Thursday, January 26, 2012

I used to love daydreaming.

I remember distinctly the first time I had access to email. It was 1997 and I was a freshman in college. My roommate's parents were rather well-off and had gotten her a new computer to use at school. This was the exception on our floor. Most college students in those days didn't consider a computer an essential item.

We each signed up for a Juno account. For those of you too young to remember, that was a free email provider that was not even attached to the internet. You had to launch the program and it manually dialed into the modem to retrieve your email when you told it to. Nothing was automatic or always on. I can still remember the beep-beep-beeping of the modem as it connected.

Around 1998 or so, I started learning HTML and bumming around online in chat rooms. It was all so fascinating! My roommate's computer didn't go online, but we had access to some dorm computers that did. I signed up with angelfire.com and hand-coded my first website. No one ever visited it and it largely consisted of text, but it was of my own creation! I was so proud of that website!

It wasn't until 1999 that I got my own laptop. I saved up for it all summer and came to school with it in my junior year. We had a family computer at home, but it ran a very old version of Windows and was primarily used for word processing. Needless to say, we did not have internet at home yet. Not that we weren't allowed, it just wasn't something that normal, un-geeky people did back then.

I seem to remember figuring out pretty quickly how to get internet on my personal laptop, but I can't remember now how I connected. I think Juno may have had a dial-up internet service for a small fee, buy my memory's a bit hazy on that one. I largely used the dorm's computers still when I wanted to go online.

These were the days before wireless too. I remember one summer, dragging a phone cord (remember those?) down the hallway to connect into my laptop's modem so I could check my email. Ahh... those were the days...

Around 2000 or 2001, I got my first cell phone. In those days, texting wasn't even heard of. The signal was terrible too; I had to stand outside on one foot in a certain spot in the yard to even get a decent reception. But it was so cool! Technology was amazing.

To keep things in perspective, remember that we still had landlines in those days. Being that I was still in college, each dorm room or campus house had it's own line that we shared. In the dorms, it was one phone for every two people, in the houses, it was one for every 4 to 5 people. This was normal back then and did not seem like an inconvenience. If anything, it felt awesome to not have to share your family's landline anymore! Very few people had cell phones back then, especially not college students who would rather spend their money on clothes or movies. Cell phones were still kind of a geeky phenomenon reserved for people particularly curious about technology.

I finally had my own TV this year as well and remember videotaping shows like Roswell and Felicity. My family had had a VCR for years, but it was pretty cool to finally have one of my own! I paid about $100 for a small 12 inch TV/VCR combo machine.

Around 2002 or so, my sister got the first mp3 player in the family. It was an iRiver, if I remember right. It held about 25 songs and was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. You couldn't make playlists or rearrange songs in any way, but it was sure more efficient than making mixed tapes / CDs (remember those?). I bought my own at some point and was thoroughly in love.

Netflix soon also barged into my life, as did my first DVD player, and I quickly became hooked on watching TV shows season after season, back to back to back. I discovered old shows that I'd somehow missed... X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. How amazing was it that I could catch up on stories that had aired on TV years earlier?!

By 2003, two computers later (those PCs break awfully fast!), I was heavy into bit-torrenting and playing The Sims Online. Those were the days when Limewire was cool and nobody had been sued yet for sharing music, at least not to my knowledge. I soon also discovered podcasts. I'd never heard of iTunes, but somehow had run across various podcasts online. I downloaded each episode manually and click-dragged them onto my iRiver to listen to them. Everything felt so Wild West back then - like we were blazing a new frontier with what was possible.

Around 2004, my current computer died again and I discovered Apple products. Music to my soul! My first iPod was a thousand times more efficient than that old iRiver. Plus, iTunes made things amazingly simple! Playlists! Shuffle! So awesome...

I discovered TiVo around this time as well and got rid of my old VCR. It was a single-tuner that needed an actual phone-line to dial into the TiVo service. Yes, we still had landlines even then. Still, the absolute amazingness of time-shifting TV completely blew my mind. I haven't looked at TV the same way since.

By 2005, I was a full-fledged Mac fangirl. The Mac just "got" me, the creative-thinker that I am. If you're a right-brain too, you'll probably know what I mean. It was around that time too, that I discovered Twitter. Back then Twitter was mainly just a handful of geeks chitchatting about their day. No one in the main stream had even heard of it at that point.

Of course Facebook was quickly becoming popular this year too. As soon as they lifted the restriction that you had to be a college student to use it, I signed up. In those early days, only about 5 of my friends were on there - it was the price to pay for being an early-adopter, I suppose. Now I have over 100 friends, and probably would have more if I didn't keep pruning people out.

I've blogged off and on since those early Angelfire days. Usually on Blogger, sometimes on MySpace, Tumblr, or Squarespace. Always one to try new technology, I think I've probably tested out just about every new platform as they've come out. Most of those blogs have long since been deleted, but they've all taught me a lot about coding, creativity, and writing.

Today, in the year 2012, I sit here with my MacBook in my lap, blogging while also keeping tabs on my email. My iPhone sits next to me buzzing every so often with a new text, Tweet, or FB update. My TiVo is happily recording way too many shows over there on the shelf. Wireless information is flowing all around me from device to device to device. When I stop to think about how far we've come in 15 years, it's truly mind-boggling.

Which brings me to my point. Kudos to you if you've read this far; I'm feeling long-winded today. My point is... we've turned into a people who expect instant gratification and never-ending stimulation. I'll be the first to admit I love my technology, but I wonder at what cost it all comes? Was there something to be said for being excited to get one bar on my crappy cell phone while standing on one foot in the backyard? Technology was magical back then, now it's just expected.

I've managed to convince myself into taking exactly one technology Sabbath this year. I keep meaning to take more, but have this nagging feeling that I'll miss something while I'm offline. Meanwhile I'm just so over-stimulated that I've forgotten what it was like to just lay back and daydream. I used to love daydreaming.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, but just wanted to say that I've been re-thinking my priorities lately. Maybe it's time to cut back a little. Unplug a bit. I love my blog friends and have enjoyed getting to know people all over the world, so don't worry, that's staying. I may unplug my Netflix though, and possibly a few of the gazillion online accounts I have. Do we really need to be able to connect to each other through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Etsy, YouTube, Blogger, and whichever other social networks I'm forgetting? Wouldn't just one or two of those suffice?

Hmm... lots to consider. I miss the simple days. I guess that's what I'm saying. I love all the new technology, but sometime I wonder if we've been binging a little too much on it.

*****
READ MORE ABOUT IT!

  1. My first technology fast.
  2. My geeky tech history.
  3. Starting the Disconnect Process.
  4. My general "unplugging" anxiety.
  5. My "Rules" for a technology detox.
  6. Technology detox - Day 7 update.
  7. Technology detox - Day 17 update!

2 comments:

  1. I just made myself feel really old! I checked my hotmail account and I set it up in 1995!!! Before that I remember having a juno account as well.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hear, hear!! First, awesome timeline! Nice work. :) And Second, it's just all too much! So much, too much instant information about wayyy too much stuff. I'm really enjoying blogging because I feel I'm "documenting" my life in a sense, and I'm coming to really like the interactions with the blogging community, but FB, Twitter, on and on. Too much. I actually deleted my FB over a year ago to disconnect a bit and it's the best thing I ever did.. Great post! Thanks for rambling. ;)

    ReplyDelete

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