SUNDAY GARY’s business column

Generational angst will hit even Gen Y

As a latter-day Baby Boomer, it’s interesting to weigh the impact of time upon the psyche mine and others.

A letter writer this week bemoaned the “computerization” of America as an assault upon the moral fiber of our people. That letter came in response to a story last Sunday on friends meeting via e-mail.

The author, who boasted of completing high school and college without so much as operating a calculator or computer a single time, had what I’d term an overwrought reaction to the high-speed connectivity of our times.

I can sympathize, though.

This week, Sony disclosed all 60 of its portable music devices will now carry the Walkman label.

The reason?

“Walkman” is an antiquated term now, one which Generation Y shoppers those from 14 to 24 years old equate with “analog tapes and clunky yellow tape players,” according to a Sony executive.

First off, I can’t even name six kinds of portable music devices, let alone 60. Hats off to Sony for thinking up that many uses for music on the go.

Secondly, how can Walkman be antiquated?

I vividly remember walking into a Metairie, La., electronics store when Walkmans first entered the world so my college roommate could be one of the first on the dorm room floor to actually possess one of these cutting-edge gadgets.

And now, 100 million units later, Sony complains about the brand name being frozen in time. To move forward, the company plans an ad campaign aimed at MTV and Rolling Stone audiences. In it, a hip music-loving alien visits Earth bearing good tidings and portable music devices. The star of “The Walkman Has Landed” commercials is named Plato.

Talk about your alien concepts of time.

In future times, our budding Gen Y listeners who find Walkmans quaint and eight-track tapes prehistoric will struggle with their own anachronisms.

Some of those struggles will deal with grocery stores.

The Gen Y senior citizens may not even frequent them in 2050, but they’ll yearn for the time they did as children.

A recent issue of Consumer Reports dresses down grocers nationwide and ranks them for courtesy, prices, checkout and cleanliness. The best store in the land with top scores in every category but prices is Raley’s, a 147-store chain in the Far West.

While Raley’s prices are merely average, prices are the only thing that grocery warehouses such as Sam’s Club and Costco score higher on than traditional grocers. On a scale of 100, Raley’s rated an 83 with Albertson’s a 74 and Kroger a 73.

But the telling sidebar in Consumer Reports’ “Food fight” was a spotlight on online grocers.

One of the emerging Internet-access grocers, Webvan, gained highest marks for ease of use especially easy the second time, the magazine said and wide variety, including freshly baked breads, prepared foods, gourmet selections and 44 choices of potato chips. In short, a computer geek’s food heaven.

In a few years, when Webvan spans more than California and Atlanta, the online selection may be enough to make even a Gen Y grocery shopper feel old.

I’m still struggling with the frightening prospect that both major party candidates for president this year belong to my generation.

It’s a depressing thought, to be sure, but at least one of them invented the Information Superhighway. Or is old enough to think he did.

Gary Perilloux is business editor of the Daily Journal