The phrase "OK Boomer" exploded on the internet this Fall. It is usually delivered by Millennials, born between 1980 and 1994, or members of Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2015. Boomers are those who were born between the years 1946 and 1964.
"OK boomer" is, in essence, a dismissive eye roll that conveys that Boomers don't understand the concerns and anxieties of Millennials or Gen Zers, and are, perhaps, condescending. While the term "OK Boomer" showed up in 2015, it really gained traction in November 2019, and videos tagged with #OKBoomer on TikTok have been viewed over 44.6 million times.
On November 6, 2019, 25-year-old New Zealand lawmaker Chloe Swarbrick was speaking to Parliament about climate change when she was heckled by an older member. Swarbrick's response: "OK Boomer", which so flummoxed the captions department that all they could come up with was "OK Berma".
High school students in Virginia have worn the phrase "OK Boomer" on their chests.
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What's driving this meme?
On the one side, Boomers disdain Millennials' desire for "participation trophies" and Gen Zers' addiction to their cellphones. On the other side, Millennials and Gen Zers blame Boomers for having "mortgaged their futures", hoarding wealth, and leaving them to clean up their mess.
An October 29, 2019 article in the New York Times quoted a researcher as saying, "Gen Z is going to be the first generation to have a lower quality of life than the generation before them. Essentials are more expensive than ever before, we pay 50% of our income to rent, no one has health insurance. Previous generations have left Generation Z with the short end of the stick."
While there is no doubt that Boomers are leaving a giant climate change mess behind, in the interest of healing relations, it might be a good time to investigate the contributions made by Boomers. Here are just a few.
1. Alec Jeffreys - DNA "Fingerprinting"
Sir Alec Jeffreys was born on January 9, 1950 in Oxford, UK. A childhood chemistry set and a Victorian-era brass microscope given to him by his parents furthered Jeffreys' interest in science.
Jeffreys received his Ph.D. from the University of Oxford in the mitochondria of cultured mammalian cells. In September 1984, while at the University of Leicester, Jeffreys had his "eureka moment" when he looked at an x-ray image of a DNA experiment and realized that each individual has a unique genetic code.
In 1983, Lynda Mann had been raped in murdered in Narborough, Leicestershire. Three years later, Dawn Ashworth had a similar fate. In an unprecedented effort, authorities tested the DNA of all local men, finding Colin Pitchfork as the perpetrator.
In 1989, author Joseph Wambaugh wrote about the effort to find the killer in his book The Blooding: The True Story of the Narborough Village Murders, and Jeffreys was featured in the first-ever episode of the TV series Medical Detectives in 1996.
In 1985, Jeffreys further refined DNA testing by identifying minisatellites in the human genome, and today variable microsatellites, which are also known as short tandem repeats (STRs), are used to quickly determine a DNA profile. The UK National DNA Database (NDNAD) contains the DNA of five million people.
2. Steve Wozniak - Apple Computer
Stephen Wozniak (Woz) was born on August 11, 1950 in San Jose, California. In 1969, Woz was expelled from the University of Colorado Boulder for hacking the university's computer system. After going to work at Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 1971, Woz built his first computer and was introduced to Steve Jobs.
By March 1, 1976, Wozniak had designed the hardware, circuit board, and operating system for the Apple I. After HP declined to buy the computer, Wozniak and Jobs formed the Apple Computer Company, and in 1977, they released the iconic Apple II computer followed by the Macintosh computer.
In 1985, following several disagreements with Steve Jobs, Wozniak left Apple for good and sold most of his Apple stock.
3. Steve Jobs - Apple Computer
Steve Jobs was born on February 24, 1955 and put up for adoption. After dropping out of Reed College in 1972, Jobs traveled in India before founding Apple with Steve Wozniak in 1976.
In 1979, Jobs recognized the potential of the Xerox Alto computer, which had a graphical user interface and was mouse-driven. In 1984, the Apple Macintosh ushered in the modern era of desktop publishing.
In 1985, Jobs was forced out of Apple by its then CEO John Sculley, and he created the NeXT computer which was intended for business and higher education. In 1986, Jobs founded Pixar Animation Studios, which in 1995 created the first 3D computer animated film, Toy Story.
Returning to Apple in 1997, Jobs went on to create the iMac, iTunes, iTunes Store, Apple Store, iPod, iPhone, App Store, and the iPad. In 2003, Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he died of the disease on October 5, 2011 at the age of 56.
4. Tim Berners-Lee - The World Wide Web
Sir Timothy Berners-Lee was born on June 8, 1955. He graduated from the University of Oxford in 1976 with a degree in physics. While working as an independent contractor at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Berners-Lee proposed hypertext as a means for researchers to share text, images, sound, and video.
In 1989, Berners-Lee combined hypertext with the Transmission Control Protocol and the domain name system, and the World Wide Web was born. Berners-Lee made the web freely available, with no patents or royalties. The first website at CERN came online on August 6, 1991, and its URL was http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html.
In 1994, Berners-Lee founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It oversees the continued development of the web.
5. Gerd Binnig - The Scanning Tunneling Microscope
Physicist Gerd Binnig was born in Germany on July 20, 1947. As a child, he played in the ruins of bombed out buildings that had been destroyed by Allied bombs during World War II. As a high school student, Binnig chose physics over his other love — writing and performing rock music.
In 1981, Binnig, along with other scientists working at IBM in Zurich, developed the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) which allowed scientists to visualize individual atoms. This led to the entire field of nanotechnology, and Binnig, Heinrich Rohrer and Ernst Ruska received the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physics.
6. Dean Kamen - The Drug Infusion Pump and Segway Scooter
Dean Kamen was born on April 5, 1951, and as a college student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1972, he decided to tackle a problem that his older brother, a medical student, had described: how to deliver controlled doses of medication to patients.
Kamen invented the drug infusion pump, then went on to invent the implantable insulin pump, and the portable dialysis machine. This machine made it possible for patients to receive life-saving treatment in their own homes.
Kamen is probably best known for his invention in 2001 of the Segway PT, an electric scooter with a computer-controlled gyroscopic stabilization and control system.
7. Ray Kurzweil - Optical Character Recognition, Text-to-Speech, and the Music Synthesizer
Ray Kurzweil was born on February 12, 1948, in Queens, NY. By age 15, he had built and programmed a computer to compose songs. After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1970, Kurzweil founded a company that created a computer program that could recognize text that was written in any font.
Kurzweil next created the Kurzweil Reading Machine, which could recognize printed characters and speak them. This allowed blind people to read.
After a meeting in 1982 with musician Stevie Wonder, Kurzweil began work on a music synthesizer capable of duplicating the sounds of real musical instruments. Completed in 1984, the Kurzweil K250 allowed a single person to compose and play an entire orchestral score.
8. Ajay Bhatt - The Universal Serial Bus Port
Born on September 6, 1957, Bhatt graduated from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India before receiving a master's degree from The City University of New York.
In 1990, Bhatt started work at Intel designing chipset architecture. There, Bhatt designed the Universal Serial Bus (USB), which is an industry-standard for connection, communication and power supply between computers, peripheral devices and other computers.
Besides the USB, Bhatt also designed the Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) and other chipset improvements. Bhatt holds 132 U.S. and international patents, with new ones on their way.
9. Jeff Bezos - Amazon
The last year of the Baby Boomers is 1964, which is when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was born, on February 12, 1964 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Bezos was raised in Houston, Texas and graduated in 1986 with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from Princeton University. Following graduation, Bezos worked in the banking field and at a hedge fund.
During a cross-country road trip from New York City to Seattle, Bezos wrote the business plan for an online book store. It quickly morphed into all manner of e-commerce products and services, including audio and video streaming, cloud computing with its Amazon Web Services, and artificial intelligence.
Amazon went public in 1997 and it is currently the world's largest online sales company, and the largest internet company by revenue. It is also the second company in history to have a market cap of $1 trillion.
In 2000, Bezos founded Blue Origin, which is an aerospace manufacturer. In 2015, a Blue Origin test flight successfully reached space. Bezos also owns the prestigious newspaper The Washington Post, and he see-saws with Microsoft founder Bill Gates for the title of "the richest man in the world."
Thank you, Boomer
So, the next time you Millennials and Gen Zers want to say, "OK Boomer", you might want to include a "Thank you, Boomer" along with it.
As for all the "OK Boomer" merchandise that's currently being sold - sweatshirts, phone cases, stickers, shirts, water bottles and notebooks - we Boomers might want to create some "OK Snowflake" merchandise to go along with it.