Well Enough, You Know?
Perhaps I’m the only one in my generation that remembers the time when technology worked “well enough” — which couldn't have been too long ago, considering I was born in the early 1990’s. There was a point in time when I remember having to boot MS-DOS to play Doom on an asthmatic little machine that ran Windows 95, and the little chirps the computer made when it whirred to life. I remember the look of incredible fascination I must have had on my face when my older brothers first pulled out the clunky 600-pound original Game Boy — an 8-bit device that doesn't even connect to the internet. And yes, Doom was played in a stop-motion rate of 18 frames per second, and yes, the game boy was unplayable if you didn't have JUST enough light so that you can see the screen but not TOO much light as so to avoid glare, but it worked well enough, you know?
Leafing through the reflection assignment I had done earlier last week that required me to document my moods when interacting with technology made me realize how indolent I have become with technology. This was perhaps because more modern technology has conformed to MY habits, when, in a past not too long ago, finding system preferences was difficult on those DOS machines because IT DIDN'T EXIST and cared not for your petty human preferences. Nowadays, explorers are dominant as the interface we use to connect to the all-powerful internet, and I am all for ease of access, sure, but it leaves me in a place where I no longer understand the complex circuitry that lies below my wrists in a laptop or what looms in the deep depths of that ominous but all important SYSTEM32 file — the certainty of childhood long gone, how can I know what I do on these monstrously user friendly machines isn't placing the entirety of my life at risk?
Perhaps this is an over exaggeration. Perhaps not knowing what a fourth of the processes in the task manager isn't detrimental to my life, or why my Android phone comes bundled with more bloat-ware then a man walking out of olive garden after endless pasta and bread sticks. Perhaps the mystery just makes me uncomfortable, but am I the only one who feels this? I've never been proud of my phone, but to some, I feel the next Galaxy phone or iPhone is all anyone ever has to look forward to anymore. I cannot complain, because, there was a point in time in my own life, when I too was excited to see the next technological advancement — in computers, videogames, and yes, even phones (I was excited for the N-Gage, never got one, but admitting I was excited about it is embarrassing and I don’t want to talk about it). Retrospectively, I think technology was so warm and inviting at the time because of its difficulty to use; you really had to get to know your specific machine in order to work through difficulties, giving you the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of those very basic computers. But now, the cold friendliness of modern machines has left me feeling weary, as the ease of use is alienating me in a way I never thought possible.
I yearn for simpler days, when a computer was a human machine that completed basic tasks and entertained short afternoons before dinner with cutting edge but elementary games, before that same technology could be pushed into the size of a raisin. Because then, I didn't need windows explorer to navigate directories and I didn't need a phone that could play music AND browse the internet AND play emulated games from the SNES (okay, maybe I do need that). I abandoned the intimacy I held with technology that worked “well enough”, and replaced it with computers that are probably downloading the contents of my brain as I speak for Google’s next technological advancement, the digitization of the human personality.