Boomers Learned to Deal With Passcodes

Hard to believe, but Mister Boomer does not earn enough income from his site to support the lavish lifestyle to which he and his spouse have grown accustomed. Therefore, he works a full-time job. The restrooms at his place of employment are shared by other businesses on the same floor, so the doors have keypad locks on them for access, as does the door returning to his employee space. Mister Boomer realized, after mindlessly punching in the two codes, how common it is for all boomers these days to have committed passcodes and passwords of all types to memory, to the point that they become automatic reflexes — until, one day, the brain freezes and you develop a case of CRS (can’t remember “stuff”).

According to a recent study by Intel Security, the average person keeps track of 27 passwords for email, social media accounts, banking, phone access, online shopping, health insurance, computer logins, specialty sites and more. The same study states that 37 percent of people forget a password once a week. That would explain why the vast majority do not keep entirely different passwords for every account they have, a practice that lights warning signals among security experts.

For boomers still working, the password memory test is even worse. One study stated that the average business employee had to recall 191 passwords; computer logins, email, software access, printer access in some locations, proprietary system logins, and more, to say nothing of building and restroom access. In the department of teaching old dogs new tricks, the fact that boomers went with the flow over the past twenty years, and adapted to the new environs, seems pretty impressive to Mister Boomer. Yet it certainly wasn’t always this way for boomers.

In the boomer years, Password was a game show (1961-1975), where a celebrity and a “regular” person were teamed together to face another team. Members of the team traded giving each other one-word clues to guess the secret word — the “password.” Little did we know that the show was the blueprint for cyber hackers in years to come. And none of them had to prove they weren’t a robot.

Then there was the matter of locks for school. In Mister Boomer’s experience, boomers had to supply a lock for gym class. More often than not, the lock was a Master combination lock. The combination was printed on a piece of cardboard that was attached to the lock when it was purchased. Once in use, if the cardboard was misplaced or the combination forgotten, there was only one recourse to “recover” this password: clippers the size of the Jaws of Life were brought to bear on the offending lock, which was then snipped to oblivion and ergo, the “password” was reset by buying a new lock. Fortunately for Mister Boomer, he never had to suffer the humiliation of having his gym teacher slash the lock into scrap, an action that appeared to be a form of sadistic enjoyment for the Leader of the Jocks. Consequently, Mister B was able to keep the same lock (and therefore “password” combination) for all four years.

While the gym lockers required each student to supply a lock, his high school lockers had their own built-in locks. If a student forgot the combination, a trip to the school office could retrieve the code.

Then there was Mister Boomer’s bike lock, a chain permanently attached to a barrel combination lock. The numbers rolled around a cylinder like a primitive Rubik’s cube, until the right combination of numbers opened the lock. Again, it was one Mister Boomer kept for many, many years. So, in his school days, Mister B only needed three passwords: his school locker, gym lock and bike lock. Not too tasking on a young boomer’s brain.

Recently, Mister B ran across his combination lock in a box of his memorabilia. He had, with some foresight, written the combination on a piece of paper and poked the lock through it before he had locked it for what turned out to be decades. Nonetheless as he turned the tumbler: 24 left – 4 right – 13 left – 18 right; it all came back to him when the lock snapped open. In a flashback he saw himself opening the lock over and over. Then the combination to his bike lock appeared in his mind’s eye as well. He remembered them like it was yesterday. It occurred to Mister B that if he could remember his lock combinations all these years, then he had better change some of the umpteen passwords he has today to something he already knows. You won’t tell anyone, will you?

How have you solved the ongoing dilemma of creating distinct passwords, boomers?

Boomers Greeted 1969 With Hope and Trepidation

Fifty years ago, in January of 1969, the country was still reeling from the previous year. 1968 would forever be remembered as a tumultuous year, marked by violence, assassinations and an escalation of the war, mixed with hopes of peace and prosperity. A new president was elected and about to be sworn in, but his very presence divided the nation, in no small part along the Generation Gap of young and old. Television, the national highway system and an expanding economy all led to a widening of the Gap. This gave rise to the opening of the first The Gap retail store in 1969, in San Francisco, California. The store catered to boomers with a limited, but highly discounted, inventory of clothing that would appeal to the boomer generation; chief among the items was Levi’s jeans. Blue jeans had become the de facto uniform of the Boomer Generation. Jeans represented a break from the constraints of earlier generations, and exemplified the freedoms cherished by boomers to do what they wanted, when they wanted, dressed as they wanted. While not every boomer was in the streets protesting “Tricky Dick” in their blue jeans, the mistrust boomers had for the incoming president, especially when it came to Vietnam, turned out to be well warranted.

Here are some of the events that marked that month, fifty years ago:

January 5: The Space Race continued to heat up with the Soviet Union launching two space probes to Venus within a few days of each other, Venera 5 and Venera 6. The intention was that both crafts would arrive at Venus one day apart in order to cross-calibrate data collection of the planet’s atmosphere and surface before being disabled by heat or crushed by pressure. Venera 5 descended at a faster rate than Venera 6, broadcasting data for only 53 minutes, thus dooming the main goal of the mission.

January 12: Led Zeppelin released their first album in the United States. Featuring songs with titles like, Dazed and Confused, Good Times Bad Times and Communication Breakdown, boomers were immediately on board.

January 14: Lyndon Johnson gave his final State of the Union address before Congress. He only had one week left in his presidency, so it turned out to be his farewell speech to the people of the United States. He highlighted some of his accomplishments during his five-year tenure, including the passing of the Voting Rights Act (1964) and the creation of Medicare (1965). He mentioned that the unemployment rate, as 1969 began, was sitting at 3.3% and spoke of his hope for peace in Vietnam. He also spoke about the need for Social Security to keep up with the times, and urged a raise of “at least 13%” for the nation’s seniors on the program. Johnson also mentioned that though a new administration would be taking over, it did not mean a dismissal of the issues and challenges that faced his administration. On that front, he wished his successor well on behalf of the American people.

January 15: The Soviet Union launched Soyuz 5 with the intention of docking with Soyuz 4, which was launched a few days earlier, and in orbit. The spacecrafts were manned and became the first ever to dock in space. Cosmonauts on board became the first ever to transfer from one craft to the other via a spacewalk before both vehicles headed back to Earth.

January 20: Richard Nixon was inaugurated as the 37th President of the United States.

January 22: An assassination attempt on Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev failed. An army deserter, Victor Ilyn, fired shots at Brezhnev’s motorcade, killing a driver and injuring several cosmonauts who were riding with Brezhnev in the motorcade. Ilyin was captured and, while facing the death penalty, was declared insane. He was placed in solitary confinement in a mental hospital for twenty years.

January 26: Elvis began recording what turned out to be his comeback album at the American Sound Studios in Memphis. Among the songs that became hits from the sessions were, Suspicious Minds, In the Ghetto and Kentucky Rain.

January 28: A massive oil spill from an off-shore well occurred off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. It caused the closing of the harbor as oil leached onto the beaches. It was the first oil spill that was ever given coverage on TV as images of sludge-covered seals and sea birds reached into homes across the country. Historians say this event galvanized the people of the state and marked the beginning of state — and later, national — environmental legislation. The disaster inspired Senator Gaylord Nelson (Democrat, Wisconsin) to create the first Earth Day in 1970. Long a proponent of conservation issues, Senator Nelson wanted Earth Day to be a grass-roots effort by the people, with the goal of making the nation’s city, state and national governments aware of environmental issues.

January 30: The Beatles gave their last public performance on the roof of Apple Studios in London. After a few songs, including Get Back and Don’t Let Me Down, noise complaints from nearby office buildings brought the police to the roof to shut the impromptu concert down. The 42-minute show was filmed and recorded with two eight-track machines in the basement, five floors below, and became the basis of the Let It Be film and album in 1970.

Nixon was sworn in as president, the Space Race was going full tilt, and the Vietnam War raged on. The Beatles played on a rooftop, and Led Zeppelin hit the shores of the U.S. Fifty years ago, the month of January was a momentous beginning to what would prove to be yet another historic year in the lives of boomers.

What event from January of 1969 looms large in your memory, boomers?