took me to the Wescon computer show to see the unveiling of the first Apple I, never fully believed that any of this — from heavy metal to Microsoft Windows — was anything more than a vastly entertaining sideshow.

Having been both a soldier and a spy, he had a far deeper understanding of the complexities of human nature than most of us — yet I know he would be stunned to see an America (and increasingly the world) dominated by nostalgia for the trifles of my Boomer childhood.

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