Important differences appear between the Boomers and the later generations—the Gen Xers and Millennials.

Important differences appear between the Boomers and the later generations—the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The Millennials are the first generation to grow up with computers in their homes. Some Gen Xers and many Boomers rely predominantly on their cable TV universe, while Millennials prefer streaming content over the internet. Many of them access shows on TV only as a means of connecting socially when they gather or when watching something on a device (smartphone, tablet, or laptop) proves logistically challenging. They will watch a sports event on television, since a large TV screen offers a more real-time experience. When they’re alone, they return to their devices for live shows, music, and movies. Unlike Boomers, they prefer to get their news on the internet, subscribing to online publications and following Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to get up-to-date data and drama.

The Millennials’ method of viewing information and entertainment differs significantly from the way Boomers experience them. Boomers grew up with a TV set that had three major stations, rabbit ear antennas and very blurry reception. In the Boston area, Channel 2 (public broadcasting), which wasn’t really considered a station, was more of a news station. Then there were Channels 4, 5, and 7. The TV reception was terrible, at best, with most programs covered in a fuzzy backdrop of snow. And most people had only black-and-white TVs. Color TVs eventually came on the scene, but adoption was slow. Once consumers started buying them, additional channels appeared. Boomers still rent videos; they don’t stream as much as younger generations. They still go to movies and even to libraries to pick up a DVD. Computers were for businesses, not for homes, and the telephone was wall-mounted. The only way to make the phone portable was to install a very long cord so you could walk around and move from room to room.

A few days ago, I was at a restaurant having dinner, and a small child ran by me with a long TV remote in his hand. He must have picked it up off the hostess’s station. The little boy went running by, pressing it up against his ear. He thought it was a cell phone. It’s an amazing, changing world.

As a community manager, I still find homes with people born in the late ’20s and ’30s who have a landline phone with a long cord. Many of these same people carry a cell phone, only because they were forced to do so by their kids so they could keep tabs on their parents’ whereabouts. But these older residents often forget to carry or charge their phones—old habits die hard. The Boomers still have trouble adopting new technology. When a Boomer is tech savvy, the usual comment is, “Wow, that’s great. Where did you learn it?” And the usual answer is, “My kids.”