Posts Tagged 'Digital-Age technology'
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Because of circumstances beyond my control, I had to move from Mobile to this house in Pensacola in March, 1998–I simply had nowhere else to go. This was my paternal grandparents’ house. Though my grandfather had died in 1974, my grandmother was still living. But due to severe loss of blood in a heart operation, her mind was like that of a lost child. And when I moved here, this house had been vacant for a year–Grandma was in a nursing home.
I didn’t mind moving to this house, I just wished it were in Mobile. I was attending graduate school at the University of South Alabama–and between the stress of moving and my dad’s constant badgering of me to move to an apartment (he was letting me stay here begrudgingly and temporarily–he wanted to sell the house), I couldn’t finish a paper for the one required class (Theory of Literary Criticism)–thus failed the class, and failed-out of graduate school.
I ended-up staying here for good–my dad soon found he could get a tax break if he let me stay here. And I spent as much time as I could with Grandma, visiting her at the nursing home, and taking her places. She died in 1999. I still miss her–not the way she was, having Alzheimer’s-like symptoms–but the way she was before that. And I miss my grandpa even more.
In 1998, I found a Toastmasters chapter here (Toastmasters International is a public-speaking organization). I joined it, and made some acquaintances and a friend named Pat. Like many members of Monday Nite Toastmasters, Pat was somewhat conservative. And he told me about the Fox News Network. Fox News was refreshing–the only right-leaning television network amidst a sea of left-leaning television networks.
During that time, there was a lot of discussion and debate on Fox News about cellphones–especially, as I recall, on Bill O’Reilly’s show. I can’t remember whether the installation of cell towers was discussed, but I definitely remember that cellphone usage while driving was discussed and debated a great deal–specifically whether cellphone usage while driving should be legal at all.
But I paid little attention to this–I had never seen anyone using a cellphone while driving in Mobile–and I didn’t ever see anyone using a cellphone while driving in Pensacola. This epidemic of willful distracted driving had simply not spread here yet.
My first unpleasant experience with mobile devices occurred off the road–when my sister Elaine, brother-in-law Jeff, and nephews Jeffrey and Jonathan went to visit my parents in Mobile. I drove over there, to my parents’ house. Seemed like half the time I wanted to talk to these four family guests, they were using mobile gadgets–mostly texting. It made no sense to me–why would anyone go to the trouble to type-out a message when he or she could simply talk? And it hurt my feelings–instead of visiting with my parents and with me, they were texting people miles away. At one point, Elaine used a mobile device, Jeff used a mobile device, Jeffrey used a mobile device, and Jonathan used a mobile device–all at the same time. This hurt my parents as much as me. I asked my mom what their problem was–why they seemed to prefer the company of their little gadgets to us. I felt like just telling them all how rude it was. But my mom insisted I keep quiet about it–she didn’t want them to stop visiting altogether. One of the gadgets used was called a Blackberry–I had to ask what it was.
If this were an isolated case–just one family addicted to mobile devices . . . but it wasn’t. This was already happening all over America.
Back in 2000, I worked briefly at the public library in downtown Pensacola. This is where I first came in contact with digital video discs (DVDs). This was Digital-Age Technology. DVDs were quickly replacing videocassettes at the library–patrons were checking them out daily.
Then in 2004, I dated a woman who had a DVD player. She would often rent DVDs, and I would watch movies with her and her daughter. It really was amazing how much clearer the picture came in on DVD.
And several years later, my parents gave me a DVD player for Christmas. I cannot recall my first DVD, but I began amassing quite a collection, from that point.
In 2007, my word processor stopped functioning. And I resumed using my late-brother Mike’s electronic typewriter (I joined a writers’ group in Pace, and resumed my fiction and poetry writing).
During this time, my parents considered giving me a second-hand computer, so I could have Internet access (I mention having a computer before then, in a short, nonfiction piece I wrote in 2007, but I cannot recall that).
My parents had already given me a MailStation email machine. This was Digital-Age technology. I could send and receive emails with this, though I could not print them out.
I was ambivalent about my having Internet access, but so was my mom. She worried that I might get into Internet pornography. It always amuses me, looking back at this. As I would soon find out–Internet porn was not free-of-charge. And it was not practical. I had been getting soft-core porn magazines for decades. Most of these were British. I preferred the British women because they had better figures–the American porn models were underweight, often grossly so (the only exception being those in Leg Show, which is (sadly) no longer published). So why would I bother with Internet porn, when I could get my jollies from good-old-fashioned girlie magazines?
No–my mom had nothing to worry about, in the area of Internet porn. I would end up getting into those damned political forums provided by AOL instead–where I would spend hours arguing with obnoxious bastards who were as opinionated as I!
My parents gave me the second-hand computer. Now I had Internet access, via a dial-up connection. This was Digital-Age technology.
My involvement with those AOL forums ended when I finally realized that, no matter what I argued, and no matter how well I argued it–I could not change anyone’s mind.
I began reading my niece-in-law Jessica’s blog instead–then other blogs. This was a lot more constructive.
Blogs were the most misunderstood medium on the Internet–as they still are. I remember my mom saying how she didn’t understand why anyone would want to share personal information on the Internet–and my failure to understand it, as well. And it wasn’t until I began reading blogs, and commenting on blogs, that I realized they were not just public diaries. They were also venues through which people could share ideas, and get almost immediate feedback. They were even places where bloggers could get to know other bloggers–thereby forming the blogosphere, a community of online writers.
I had been keeping a personal, written journal since 1992, on spiral notebooks. But this wasn’t to be read until after my death. With a blog, I could share ideas that could be read before my death–and read by almost anyone in the world. How could I resist such an opportunity?
I asked Jessica how I could set up a blog–she didn’t just give me advice, she set up my blog for me. And for this, I am grateful to her–to this day.
And if you look in my archives, you can see that I began expressing ideas on my blog right away–with my second post, in fact (MY CREED, November 20, 2008).
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Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
2 Corinthians 11:14-15
These are the days of miracle and wonder and don’t cry baby, don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.
In 1910, in a nun’s nightmare . . . drivers talk on tiny telephones, and tap on tiny typewriters while driving–killing themselves, other drivers, and pedestrians, as a result.
Let me begin this post by assuring readers that in using the term, Goddamned, in its title, I am not, from any religious perspective, “using the Lord’s name in vain.” No, I am not using the name, God, lightly or meaninglessly at all–I am quite serious in using it. Because if anything is damned by God, the Digital Age is; if anything is swallowing a camel, while straining at a gnat, the Digital Age is; if anything is Satan disguised as an angel of light, the Digital Age is; if anything is miracle and wonder which ultimately end the world with a whimper, the Digital Age is; if anything is industrial-scale slaughter on the world’s highways, the Digital Age is.
Yet I use Digital-Age technology to condemn the Digital Age. Hypocrisy–or good-old-fashioned poetic justice? I think the latter. But you decide for yourself.
This Digital-Age technology–it’s like it wasn’t supposed to happen. It’s like some traveler from the future, from another dimension, or from another solar system or galaxy caused it. I grew up in the Space Age. And that was the direction in which technology was moving–toward space exploration. Then something went wrong.
One day, in my fourth-grade class, the teacher asked us what we wanted to do when we grew up. I said I wanted to be a starship captain. No one laughed–this seemed quite feasible. Another boy said he’d like to be a trucker. And the teacher commented that he’d probably be driving an airborne truck–that there would probably be flying cars and trucks by then. And no one laughed. This really did seem quite feasible to most adults, as well as children.
Even after the last manned moon landing, the Space Age continued–with the space shuttle program, and eventually an orbiting space station (all this Space-Age technological development despite the costly arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union).
Then NASA scrapped the space shuttle program–so U.S. astronauts would now have to rely on Ultranationalist Vladimir Putin’s Russian regime for transportation to and from the International Space Station.
Yet Space-Age technology wasn’t discontinued so much as it was replaced–by Digital-Age technology. And a human species looking toward interstellar escape from its crowded, polluted cage found itself even more confined to its crowded, polluted cage–with the added torment of ever-increasing social chaos. The Space Age, which was to free humanity, was replaced with the Digital Age, which further confined humanity. Something went wrong–and this was it.
It wasn’t called the Digital Age in the beginning–it was called the Age of Information or the Information Age. And it wasn’t such a monster, in the beginning either.
My brother Mike spoke favorably of compact discs in the early 1980s. This was Digital-Age technology. But compact discs were expensive then–compact disc players far more expensive. We were fine with records and tapes.
Personal computers, in the late 1970s and 1980s, also used Digital-Age technology. But I never had one of these–most people didn’t. We didn’t need these. We have to have personal computers these days, and this takes the fun out of them. Before the Internet, we didn’t have to. So computers were fun, and cool. And we enjoyed watching movies centering around these fun, cool devices, like Electric Dreams and Wargames.
And we enjoyed playing the new computer games (later called video games)–away from home. These used Digital-Age technology. My favorites were Phoenix, Robotron, Time Pilot, Ms. Pac Man, and sometimes Defender. My brother-in-law Tom introduced me to these games. And my friend Joseph invited me to go along with him and his family and friends to play them. We used to go to Chuck E. Cheese’s to play them. The children would eat the pizza–we teenagers would play video games.
One evening there I really stole the show playing Robotron. On one quarter, one game, I began racking up points fast. And the other teenagers noticed, stood back and watched as I beat the high score. I felt great–and was so excited that, when I got home, my dad asked what was wrong with me–asked if I’d been smoking marijuana, or something, in a strongly disapproving tone. He rarely allowed me to be exuberant about anything.
We wouldn’t play video games at home–we’d play video games at places like Chuck E. Cheese’s, and at video arcades. It was a social thing. We didn’t sit home alone playing these–we got out among other people.
And something else: These games didn’t incite violence. If we shot at anything, we shot at robots, warplanes, or spaceships. We didn’t get points for killing other humans–we got points for saving them. This was the case with Robotron. This was even the case with Terminator 2: Judgment Day–we lost points if we shot other humans.
I remembered this with great concern as I saw one of my nephews playing Mortal Combat and other such games, years later. You weren’t supposed to kill other humans–but these goddamned games rewarded you for killing other humans. And they still do.
The video game, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, followed the 1991 film. By this time, Robotron had been removed from most video arcades, lobbies, and rooms–along with Phoenix, Time Pilot, and Defender. (Sometime in the mid 1990s, I found a long-removed Time Pilot game outside a warehouse. I asked about purchasing it. I was told I could buy it for $400–but also told that
if when the computer console broke down, I wouldn’t be able to order replacement parts because they were no longer manufactured. I had $400, but chose not to purchase it for that reason. Maybe I should have–I might have worn played it out in a day, or in a decade.)
By 1990, I learned of word processing in my Advanced Fiction Writing class. This was Digital-Age technology. My instructor had a word processor–some of the other students had word processors. I couldn’t afford a word processor–I used my recently-deceased brother Mike’s electronic typewriter. Yet this worked well for me.
The Internet was still a novelty in the early 1990s–most people weren’t online then. As I recall, even the names Internet and Worldwide Web were used interchangeably. Singles groups were still the thing, singles bars were still the thing–there was even telephone dating (although no one called it that). I met a lot of single women through the Mobile Singles Line. Mobile was one of many cities nationwide that had a singles phone line that was part of Call America Systems in Florida. Most singles lines charged you by the minute–they were ripoffs. The Mobile Singles Line–like all singles lines run by Call America Systems–had a flat weekly, monthly, or bimonthly fee ($20, $30, or $40 respectively). I could call as many times as I liked, leave messages for as many women as I liked, and listen to as many messages as I liked. Unlike the Pensacola Singles Line, the Mobile Singles Line always worked for me–I met a woman I’d end up dating, every time I signed up. I couldn’t see the women over the phone, of course–but I could hear their voices, and I could make sure they were
who what they said they were.
And letter-writing was still in style–I wrote single women all over the world, women whose addresses I’d received from International Pen Friends, a Dublin-based pen pal organization that would share addresses of members (with their consent, of course) for a reasonable fee.
In the mid 1990s, I finally obtained a compact disc (CD) player (a portable stereo with a dual cassette drive, radio, and CD player). I even remember my first CD–Ray Stevens’ Greatest Hits (“The Streak” and “It’s Me Again, Margaret”
were are my favorites–hilarious, timeless). From there, I began building my CD collection.
And my parents got me a word processor on sale. It was a wonderful device–no Internet connection, I didn’t need one. It was wonderful being able to write and revise almost simultaneously. And the Tetris game on one of the disks was a lot of fun too.
During this time I had a friend named Joe. Joe was a very private person, with some interesting takes on life. He was the only person I’ve ever known who didn’t have a telephone–he didn’t want to be bothered with constant phone calls. He laughingly told about how one of the guys where he worked had just gotten Internet service–how he was bragging about having AOL. For a lot of people, Internet access was just a status symbol then–at least that’s how they came across to others.
And though Joe had a television, he rarely watched it–he spent most of his free time reading books. He once said that television was the worst thing ever invented. I hadn’t thought of that before, but I realized he was right. Television did so much more harm than good (as it still does). Yet looking back, television was the first worst thing ever invented–the Internet would become the next. And cellphones and other such mobile devices would follow–in the most nightmarish way.