Welcome to the Computer Age

Is that a computer in your pocket or are you just happy to link me.


I was a late-comer to the party. I didn’t look at a computer for the first time until 2000. At the time my mental image of “computers” was formed by those old TV shows and movies where the scientist is in his laboratory and there’s this big wall of machines behind him with all these clocks and dials and blinking lights and levers on them . .

But then one day this friend of mine said: “Ace, there are all these old comic strips by you posted on the internet.” So that got my¬†attention. I remember thinking: “Gee, how did THAT happen?” So he dragged me to a public computer at the library and showed me how to use this thing called a mouse — which I fumbled around with at first until I finally got the hang of it. So that’s how that started.

But I really didn’t get hooked on the internet until the Presidential election of 2000, Bush vs. Gore. It was election night and they had these public computers in the lobby of the Student Union Building. And I was amazed at how you could get up-to-the-second election results from virtually anywhere in the country. And if you remember, that was an election that went right down to the wire (and then some). So it was incredibly exciting following the results moment-by-moment in real time.

So they had me at that point. I was hooked. A junkie. Hopelessly addicted to the internet for life. Apparently. Though it wasn’t until 2002 that I finally got around to getting an email address. So by then I was really in the soup.

I never really adapted well to computers. For years, whenever I wanted to go to a link, I would faithfully type out https:// until somebody finally told me you didn’t have to do that. And then it would be years after that before someone told me you also didn’t have to type out www. (Why am I always the last to find out about this stuff??) And it took me YEARS to figure out how to do a simple thing like copy-and-paste (up until that point I used to type out the entire string of words and numbers if I wanted to post a link). But at least to my credit, I CAN say, I have mastered the mouse.

So it’s been 18 years for me since I entered the Computer Age. And it’s amazing how in such a short time, the computers have changed virtually EVERYTHING about modern life. For the better. And for the worse. I guess that’s just how it works.



2002_10_28 Backwords on Conflict and Technology

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I realized something recently: You can have two warring parties, locked into a deadly conflict of seemingly irreconcilable differences, involving issues so complicated and convoluted they could make your head spin. But I found out that if I stood up between the two warring parties and announced: “HEY! I’m an idiot. I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about!” Finally you could have a point of view that both warring parties could readily agree upon.

I also realized that I greatly under-estimated The Power of The Computer. I mean, I only figured out how to get on the web and make a web-site 2 weeks ago. And it was only my second column, only my SECOND DAMN DAY ON THE WEB, and already I had put my foot in my mouth and gotten into the middle of a big ol’ mess. I mean, usually it takes me at least a couple of months to get into trouble. But TWO DAYS is a new record, even for me. I ended up having to spend three days mailing out about 20 apologies/retractions, as well as fielding endless urgent emails, as well as dodging zhit left and right, as well as having to stay drunk for three days on Old English Malt Liquor just to quiet the queasy jitters in my very guts.

I think a lot of it is that nobody really knows what these computers are and what they can do. I mean, I spent a good part of this decade sleeping in the bushes in a sleeping bag, so I kind of slept through most of the developments of the so-called Computer Age. Therefore, I was kind of shocked when I finally got on the web recently, only to discover there were about 50 sites that referred to me or my work. I mean, I had assumed, during my long period of self-imposed bumhood, that I had slipped into a richly-deserved, and much-needed, obscurity. Only to discover that my work, and my sordid past, was being broadcast to potential millions by a brand new medium that I didn’t begin to understand.

My first thought was: “Wow, I’m famous!” My second thought was: “Can they really publish my work on the net without my permission?” And my third thought was: “Gee, I wonder if theres any way I could make any money off this computer stuff?”

Nobody really knows what this computer stuff is all about. We’re all figuring it out on the fly. Like the Napster thing. Nobody was sure if this was a crime or not, simply because nobody had ever done it before. I think there’s going to be a lot of issues like this that get worked out over the years.

Conversely, theres a lot of people that seem to have OVER-estimated the power of the computer. There were all those dot-commer dudes who thought they could make a fortune off this so-called powerful new medium, only to all go broke.

Or take the recent legal spat involving the two cartoonists that got me thinking about all these computer issues in the first place. One of the cartoonists says it was a harmless computer prank. The other cartoonist says it was a serious computer crime. Who knows? Certainly not me, which is why I should have kept my big fat mouth shut in the first place.

But I think we’re ALL going to make some computer-related mistakes over the years. We’re all going to do some things without considering the ramifications of what we’ve done, simply because nobody has ever done this stuff before. So maybe we should take that into consideration.