Too young for Generation X. Too old for the Millennials.

I read Coupland's opus as a teenager. My impression? Wow, it sucks to be them. I have about as much in common with Generation X as the entitled, gadget-horny infant that stereotypes the demographic of those born just a few years later. And I'm not alone in feeling this way.

Edit: Found it. This is the article that got me thinking about this topic. Though that one is good too.

I know what this is. Do you?

There's a pocket of people, born sometime between about 1974 and 1982, that don't fit squarely into either of these categories. We're the ones that were too young to catch Star Wars in the theatre, but old enough to watch it on Betamax. Nevertheless, we were in exactly the right place and time to experience something that took being there to really appreciate.

Cartoon-Toy-Industrial Complex

If there was ever a signature of naked 1980's greed, it was the Saturday-morning cartoon. With the possible exception of Pee-Wee's Playhouse, children's television programming consisted nigh-entirely of 20-minute commercials for toys, with a hasty, two-minute vignette dispatching some inane sermon or other, slapped onto the end to comply with regulations. Some of my favourites:

I'll also reluctantly admit to watching shows like Jem or She-Ra if there weren't any other cartoons on at the time. I say reluctantly because for some reason part of me is still on the playground of 25 years ago, even though in retrospect they were no more or less banal than the rest of the crop—albeit perhaps with more use of pink.

Anyway. Formative? You be the judge.

The toys of the 80's, themselves, were phenomenal. They had just enough tech to do more than just sit there, but not so much as to rob us of our imaginations. It was the time of the inception of the phrase batteries not included, and they meant it. To be fair, the 80's toy phenomenon extended into the 90's, when it was eventually subsumed by Pogs, McFarlane action figures and Tickle-Me-Elmo.

Oh, and once upon a time, Lego didn't need the co-branding blessings of George Lucas or JK Rowling to be cool.

Too Young for Pong, Too Old for Playstation

I had an Atari. Didn't really appreciate it. Nintendo, on the other hand, was much more my speed. Again, just sophisticated enough to be interesting, but not so sophisticated as to be engrossing. Simply put: it was a chore to log serious hours playing 2D platformer games, and many of them went unfinished. This isn't to say I didn't spend my tweens playing Genesis, Super NES and even TurboGrafx-16 with my friends all night on weekends. But by the time the 32-bit systems arrived, with their 70+-hour playtime demands, I had moved on to greener pastures.

Just Before Simpsons and Cell Phones

I encountered my first mobile phone when I was around 8. I remember it vividly because it was remarkable to have a telephone conversation on a boat. It looked like a car phone hooked up to a motorcycle battery, because that's about what it was.

And when I got my own, ten years later, it was a serious status symbol. Of course, there was nobody else to call.

I remember remarking as well, before the iPhone at least, that 1980 seemed to be the cutoff birth year for tolerance of prolonged SMS conversations. Anybody older, including myself, used to get frustrated after two or three messages and just dial the other person. Now my parents are prolific texters. Go figure.

It occurred to me some time ago that there are people exiting graduate programs that have never known a world without The Simpsons. I wonder what other cultural curiosities they've never encountered? MS-DOS? Smoking on airplanes? How about crossing the border without a passport?

Where Were You When Kurt Cobain Died?

Grade 9. Art class. The kid at the other end of the workbench was silent for a month.

It was around this time when the ability to clearly identify ourselves by what genre of music we listened to was starting to break down. It had ceased to be clear whether metal, grunge and rap were mutually exclusive tastes. Thankfully, I had Beavis and Butt-Head to sort me out.

Again: too young to lay a credible claim on the likes of The Misfits, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. Just old enough to catch the tail-end of raves before they went commercial. And definitely too old to appreciate whatever noise it is kids listen to these days.

And Then the Internet Came Along

The World-Wide Web appeared at exactly the time I started to think seriously about what I wanted to be when I grew up.

It's difficult to appreciate this tiny window of opportunity unless you were present for it. It was the World-Wild West, and it taught me one essential idea: that I can do things. I don't need a license, and I don't need credentials. I certainly don't need anybody telling me what to do. I just need the operating manual and some time to read it. And with that, I can bring some amazing—and valuable—creations to life.

I'm pretty confident that the span from 1995 to 2000 minted more autodidacts than have ever existed before or since. The ones that benifited the most were the ones that weren't heavily invested into other things—like teenagers and early-20-somethings. I got to be part of the dot-bomb, but not be ruined by it. Even if you weren't part of it yourself, you'd know somebody who was. Just being near that kind of energy was enough to irrevocably change a person.

Everything in that realm is considerably more cloistered now. More professional and more professionalized. Slicker. No user-serviceable parts. In a way it's kind of a backfire. We and everybody we worked for did a pretty decent job of erecting a fortress around a once-in-a-century jackpot of expertise and the opportunities to go with it.

Although we have arguably never had more user-serviceable parts than at present in 2012. They're just buried under a veneer of let-me-get-that-for-you. The schism between the maker of objects and the consumer of experiences has never been more pronounced. But the story isn't over yet.

Capable and Optimistic

And that's really why I and people like me fall into the generational interstices. We lack the despondency emblematic of Generation X, and the ostensible helplessness of the Millennials. We got to experience our own agency first-hand.

The early 90's must have sucked if you were a young adult. The late 90's must have sucked if you were a kid. My cohort dodged both of those bullets, and I am eternally grateful for it.