MILWAUKEE Students entering college this fall have lived their whole lives in a digital world where GPS has always been available, phones have always had caller ID and tax returns could always be filed online.
The incoming freshmen, born mostly in 1990, also grew up knowing only Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show."
Those are some of the 60 cultural landmarks on the Beloit College Mindset List, an annual compilation that offers a glimpse of the world as seen through the eyes of each incoming class. This year's list is being released today by the private school of 1,300 near the Wisconsin-Illinois state line.
The school started producing the list in 1998 to remind professors that references familiar to them might draw blank stares from their students.
"Watergate used to be a common reference," said Ron Nief, the school's director of public affairs, who assembles the list. "But a few years ago I asked some students if they knew what Watergate was and they said that was where Monica Lewinsky lived."
Some entries on this year's list are products that have been around for the lifetimes of the Class of 2012, including karaoke machines, plastic soft drink bottles, Windows 3.0 and higher and the Nintendo Game Boy.
Other cultural markers are all but unknown to them IBM typewriters, Roseanne Barr's tortured version of the National Anthem, Pee-wee Herman's "Playhouse" and gas-station attendants who fix flat tires or offer to check under the hood.
The purpose of the Mindset List goes beyond reminding professors to update their references, said Tom McBride, an English professor at Beloit who helps Nief compile the list.
"It also prevents students from thinking that the way something is now is the way it's always been," he said.
For example, one entry had to be updated within the past month after the Green Bay Packers traded quarterback Brett Favre to the New York Jets after a 16-year career in Wisconsin. "The Green Bay Packers (almost) always had the same quarterback," reads the revised No. 46.
That stunned incoming freshman Ben Zook of Seattle, who said Favre is one of his generation's athletic idols, along with Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.
"I mean, for as long as I can remember, Brett Favre was the man there," said Zook, 18. "It's almost crazy to think he could retire or be with another team."
New freshman Dana Wierzbicki, 18, said her favorite item on the list was the first: "Harry Potter could be a classmate, playing on their Quidditch team."
"I'm a huge Harry Potter fan," said Wierzbicki, from Niles, Ill. "I wish it was sort of true being on Quidditch with him would be kind of cool."
Every time the list comes out, McBride said, the school hears from people around the world who say it makes them feel as though life is passing them by.
"We say join the club. It makes us feel old, too," he said.
Time seems to pass more slowly for kids because they're doing more things for the first time, he speculated. But when a person gets older and does the same things over and over, the routine makes time seem to speed up.
When the 2006 list came out, McBride reassured people by telling them it was the trends and fashions that had grown old, not them.
This year, he struck a more philosophical tone."It's easy to be envious of youth," he said. "But if you've got a certain degree of wisdom and your body hasn't fallen apart yet, you may be at the best time of your life."
Beloit College's annual Mindset List, providing a snapshot of the world view of the school's incoming freshmen, for the Class of 2012:
Students entering college for the first time this fall were generally born in 1990. For these students, Sammy Davis Jr., Jim Henson, Ryan White, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Freddy Krueger have always been dead.
1. Harry Potter could be a classmate, playing on their Quidditch team.
2. Since they were in diapers, karaoke machines have been annoying people at parties.
3. They have always been looking for Carmen Sandiego.
4. GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
5. Coke and Pepsi have always used recycled plastic bottles.
6. Shampoo and conditioner have always been available in the same bottle.
7. Gas stations have never fixed flats, but most serve cappuccino.
8. Their parents may have dropped them in shock when they heard George Bush announce "tax revenue increases."
9. Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.
10. Girls in head scarves have always been part of the school fashion scene.
11. All have had a relative or known about a friend's relative who died comfortably at home with hospice.
12. As a precursor to "whatever," they have recognized that some people "just don't get it."
13. Universal Studios has always offered an alternative to Mickey in Orlando.
14. Grandma has always had wheels on her walker.
15. Martha Stewart Living has always been setting the style.
16. Haagen-Dazs ice cream has always come in quarts.
17. Club Med resorts have always been places to take the whole family.
18. WWW has never stood for World Wide Wrestling.
19. Films have never been X rated, only NC-17.
20. The Warsaw Pact is as hazy for them as the League of Nations was for their parents.
21. Students have always been "Rocking the Vote."
22. Clarence Thomas has always sat on the Supreme Court.
23. Schools have always been concerned about multiculturalism.
24. We have always known that "All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten."
25. There have always been gay rabbis.
26. Wayne Newton has never had a mustache.
27. College grads have always been able to Teach for America.
28. IBM has never made typewriters.
29. Roseanne Barr has never been invited to sing the National Anthem again.
30. McDonald's and Burger King have always used vegetable oil for cooking french fries.
31. They have never been able to color a tree using a raw umber Crayola.
32. There has always been Pearl Jam.
33. The Tonight Show has always been hosted by Jay Leno and started at 11:35 EST.
34. Pee-Wee has never been in his playhouse during the day.
35. They never tasted Benefit Cereal with psyllium.
36. They may have been given a Nintendo Game Boy to play with in the crib.
37. Authorities have always been building a wall across the Mexican border.
38. Lenin's name has never been on a major city in Russia.
39. Employers have always been able to do credit checks on employees.
40. Balsamic vinegar has always been available in the U.S.
41. Macaulay Culkin has always been "Home Alone."
42. Their parents may have watched "The American Gladiators" on TV the day they were born.
43. Personal privacy has always been threatened.
44. Caller ID has always been available on phones.
45. Living wills have always been asked for at hospital check-ins.
46. The Green Bay Packers (almost) always had the same starting quarterback.
47. They never heard an attendant ask "Want me to check under the hood?"
48. Iced tea has always come in cans and bottles.
49. Soft drink refills have always been free.
50. They have never known life without Seinfeld references from a show about "nothing."
51. The Windows 3.0 operating system made IBM PCs user-friendly the year they were born.
52. Moscow residents have always been able to buy Big Macs.
53. The Royal New Zealand Navy has never been permitted a daily ration of rum.
54. The Hubble Space Telescope has always been eavesdropping on the heavens.
55. 98.6 F or otherwise has always been confirmed in the ear.
56. Michael Milken has always been a philanthropist promoting prostate cancer research.
57. Offshore oil drilling in the United States has always been prohibited.
58. Radio stations have never been required to present both sides of public issues.
59. There have always been charter schools.
60. Students always had Goosebumps.