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Wednesday, 1 December 2004

Time out for a little history

I sit here writing this on my Windows 104-key keyboard, connected (along with a 2-button mouse with scroll wheel) to a Pentium PC (the brand--Fountain--I'd never noticed before) and displaying on a 17-inch XFlat color monitor running Windows 98. Coming out of the back of my processor are a phone line, a LAN line, and a broadband line. Only five years ago, I didn't even have a modem on my computer, and I was operating on pre-Windows software. Ten years ago, I'd never seen an e-mail. Fifteen years ago, I was writing a term paper on a home computer with less memory than many of the files I now store in My Documents, and being frustrated by WordWrap. Twenty years ago, I didn't even know how to use a computer. Twenty-five years ago, computers were just entering homes and were being toted as something that you would someday use to organize your banking on & shop for groceries with.

I haven't ever used my computer for either one. But if the computers at my bank and grocery store ever went down, they'd both be closed for business in a heartbeat.

Things tend to change so slowly we don't notice them.
One year ago I had never made a blog entry. Now I have my own blogsite.
Two years ago I had never logged onto an online forum or posted to a discussion group. Now I'm a regular contributor to at least one of each.
Three years ago I had never looked up a phone number or address online. Now I depend on Switchboard and Whitepages, and the Post Office no longer prints Zip Code reference books.
Four years ago I had never used Google. Now it's my home page.
Five years ago I had never watched a video online. Now they pop up unannounced.
Six years ago I had never sent an attachment by email. Now I send multimegabyte photos.
Six years ago I didn't even have an email address. By now I've had ten, and am about to pare the total down to five.
Seven years ago I'd never seen anything on a computer screen but plain text. Now I can't even get plain text without cutting and pasting to an old word processing program.
Eight years ago I had never received an email. Now I get one every couple hours.
Nine years ago I had never sent one. Now I send at least one every time I log on.
Ten years, neither the processing system nor the processor in my present computer had yet been invented; neither had the server on my laser printer, a packet of chips the size of a deck of cards that now does what a whole dedicated computer once did.

I'm putting this in my weblog so that sometime in the distant future, long after I have passed on, when one of my descendants runs a search on my name and finds this site, he will appreciate the present novelty of such technology, at the same time so mundane that we scarcely notice what a marvel it is.

The White Man

I'm revisiting this post on October 22, 2010--nearly another six years after I wrote this. I want to document the many changes that have taken place during that time. In order of their appearance above, I'll update my use of the various technologies that I mention.

Interestingly, nothing has changed in the first paragraph, except that I've updated both my PC and my monitor. I have a new keyboard too. But functionally, nothing has changed except speed. What has changed on another front is that I now own a cell phone over which one can access the internet (I don't--yet. I just got the phone this year).

Ironically, I have, in the past two years, purchased groceries online. And I'm very dependent on my computer to do my banking; I don't get hard copies of my bank statements any more.

Google is no longer my homepage. Now, there's Bing. And not only can I watch videos online, I can tune in to news broadcast, see full-length movies, and watch the Inauguration in real time. I still check five different e-mail accounts, but haven't added any in the past 6 years. And I now get so many emails that I don't even try to read them all. Although I often go days without sending emails per se, there is now something called Facebook, to which I typically post several times in a day. In fact, being on Facebook has even cut down on my contributions to this blog, one-sided as they are. It is even more difficult now to get plain text; the old word-processing program I formerly used is now defunct. I have to use 'note' fields on a database stored on my computer. I still have the same laser printer I had 6 years ago, running on the same server!

One change I hadn't foreseen is that I now can read at least parts of just about any book online. I spend a lot of my online time just reading books.

Certainly the rate of change has slowed dramatically, but dramatic changes continue to occur. The next change for me will probably be getting internet on my cell phone, or a laptop that connects to the cloud. Increasingly, the differences between the two are diminishing.

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