18 Things Boomers Had to Live Through That Gen Z Would Never Understand

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By Jonathan Trent

Technological advancements, peace treaties, and societal changes have drastically changed the world over the last two decades, making it unrecognizable from the world that the boomer generation grew up in. Here are 18 things that boomers lived through that Gen Z could never understand.

Nuclear War Threats

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Bomb drills and nuclear war threats were an ever-present part of many baby boomers’ upbringings as global tensions heightened. While people wouldn’t have been on edge at all times, impending war was constantly in the back of the minds of an entire generation. 


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If the baby boomer generation wanted to type out a manuscript rather than write it by hand, they would historically have had to sit down at the noisy, clunky typewriter rather than a sleek, almost silent computer keyboard. Thankfully, technology has drastically evolved in recent years, although vintage typewriters are making a comeback!

Vietnam War

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The horrors of the Vietnam War between 1955 and 1975 were plain for all to see as it has been described as the first televised war by the BBC. It sparked major unrest throughout the States, provoking mass student protests and public rage against the government.

Using Encyclopedias

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If you wanted to find something out pre-internet, you’d have to head to your local library and sift through an encyclopedia the size of your entire body. Nowadays, search engines will tell you any nugget of information you wish to know, no matter how specific. It’s undeniably far more efficient.

1970s Energy Crisis 

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Filling up your car may be more expensive than ever, but at least gas isn’t in short supply. Back in the 1970s, people would have to queue up for miles to fill their cars as a result of the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973.

The End of the Broadcast Day

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In 1970, there were very few cable television sets in American homes, meaning that, according to Britannica, more than 90% of viewers were tuned into one of three networks: ABC, CBS, or NBC. All of these providers typically ended programming at midnight, but these days, TV channels are 24/7!

Record Players

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Unlike today, music couldn’t always be accessed with the click of a button. People would have to buy physical records, turn them over halfway through, and live with the fact that they might randomly jump from one part of a song to another. Millennials will never understand this!

Black and White Television

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In the days when television was a novelty in itself, black-and-white screens were not seen as such a bad thing. However, in the current times when ultra-high-definition televisions are sold commercially en masse, the thought of going back to monochromatic viewing would horrify young people.

Civil Rights Movement 

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It’s hard to fully comprehend how black people were treated before the major civil rights breakthroughs of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Boomers witnessed iconic speeches from figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., which changed the course of American history. Unfortunately, the kids of today take this for granted.

Writing Letters by Hand

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Thanks to technology, the thought of having to wait days to receive a message from a loved one is almost impossible to imagine. This is so much the case that, as CBS reported, a quarter of Americans under the age of 45 have never written a personal letter and sent it by mail.

Map Reading

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Before satellite navigation systems were a thing, most Americans would carry around a huge folded map in their cars in case they ever found themselves lost. Physical maps and the skill of map reading have all but disappeared from modern society, for better or worse.

Rotary Phones

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Before the days of being able to type a phone number into your mobile device and ring someone from pretty much anywhere, baby boomers would have had to use rotary phones. The whole household would be able to listen in on your conversation, something unthinkable in this era of instant messaging.

Public Smoking

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Baby boomers grew up in a time when everybody seemed to smoke. It didn’t matter where they were, either, as people would light one up in bars, restaurants, and on public transport. It wasn’t until the 1990s and 2000s that this was outlawed across the nation.

Renting Movies

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Video rental used to be a huge business in the USA before the streaming sites began to take over. There are very few remnants of the industry left in the USA, as the sector has all but collapsed, shrinking by 85% in just 16 years. Sadly, movie nights have never been quite as fun.

Floppy Disks

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The very easily damaged floppy disk used to be the main way of transferring data from one computer to another. They would often break or corrupt, which is why people were relieved at the introduction of USB sticks in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. The kids don’t realize how good they have it!


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Payphones were once widespread across American cities, and those looking to make a phone call while on the go had no shortage of choice. In 1999, there were around two million payphones in the US, but CNN suggests that only 100,000 are still in operation today.

Phone Directories

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Before you could Google the number of a tradesman or local business, you’d have had to dig out bulky phone directories containing all the local phone numbers you could need. It would take an age to find a number, and you’d never know whether the business you were about to call still existed.

Cassette Tapes

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Finally, much like vinyl records, cassette tapes can be incredibly unpredictable. If the cassette player is accidentally jolted, it often skips out sections of a song. Young people will never understand the trauma of having to fix one of the tapes with the end of a pencil. Weirdly, we kind of miss it, though.