I am sometimes in awe of computers and all of the amazing things they do. Maybe it’s because I’m (just) old enough to remember the advent of the personal computer. My family got our first computer in the late 1980’s. It was a 1986 Apple Macintosh computer*. At the time, I thought it was my ticket to unlimited fun, right behind Barbies and The Little Mermaid. We got that instead of any of the new video game consoles that were coming out. My dad got it so he could work on his thesis at seminary where he was getting his doctorate degree. When he wasn’t hard at work typing away on it, my siblings and I were able to play games on it. It wasn’t as exciting as the Atari and NES systems some of my friends had, but my parents had a very limited income and we weren’t able to do -or buy- a lot of the same things as my friends. Trips to the movie theater were reserved for rare special occasions as was eating out and buying new clothes. We were otherwise limited to cheap thrift store clothes, or hand-me-downs from church members.
photo by Tiziano L. U. Caviglia
If you were ever fortunate enough to own one of these bad boys, you probably realize how epic the games weren’t. There was a built-in unbeatable chess game, a black and white drawing program and a typing game. We did have a floppy disk game of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. At the time, I had not read the book and so could not actually play the game. Now that I have read them and re-read them and then re-read them again, I think it would be fun to play it, just to see if I could get further than Arthur’s house being demolished.
Early computer and video games, as primitive as they seem now, were almost magical to my 8-year-old eyes. To be honest, I still don’t understand exactly how they work. I’d rather not think about it and I will stubbornly cling to my own magic computer box theory indefinitely. (Also, rainbows are gateways to fantasy worlds that double as giant slides, and Amanda, my corn-silk hair Cabbage Patch Kid is a sentient being, fully devoted to being my-best-friend-forever, even though she’s currently stuffed in a box in my basement.)
Thinking about how far computers have come in such a short time really is incredible. And we truly are better off because of it. I can complete tasks (like buying a Starbucks drink on my phone) so quickly that I have endless time to devote to the things that truly matter**. I can keep in touch with friends on the other side of the world without buying a $1400 plane ticket. I have near infinite information at my fingertips, only one Google click away. I can search online for reviews of books so I don’t waste time reading a book I might not like. And I can repeatedly watch two seconds of a movie clip on an endless loop anytime I want. Wait, what? Why? The rest of that makes complete sense. Watching a looping video clip, though?
I don’t fully understand the magic of computers, mostly because I haven’t really tried. One thing, though, that I find truly mystifying, is how somewhere along the way, computers have paved the way for a reduction in the ability to share thoughts using words and complete sentences, replacing the English language first with thousands of acronyms and now with millions of GIFs to express how we really feel about things.
To that I say, “What the GIF?!”
click here to see how I feel about GIFs.
*Random fact about Apple Macintosh: the computer we got that was made in 1986 continued working my entire childhood and lasted until after I went to college. I think it would still work but my mom got rid of it, along with our dot matrix computer
**Author’s disclaimer: Using technology to complete tasks quickly and efficiently may not leave you endless time to devote to the things that truly matter. (Unless the things that truly matter include Candy Crush, Cross Fingers, T.V., video games, or Pinterest.)