Fellow AARP blogger Alejandra asked me if it would be interesting to collect a list of consumer technologies that were also born during the boomer generation years of 1946-1964. I found plenty of useful long lists, but to my delight, I rediscovered Karl Hartig‘s incredible chart from the late 1990s showing key milestones and events in the adoption of consumer electronics. Loading the high resolution version in my web browser, I savored the fascinating details of the chart in a long sitting.
In the information-rich tapestry, which covers 1920-1998, Karl plots the percentage of households adopting technologies such as radio, telephone, TV and more. Key cultural events and developments in media and technology are overlayed. The chart, originally developed for the Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition, is available in PDF format on Karl’s web site and is celebrated with links from many blogs around the web.
To make it easier to focus in on the boomer birth years, I cropped the chart and saved it as an image (shown above with link to a large version). Presidents in office are along the top, years and wars along the bottom. Recessions are highlighted in light blue vertical bars. The three colored graph lines that dominate the excerpt represent the household adoption percentage of AM radio, television and telephone. Significantly, television rose from 0 to over 90% adoption during the boomer birth years with audiences transfixed on broadcasts of Miss America, the Tonight Show, Sputnik, John Glenn’s flight into space and the assassination of JFK.
Karl’s full chart ends with the peak adoption of color TV, the VCR, the telephone and the rise of the internet. In our new millennium, we are seeing digital media transforming or subsuming many traditional media. But that’s fodder for future blog posts.
Boomer or not, what communications technologies do you most vividly remember shaping your early life?