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two cans and a string
technology addiction: cool or stupid?
by jeff miller (@jmillerboston)
pop culture

There was a time, not long ago, when computers had no place in my life. I went about my daily business with what seemed like minimal hassle - it sure didn't seem like anything was missing.

Now, I can't bear to go one single day without email.

I don't mean to suggest that I'm a malnourished glossy-eyed chatroom hound, it's just that I have what may be VERY IMPORTANT COMMUNICATIONS coming in. Think about that a sec. Do you remember life without answering machines? Without Caller ID? People, this was not that long ago. Just a few short years later, many of us are unable to allow ourselves to simply ignore the phone or blow off checking our email. We gotta know who's trying to get in touch with us.


Chances are, if you're reading this, you are an internet user, probably with at least one email account. I myself have three, and that's not unusual among professionals. You've got the home address for family and friends. You've got the work address for annoying online discussions and HR party invitations, and then you've got the Yahoo or Hotmail account for registration forms on free porno sites. Or whatever you like. Don't be so judgmental.

Recently, my home computer has had some difficulty in the, er, startup process, and I'm waiting for it to be fixed. This is not a small deal in my modest household. Please, allow me to illustrate the kind of trauma a down-and-out personal computer can cause:

Like most people, one of my morning rituals is to check the weather. I'm not patient enough to wait for Willard Scott to give it to me, nor can I stand the sight of old people that early in my day (for those of you unfamiliar with the TODAY show, Willard has some kind of scam going with the Smuckers people - he congratulates corpse-like Midwestern centurions on their 100th birthdays, complete with horribly under-airbrushed photos). So, in order to avoid these ghastly images I turn to the Internet for immediate statistics.

Yesterday however, I found that not only had my computer turned itself on already, but it had frozen in mid-leap. Naturally, I hit the reset button and prayed that my machine would resume normal operation. Then I noticed a burning smell. Then, in mid-startup, my brand new computer simply burped and shut itself down.

My immediate reaction was a blank stare and a scratch of the old noggin. This quickly escalated into a blind rage and manic pacing of my hallway. Some time later I found a waffle wedged violently into my bathroom medicine cabinet, and forty-six toothpicks carefully arranged on my kitchen table to spell the word "abacus."

Do I take this opportunity to relieve myself from the daily grind of junkmail and surfing? Hell no, I drag my old computer out of the closet and get that thing hooked up to the web. NOW we're cookin'! A little slower than my latest Personal Communications Portal, but a trusty old pal nonetheless.

Ahhhhh... that's better.

It's just a bit ridiculous, isn't it? I mean, when I was living at home with my parents, just making a long distance phone call was a big deal. On a rotary phone, no less. I had maybe two communications a day that weren't face-to-face. Now I have an average of fifty.

I remember when I was a little kid, I'd see television shows and stories depicting children in the Fifties playing "phone" by tying a string between two soup cans. I used to think that was the stupidest damn thing I'd ever seen. Who would ever actually do that, when talking on the telephone was so common?

What I'm wondering now is, how long until some little kid in Upstate New York is looking at pictures of us and saying, "Look at these dorks with their rosy cheeks and their silly internet! Look at that cellphone, what a geek!"

If our society continues to embrace technology, then the cutting-edge tools we use now will be no more exciting than soup cans to future generations. If for some reason we lose our lust for wireless communication and lattes, we'll STILL look stupid to the kids who aren't so uncomfortable in their own skins that they can't go a half hour without checking their Yahoo! account. Instead of scoffing at our low-tech laptops, they'll be saying "Man, those people were uptight - pass the rhubarb, willya?"

Or something like that.

Why do I care what future humans will think about my technology jones? Probably the same neurotic reasons why the first thing I do when I get home after spending eight hours a day in front of a computer is check my email. I just gotta know if anybody out there loves me...

Mommy? Mommy can you hear me? I want soup...


Brown eyes, brown hair, bluejeans and a T-shirt. Digs loud guitars and good design. Easily hypnotized by green-eyed blondes, shiny leather, B-movies, and brightly packaged foods. He's got a bustle in his hedgerow - but he is NOT alarmed.

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jeffrey walker
12.11.00 @ 1:13a

I have no idea what you're talking about. I would like to say more, but I have to check on my latest e-bay auction... oh, and someone is IMing me. gotta go...

jay colucci
12.12.00 @ 2:38p

Personally, I can't wait until the technology I use today looks quaint and old-fashioned. Of course that will probably be... oh... January. Deus ex Machina!

jeff aach
12.13.00 @ 11:09a

machine messiah. hold me. show me the strength of your singular eye. i am your slave.

jeff miller
12.13.00 @ 7:37p

my computer's all fixed now. i feel better. i'm not even wondering about the future anymore - i am unconcerned with the plight of mankind. just as long as my cable modem works.

jeff miller
12.13.00 @ 7:37p

who let aach in here?

tim lockwood
12.23.00 @ 9:48a

You know, this is not the first time Americans have had a tech fascination. The last time was in the 70s with digital watches and huge pocket scientific calculators, each of which cost a bundle. Now they just look geeky. Or maybe they looked geeky then, too, but they were just too popular for anyone to say so. Sort of like Palm Pilots and digital phones/pagers today.

sayf sharif
1.2.01 @ 8:00p

aach smells like a wet banana rotting on my fetid porch. i'm not sure what fetid means, but it sounds like something that describes that hairless ape.

sayf sharif
1.2.01 @ 8:00p

oh and aach...email me willya?

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