February 27, 2012

Freestyle: Technology

Freestyle is a feature where I ramble aimlessly, abandon all pretenses to story arcs or structures and ultimately, attempt to achieve no point whatsoever.  Enjoy! 

I am 40 years old.  To spry youngsters in their 20s, this means I am bordering on Ancient.  It also means that at times, I am subjected to haughty, snooty comments from firm-skinned youngsters such as "I've been on the Internet half my life!" with the clear indication that since I am Elderly With a Smidgeon of Doddering,  I must have only recently figured out how to get my AOL account up and running in order to receive pictures of my grandchildren and forward email chain letters en masse.

However, this old coot begs to differ.

Growing up in the early 80s, we pretty much always had a computer in our house since my mom "worked in computers".  In fact, our first computer HAD NO HARD DRIVE and everything had to be run directly off a 5x5 floppy. For all of my fellow wrinkled Cocoon-Worthy Extras, remember Eliza, that saucy little minx who could READ YOUR MIND??

I remember my first electronic message ever.  It was actually pre-Internet (for me). I was at the computer center on campus at KU with the Then Boyfriend.  The year was 1991.  Then Boyfriend let me use his VAX account to send a message to my Then Roommate (*Waves Furiously at Mindy Who Reads My Blog*), who was also Super Fancy with her engineering classes and VAX account.  21 years later and I still remember that incredible moment that I had sent a message CLEAR ACROSS CAMPUS.  It was like goddamned magic or something.

Then, during a flash of inspiration, I spliced two paperclips together and invented the goddamned Internet.  Why limit ourselves to the University of Kansas campus, right?  Indeed.

Later, in 1994, I only had two phone jacks in my apartment and since I could not afford to pay the phone company to install another jack, I jury-rigged like 1000 feet worth of phone cords procured at Wal-Mart and snaked it along baseboard (Ah, those were the days, shredding your fingers on baseboard nails!  Are you with me, Gentle Reader?  THOSE WERE THE DAYS.) 

Anyway! I remember specifically in 1995, using my Pinemail Unix account to send email.  To another country.  Also, I lurked in Usenet groups, but rarely commented.  At that time, Usenet was a hotbed of flamewars and the wrong word could send people hunting you until the end of time.  Or so it seemed.  Facebook?  Is nothing in the shadow of a good old-fashioned Usenet Flamewar.   I loved Archie and Veronica and their entire posse of incredibly cool friends because in those days, it was mostly just universities on the Internet and holy crap, data security?  WAS FOR SUCKERS.  And Republicans!  I felt like a goddamned Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden surfing through all of those servers.  Since I didn't really know what I was doing, I just enjoyed poking around, I was certainly not a hacker.  The sheer act of snooping was more than enough to keep me happy.  Ah, yes..... for a Busybody in the early 1990s, those were the halcyon days of unfettered Peeping and Poking.  Bliss!

Oh and the Internet back then did not have pictures.  And when Mosaic finally came around to give us some pictures it was so s....l.....o.......w.

One of my favorite Technology Memories was scoring a data security internship in 1995 solely because I was the only applicant who knew how to use FTP.  That summer internship re-routed the entire course of my career and also led me to one of my longest running friendships, second only to the Aforementioned Mindy (*Waves Furiously At Caroline Who Hopefully is Reading This Post*)

Ah, yes.... knowing FTP in 1995 is probably one of the most significant moments in my entire life.  Period. Caroline notwithstanding.

Now, of course, technology permeates my life and I still welcome it.  Laptops litter our dining room table, two Kindles roam around between family members, gaming devices keep us entertained, smartphones keep us updated, the DVR ensures we are no longer tethered to a TV schedule and now, we have a constant stream of shows available via Netflix.  And yes, our kids know how to use these devices. And I am okay with that.

I am still amazed with and in awe of technology and I hope I never lose that moment of "Whoa" such as that first time I sent an email message via a VAX account to my friend Mindy across campus.

What's your favorite Technology Memory?  What was your first moment of "Whoa"?

This was my first smartphone, a Samsung SPH-i330, which I received in 2002.  A friend of mine at the time worked in product development at Sprint.  She would give me phones prior to their release and I would send her reports on my user experience.  Man, I LOVED this phone.  The browsing was incredibly slow, but it was a fun party trick to bring up websites since few phones at the time supported web browsing.  10 years later and here I am, doing a healthy percentage of my web browsing via my current smartphone.  Astounding.


The Hunter's Prize said...

Technology can just blow your mind when you think about how far we've come in such a short time.

I remember my first encounter with the internet when I was in a class as a freshman in HS. We were participating in a statewide event and we were checking the website to find out some details on the competition. The teacher gave us the link, and I remember how overwhelming it seemed to have to type in http//.www.etc

Now, I'm pretty sure my 3 year old could navigate a website better than I could then!

Amanda said...

ahhh...the good ole days. I'm sure my 1000 feet of phone cord is still lurking in the basement, along with telephones with cords. In 1995, as a college freshman, it was a big deal to go to the computer center to secure your email address. Yep, I was hot stuff then.

Caroline said...

There are days when I kind of miss the friendly WHIRR...BZZZ...CLICK...BING-BONG-BING of the modem. A sound our kids will never know.

And while it's fun to look back, it's even more fun to look forward.

Does the Rise of the Tablet mean the Death of the Laptop? What about desktop computers - does anyone but me still have one of these? Will we eventually have ONE device that will do it all? Or better yet, NO device...an implant in our body instead, with cloud storage, and a Tony-Stark-style virtual screen.

Fun stuff to think about, fer sure...

Melanie said...

I was one of the last kids to get a "real" computer at home....and we got internet I think in 1995 and yes that modem sound will forever be in my brain. I *just* now have had a smart phone for a year, because 1) I was cheap and 2) as a stay at home mom I didn't really need one anyway. It seems really strange to me that my kids will never know life before the internet, or how many hours we spent in the actual library, reading *gasp* reference books! Technology is astounding.

adriana said...

My first encounter with the Internet was in 1995. "You mean I can access things from CANADA on here?? Amazing!"

Also, I remember when this joke made sense:
"Yo mamma's so dumb she uses ASCII to FTP an .exe file"

Mindy said...

Oh my gosh, that is so funny! Yes, I remember your emails from a certain guy's account, they were the light of my day. It was so thrilling to get an email from my friend clear across campus! Awesome!! And now... I'm sending messages to my kids in Webkinz World, from clear across the living room. I guess not that much has changed in...er...20+ years?? How the heck did that happen? What's funny is that every once in a while I run across a twenty-something trying to learn DOS. And I do still have some really long phone cords around here somewhere.