I Still Love Technology…

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:

Wolfenstein 3D Screenshot

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,


4 thoughts on “I Still Love Technology…

  1. I share many of these same experiences, right down to the Commodore 64 and (if you can believe it) a 300 baud modem used to call my friend’s single node BBS. We could chat, user to SysOp, which was amazing! And like you, I am less enthused by the specifics of device. What I see is technology receding to the fabric of every day life — profoundly impacting what we do and how, but in an unobtrusive fashion. My family may spend evenings together in the living room, all buried in technology, but whereas that once meant a TV, now it’s five handheld devices. One of us might be reading a blog, one is chatting with friends, one plays a video game, and two play some sort of game against each other like Words with Friends. This is a reversion to the original family parlor time in which the father read a journal, a couple of kids played checkers, and the mother another kid played gin rummy. The tech expands the possibilities, but as humans, we are doing what we always have done — we still sit together around the tribal bond fire, listening to stories, telling them, or otherwise interacting with each other. For a while technology got in the way, now it allows us to be human again. This is a very good thing.

    1. You make a good point. I guess it’s to the point where I see it as a companion, and not just as the representation of humanity’s innovation. Where it once excited me to see what was next, now I expect us to advance, and am far less surprised by what we can do.

      Thanks for the comment, Hank. 🙂

  2. Nice to be there are others out there that remember the wild west of the BBS days. I started out at 300 baud back in the TRS-80 days, but did most BBSing with USR Courier on Amiga BBS in the early 90s. Good/frustrating times.
    As technology advances, it become a commodity. While the functionality increases, sometimes exponentially, our emotional evolvement with a commodity decreases. It becomes a tool to perform a task rather than the object of our interest itself, and deadens our relationship with it.
    In the past year I’ve interacted (weakly) with people in Australia and the UK that I’d never have known existed without technology. In the BBS days, we used to have real world meet up a couple of times a year hosted by our sysop. It put real faces on the handles and voices to the posts you’d find in a form. Those two or three hour interactions did so much to stop on-line fighting it was remarkable.
    We are still social being no matter how we meet, and a face to face, maybe even via a video chat, does wonders.

    1. I used to SysOp my own local board. We had two nodes (fancy!) and I ran her for about 3 years. Had a bunch of door games like Legend of the Red Dragon, Lemonade Stand, and so on. The Y2K bug did a number on us, though. I was using Renegade software at the time, and it wasn’t ready. Ah well.

      One thing I don’t miss about the BBS days? Fossil.

      Thanks for the comment, olegraymane. 😀

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