There was a time when the computing universe was fun. Men were real men. Women were real women. And small, furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small, furry creatures from Alpha Centauri.
Just thinking about the early days of the cyber frontier… they were simpler times. Personal computers of the early 1980s were rarely connected one with another. Most likely, your computer sat lonely, by itself. Not serving any functions, except maybe exclusively running any program you’s care to run through it. A word processor, maybe. Spreadsheets? Sure! Games? Yep. Nothing multiplayer, unless your friend happened to be sitting next to you, joystick in hand.
Hacking meant trying to figure out how to get a clean “backup copy” of the latest game with Fast Hack’em. If you had a modem, you might try to dial into some local BBS, which, more often than not, was run out of someone’s home via a second telephone line.
Even video game systems were simple. Atari 2600 “joysticks” consisted of one “stick” and one button, called “fire.” No bumpers, triggers, d-pads, x, o, triangle, square, select, start, etc.
And we had patience. Yie Ar Kung-Fu would take over 20 minutes to load before presenting you with this awesome intro screen and music: (Plenty of time to get some snacks and a cool soft drink prior to a gaming session.)
Now, if YouTube video commercials are over ~10 seconds, I basically decide it’s probably not worth that wait.
Then the lawyers appeared. And whitepapers. And phrases like “life-cycle management,” “total cost of ownership,” and “best practices.” And the fun went away. It was no longer the wild west.
Today, the fun continues to be sucked out of computing in slightly more disturbing ways. Modern society has dictated requirements like the EU’s GDPR legislation. Websites now require you to verify that you are not a robot (…what?…) and that you agree to accept “cookies” from almost every website. And the amount of data Facebook has on you (yes, just you) could fill encyclopedias…
To see “how far we’ve come” (for better or for worse) check out the trailer for Do You Trust This Computer below. The movie is a couple of years old, so some of the discussion around some far-fetched ideas is just that much closer to becoming reality.
So, I have some questions.
Where is the fun now?
I don’t even mean that in a snarky way. Literally. Where is the fun now? Cause I want to go there.
Was it worth it?
Should we have navigated this technological minefield for the last 40 years in order to end up having people die while texting and driving? Or even getting killed while looking at their phones and crossing the street? I’m not blaming the tech itself. More our reliance on it. When the space junk apocalypse occurs in a few years due to the thousands of satellites that are being released to circle the earth, and all GPS is lost, will we be able to get around?
Was it worth the privacy cost?
I don’t know.