There is one language spoken all over the world and it just turned 40. In 1983, a new communications system was established called Transfer Control Protocol/Internetwork Protocol (TCP/IP). This allowed different kinds of computers on different networks to “talk” to each other, and is considered by some to be the birth of the Internet, as all networks could now be connected by a universal language.
In this relatively short time, the Internet and online world has drastically changed. So, for the Internet’s 40th birthday, the Uswitch broadband experts have studied different generations’ experiences with the revolutionary technology over the years.
Dial-up internet is something that over 75% of those aged 25 and up have used before. For those considered Gen Z (16-24 year olds), only three out of ten have experience using dial-up, with 17% not even knowing what it is. The notorious sound of dial-up internet is most ingrained in the minds of 35-44 year olds, with 86% recognising it. Whereas less than half of Gen Z knows what it sounds like.
The extent at which the Internet is now part of everyday life is shown in that more than half of 16-24 year olds have never lived in a home without an internet connection. At 8 years old, Gen Z are using the internet for the first time – younger than any older generation. Despite the internet existing during their entire lifetime, Millennials (aged 25-39), accessed the internet for the first time at 12 years old.
Internet relics by generation
Looking at the different tech relating to the online world, we reveal how different things have impacted different generations.\
Different relics of the computer and internet age, such as floppy disks, burning CDs, MSN Messenger, and even MySpace have all been a part of our lives to some extent – though some generations more than others. But the speed of change in the internet age is proven by certain landmarks and innovations in computer technology.
Seven out of ten people aged 25+ have used a floppy disk. This falls off a cliff for those aged 24 and under, with only three out of ten having used one. Also, 11% of 16-24 year olds don’t know what burning a CD is, and over 70% have never rented a physical copy of a film – which shows the shift of everything to an online platform.
Websites such as MySpace show their short lived but wildly popular appeal at the time, with almost 65% of 25-34 year olds having had a MySpace account. For all the other generations, less than half had created a MySpace account. MSN Messenger has a similar fanbase with nine out of ten 25-34 year olds knowing what it is. Whereas a quarter of those on opposite ends of the age spectrum, don’t know what MSN Messenger is (16-24 year olds, and 55+ year olds).
It seems search engines and personal email use are also less popular for younger generations. Gen Z are least likely to have used a search engine or to have sent a personal email in their lifetime. However, they are most likely to have used a voice assistant, such as an Alexa to search for something online.
A relatively new phenomenon, “influencers” that have made their careers solely through the online world are unsurprisingly most known by the youngest generation studied. These online celebrities such as Jake Paul, MrBeast, Zoe Sugg, PewDiePie, and Dan Bilzerian were all known by 95% of 16-24 year olds. For those aged 45-54, this fell to half, and for those aged 55 and over, down to 20%.
Max Beckett, Uswitch broadband expert, says: “For many of us, a world without the internet is a distant memory – everything from our social lives to our work is intertwined with the web to some extent.
However, each generation has experienced a different type of online world in the 40 years that the internet has existed. This is increasingly apparent in the younger generations, who are turning away from the more traditional ways of accessing information and communicating online and relying instead on video and voice search to find what they need.
The pace of change in how we interact with the online world is rapid. And with the activities we do online demanding more and more data, a strong internet connection is more essential than ever.”