A Whole New World
A baby boomer shares the biggest changes he’s seen since growing up in the 1950s.

10610940_mWhen Pat Wolfinbarger was born in Denver, Colo., in 1956, he had no idea his future career would largely revolve around computers – a foreign concept at the time.

“Back in the day, no one saw a use for a personal computer,” he says.

Now when he watches old TV programs, he always notices the absence of computers and cell phones. “When I was a kid watching James Bond or ‘Star Trek,’ they had fantastic things like that. Who knew that within 30 to 40 years, a lot of the things that were in ‘Star Trek,’ people would be taking for granted – from cell phones to computers, to doors that automatically open and shut. The things that people fantasized about became a reality.”

The Technological Age

A journalist by trade, Pat witnessed every step toward personal computers.

“When I first started at the newspaper they had manual typewriters. That was 1979. It went from manual typewriters with rolls of paper, and about six months after that we got electric typewriters and eventually word processors.

“I remember the old TRS-80 computers from Radio Shack. They were fantastic back in the 1980s, and man, was it nice to have one. I’d cover the Wyoming Legislature and write up stories, and then find a phone, put the various connections in and wait for it to dial up.

“When I got a job at the University of Wyoming as a communications coordinator, that’s when I started using a Mac computer – one of the first Macs that came out. I learned to use some of the early iterations of Adobe Photoshop and other software.”

Beyond software, Pat has an interest in programming and website design. “In a lot of ways, it’s easier than people think to really get into it and grasp it,” he says. “It’s like anything in that you’ll only relate to it from a standpoint of what you’re interested in. Once you find a reason to use it, then it becomes more acceptable to you.

“All the tools we’re using now have a technological slant,” he adds.

Changing Landscapes14235847_m

Aside from technological advances, the biggest changes he’s seen are in the Rocky Mountain region where he grew up.

In 1950, the population of Colorado was 1.3 million; today it’s upwards of 5.3 million.

“Denver has changed tremendously in my lifetime,” Pat says. “The buildings have gotten taller and taller and more and more of them. I remember the highways out of town being two lane instead of four lane and more. For people who are familiar with the Front Range of Colorado from Denver to Fort Collins, it all used to be fruit and vegetable farms. Now it’s full of housing developments.”

Despite all the changes in landscape, Pat appreciates learning new technologies, as well as the plethora of information and entertainment at one’s fingertips today. “I grew up with three or four TV stations, and now there’s hundreds to choose from,” he says. “There were half a dozen radio stations I’d listen to, and now I can go online and listen to stations from all over the world.”


‘The Boomer List’: A Game-Changing Generation – AARP.org
10 Modern Technologies Baby Boomers are Using – Health.HowStuffWorks.com