Let me start by saying I love technology. I do. I marvel at human ingenuity, and our ability to harness the power of radio waves, electrons, and even the very air, in order to communicate, illuminate, and explore both our world, and the human condition.
I was in high school when the internet exploded into the mainstream. I remember opening my first Hotmail account in 1995. Still, I was online before the internet became huge. I was a frequent visitor of bulletin board systems. How it worked was like this: You would dial up the BBS phone number. Your modem would make the connection, and you would be shown a login screen. Sounds like the internet, but with a major difference: Unlike the internet, the BBS was contained on a home computer, so if the computer was off, you couldn’t access it. If the nodes were filled (nodes were separate phone lines. Many BBSes had up to four nodes, though a single node was also quite common), you had to wait until the line was clear to try again. I used to dial in on my 2400 baud (bps). To give some perspective, a 56k modem transfers data at roughly 5.3KB per second (modern residential DSL and Cable modems average anywhere from 76KB per second, up to 10,000KB per second). A 2400 baud modem could transfer data at the rate of 0.24KB of data per second. That is glacial. If you wanted to download a 100KB picture, you could start the download, and go make yourself a sandwich before it would be complete.
Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to know how much fun it was to work with stone knives and bearskins. I fell in love with all of it, but my main love, my whole world, was the personal computer. My first PC was a Commodore 64. I later moved on to a Zenith Datasystems 286 (12 Mhz processor. Your computer likely has at least a 2,400Mhz processor, or two. Maybe four. Perhaps eight. You get the idea). I moved up the chain, slowly, and right now I have a Hewlett-Packard (my favorite non-built brand, along with Acer) with enough processing power to replace that old Zenith 400 times over. It’s amazing, and it’s not even top of the line (it’s about mid-range). It can do so much! I mean, thanks to modern technology, I can chat via my PC real time, in high definition video, to anyone around the world. I can play games that look and feel so real it’s almost like I’m there. Seriously, video games look like movies now.
I remember the day when this was the apex of video game technology:
That is from the game “Wolfenstein 3D” and it was released by id back in 1993. A little over 20 years later, and you can watch a full motion battle scene and not realize it’s a video game at all.
I remember when Google first appeared on the scene. At the time, I was using AltaVista for all of my search engine needs. Google showed me that they could do better, and I’ve used them ever since (I also use Bing, and DuckDuckGo). I made my first website in 1997, designed using Frontpage. It was straight HTML. No builders, or WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors. It looked like crap, but I loved it, because I had designed and built it myself.
I remember using instant messaging for the first time. I remember joining Myspace, and then Facebook, and then Twitter. All of this was amazing technology, ways to interact with others via innovation.
Why am I telling you these things? Why are we taking a stroll down (my) memory lane? Well, because I don’t love technology like I used to. I still love it, but it doesn’t really excite me anymore, even as we continue to find new ways to push the envelope. I used to fixate on computers, on how to make mine better, or how to even own and build one in the first place. I used to buy Computer Shopper magazine, and just salivate over all of the new Pentium IIs that had just been released onto the market. The beautiful Micron computers that you could order custom built, starting at only $999. I remember the first “Sub $1,000 computers? It can happen!” article I read, and how cheap it all has become.
Still, technology just doesn’t hold that sway over me anymore. I don’t have to have the fastest, the most powerful, the most advanced, the most cutting edge. My PC is now 4 years old, and I have no desire to replace it anytime soon. I use a DSL service that brings down a 5Mbps connection, which is fast enough to stream HD content over Netflix, but doesn’t afford a lot of speed if you have multiple PCs in your home (I do), or plan on any heavy downloading.
Yet I’m satisfied, and I find I’m losing interest in pursuing anything better. So what is it then? What’s the deal?
Well, I’m finding that I want to interact with people more. I want face to face conversations, and I want to deal with humans when I have an issue. I don’t mind automated systems, I just want a human that can reason, and help me solve the issue faster. I want more human interaction. I feel that technology has brought us together, only to drive us farther apart at the same time. I find that largely unappealing, and even though technology enables me to communicate with you this way, nothing beats an attentive face, a hug, a pat on the back, or a supportive hand on one’s shoulder.
I’m in no danger of becoming a luddite, but the idea of not having to deal with so much in the way of technology anymore, is something I find appealing. Who knows, maybe I am becoming a luddite, but I doubt it. I think I’m just lonely.
Until next time,