The freshmen who will start school next week at Lowcountry colleges and universities have never had to Ask Jeeves a question, let alone look up the answer in a print encyclopedia. They were mostly born in 1996, the same year that Google was created as a research project by doctoral students at Stanford.
Not surprisingly, they're some of the most wired students ever, with many rising freshmen never having lived in a home without Internet. And while 18-year-olds can probably remember the world before the iPhone, they've most likely had to differentiate between real friends and Facebook friends since middle school.
Most of them never learned that kindness had anything to do with rewinding. DVDs went mainstream in 1996 and 1997, but most rising freshmen probably don't own a lot of movies or music on physical media anyway. If they pay for them at all.
Their parents might still be able to dust off a CD of the "Macarena" or a DVD of "Independence Day," both of which were big hits in 1996.
While alien invaders haven't turned out to be a threat to any world landmarks in their lifetime, this year's freshmen have grown up in a world at war. The twin towers fell while they were still learning to sound out words and the War on Terror has defined the nation's foreign policy for most of their lives.
That foreign policy has been carried out almost exclusively by women since Madeleine Albright became the first female secretary of state in 1996. The position was held by an unbroken string of women until John Kerry took over after Hillary Clinton's resignation in 2013.
Many rising freshmen were born during the year that Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics, which happened to be the 100th anniversary of the modern games.
And speaking of games, Mario and his Nintendo buddies have always been capable of running, jumping and saving princesses in three dimensions. The Nintendo 64 system was released in 1996 and helped usher in the modern video gaming era.
They also happened to be born the year that "Rent" made a Broadway splash and took home a laundry list of awards including the Pulitzer Prize for drama. But maybe that's best forgotten, according to some Summerville councilmen.
Let's just hope nobody gets upset about this year's freshman reading lists.
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