Frames and Names: Getting Generations Right

By Rick Chromey | December 30, 2019 |

Framed generations

When it comes to generations, fuzzy thinking abounds.

Just how long is a generation and what do we call it? For the past thirty years, we’ve cast the generations as Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Gen X (1965-1980), Millennials (1981-1995) and Gen Z (1996-?). But those names and frames are highly disputed in the research. The U.S. Census Bureau confessed to one inquiring mind: “We do not define the different generations…the only generation we do define is Baby Boomers and that year bracket is from 1946 to 1964.”[1]

Let the confusion begin

Let’s take Gen X (1965 to 1980). In recent years, this generational frame has shrunk to 1965 to 1977 to allow for a new micro-generation known as the “Xennials” (born somewhere between 1977 and 1985).[2] Originally Gen X was tagged “Baby Busters” but that term stuck lost luster in the 1990s, thanks to Douglas Coupland’s generational novel of the same name. In 1991, William Strauss and Neil Howe resized Gen X (who they referred at the time as the 13er Generation) to a 1961-1981 frame in their socio-historical work Generations. These tweaks helped but the confusion remained.

Enter the millennials

This cohort carried monikers like Gen Y, Boomlets, Echo Boomers and Digital Natives. One writer noted they prefer no label at all.[3] Strauss and Howe, who coined the term “Millennial,” framed their birth years as 1982-2004. Recently, the Pew Research Center settled on 1981-1996[4], while sociology professor Dr. Jean Twenge argues for 1980-1994.[5]

It’s no wonder Gen Xers and Millennials are confused…and find these frames and names counterproductive. It doesn’t help that the term “Millennial” (like Gen X) now carries negative cultural baggage. In general, the Millennials are perceived as narcissistic, entitled and “snowflake.”

It’s why I think we need a national conversation on generational “frames and names.”

In GenTech, I proposed a traditional and historical view that a generation roughly matches a phase of the human life span (or twenty years). We do most of our “birthing” in the young adult phase (ages 20-40). By age 20 we are mostly adults. Approximately every twenty years we have cultural catastrophes (Hiroshima, JFK’s assassination. Challenger, 9-11) that define our generational cohort. In many ancient and modern civilizations, age twenty is when a child is recognized as an adult. And one more thing: we don’t have micro-generations, but we do have identifiable phases. What we often call Gen Y and Gen Z? Just two phases within the wider Millennial generation.

But the labels mean nothing if we have bad definitions

It’s why I also think generations are better defined through the emerging technologies in our coming of age years (ages 10-25). I think the technological edges are fluid and overlapping. Consequently, we are a radio or television generation. We are a space or gamer generation. We are a net or iTech generation.

That’s who we really are.


[1] “Here Is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to the Facts” (Atlantic Monthly, March 24, 2014): https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/03/here-is-when-each-generation-begins-and-ends-according-to-facts/359589/

[2] “Xennial”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xennials

[3] “What is a Millennial?” by Lindsey Pollack. February 14, 2018: https://www.lindseypollak.com/what-is-a-millennial/

[4] Pew Research Center: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/17/where-millennials-end-and-generation-z-begins/

[5] Jean Twenge FAQ: “What Generation Do I Belong To?” http://www.jeantwenge.com/faqs/


Pre-Launch Book Party – Just in Time For the Holidays – Dec. 6th

By Rick Chromey | November 14, 2019 |

Promo art for pre-launch party

The Pre-Launch Book Party for Dr. Rick Chromey, celebrating his new book officially coming out May 26, 2020, will be held on December 6, 2019 from 6 pm to 8:30 pm at Casa Mexico, 10332 W Fairview Ave # 104, Boise, ID 83704.

Rick will give a new TED-style talk, just for his new book, “GenTech: An American Story of Technology and Who We REALLY Are.” After the speech, Dr. Chromey will be holding a Q & A and a lively discussion about what his research has revealed and where we are headed with technology in the future. Great event for the whole family! There will be technology on display that your teenagers will wonder about, so don’t miss out on having them learn a thing or two!

A limited supply of pre-launch books will be available for purchase in print, just in time for the holidays. Dr. Chromey will also be signing them.

The official release will be May 26, 2020, by Morgan James Publishing. The book will be available at bookstores everywhere and online. Learn more on the book website: http://www.mygentech.us.

Light appetizers will be hosted, and attendees can enjoy beverages and a full menu for dinner (not hosted).

Be sure to grab your seat… the event is free, but we have limited space, so jump onto Eventbrite and claim your seat.


Praise for GenTech – Dr. Leonard Sweet

By Rick Chromey | October 29, 2019 |

Why I Wrote GenTech (1.5 minute read)

By Rick Chromey | October 29, 2019 |

I’ve been writing books since I was five years old. My first book was about a rabbit. I even illustrated it with my own drawings…then sold it to my grandma for a quarter. She said it was pretty good!

While at university, I wrote three self-published books that covered my rent and paid my groceries. It also gave me an opportunity to speak. These paper books only cost a buck to print but I re-sold them for as much as ten times that amount. I didn’t get rich, but that’s never been my goal. I wrote my first nationally published book at the tender age of 25. It was a best-seller in its field. In fact, it’s still selling thirty years later. To date, I’ve penned five published books and over a dozen digital works. I’m proud of each one.

But I’ve never penned a book like GenTech: An American Story of Technology, Change and Who We Really Are. It’s a book like none of the rest. It’s in a different field of study (history, sociology, generational analysis). It’s penned for a different market. And it’s a book I’ve waited a lifetime to write.

Some books are like that

As I mention in the book’s credits, some books you write, and some books write you. GenTech is the latter. For decades I’ve written on generations, spoke about generations, interviewed people from different generations, studied generations and observed how generations, particularly my own, moved through history. After five and a half decades on the planet, I finally got the chance to share my ideas and insights. Someone finally believed in this work as much as I did (thank you, Morgan James Publishing).

It’s a book that emerges at just the right time

GenTech will be released in May 2020 and that’s a significant year. It’s the first of a new decade. It’s a year that mirrors perfect “20-20” vision. I also believe it will prove a year of unbelievable new technologies that will begin to reimagine, once again, how we work, play, worship, interact and live. These “hairy” technologies—holograms, artificial intelligence, robotics—will further transform our lives and take us down a new road to a place we can only imagine, but our children and grandchildren will inherit comfortably.

Consequently, GenTech is a book about Americans, our story and our times (and the technologies that influenced us since 1900). It’s a work that challenges assumptions and corrects ideas about generations. If you’ve grown weary, as I have, of generational boxes like “boomers,” “Xers,” “Millennials” and “Gen Z,” then you’ll appreciate GenTech. We are not generations that can be crammed into a box and labeled. We are not alphabet soup. In reality, we are generations wired by unique technologies that guided us in youth (between the ages of 10-25).

We are generations of technology. We are GenTech.

And that’s why I wrote this book.

It’s a story that needed to be told.

The Space Generation

By Rick Chromey | August 6, 2019 |

THE SPACE GENERATION (b. 1950-1970): The race for “space” (between the U.S.S.R. and U.S.) occurred in the late 1950s and 1960s.

The Soviets put the first satellite, man and woman in space. They performed the first space walk. America, however, quickly caught up and eventually claimed the biggest prize: putting a man on the moon (July 20, 1969).

Those born between 1950 and 1970 are known as the Space Generation. They have two waves: Star Trek (1950-1960) and Star Wars (1960-1970). They’re coming of age years are framed by tragedy: Apollo 1 explosion (February 21, 1967) and The Challenger tragedy (January 28, 1986).