So continuing on from yesterday today I am covering 5 more technologies that changed my life. You can read part 1 here. As I am a technophile and a total geek, technology has shaped they way I live my life and how I view the world. I know that there is a shit-ton of technology that underpins our society: electric grids, light bulbs, cars and airplanes, and yes movable type. You wont see any of these in my article because it’s pretty much a given that these major innovations have had a major impact on how I live my life, but this article is more about how technology has contributed to my personal view of the world.
#6. The Samsung SPH-N200: Picture me in college (actually don’t, really it’s embarrassing) living on my own sharing a dorm phone with my roommate and trying to figure out which one of us made the 3 hour long phone call to Oklahoma city (Turns out it was a guy in our dorm who broke into our room to use the phone). Oh how I don’t miss the days of long distance. But I digress, my sophomore year in college I made the jump from land line to cellular technology and I have never gone back. My Samsung SPH-N200 was my first ever “Internet Connected” phone. With its beautiful green and black back lit screen I could check and send email, check movie times, get restaurant info from city search, and play PacMan, the latter being the most important in the decision of purchasing the phone. With the freedom of a cell phone, and the lack of long distance charges the world became much smaller place. I was able to talk to my girlfriend at the time who lived two states away. I could check in on my family on the west coast, I could take phone calls in the middle of class and feel really important (d-bag move I know). Connectivity and freedom became a part of who I am, being able to access the people I love and the information I need when away from home became important. Many people disparage our over-connected life style these days, and I agree that perhaps we all could use a bit less of it, but that phone and all the phones that have followed it have changed my life and how I interact with people in a huge way.
#7. The CTX Cyber Notebook: With a Pentium 166MHz processor, 24 megs of ram, and a 1.6 gig hard drive this laptop cost me an entire summer wages back in high school but it was worth it. As I have said before mobility and freedom are a huge part of who I am today. I don’t work in an office, I can hardly stay still for more than an hour and sticking to a strict schedule is more of a dream than an attainable goal for me. So being able to do my computing anywhere I want is huge for me. Back in high school I got my first taste of it. But this little beauty helped me learn another lesson too, one that I wish I had ignored instead of embraced. I went to public school, an “inner city” school by Oregon standards, and I was one of perhaps 3 kids in the who school, about 1.2k students, who had his own laptop. I immediately became ostracized for it. I dared to fly my geek flag by spending my money on a laptop instead of a car, cool shoes, beer, or any of the other things that other kids were buying at the time. And I dared to bring it to school, and use it for work! It all came to a head when someone I was once “friends” with confronted me in the hall and tried to beat me up and take the computer. It ended in a draw and the laptops battery being smashed into pieces. I learned that showing my geek side was not acceptable, and that if I was to remain on the good side of my peers and friends, I would have to leave my geek side at home. So I did, for the next 7 years I left my geekier tendencies at home, only getting to enjoy them in rare company where I felt safe. Now I’m out in the open about it and wish I had never moved to hide my self from the world. That laptop and the lesson I learned from it haunted me, and still does a little today, not all shaping is good shaping I guess.
#8. My first 14.4k modem: Holy shit! There are other people on computer out there! When I was 11 my uncle gave my grandmother a 14.4 baud modem for her PC, and being my grandmother she had no idea how to use it. So, not knowing the treasure she had been given, she passed it on to me. I had already taken apart my family computer a few times (see #1) and even installed a sound card from Creative, so I knew the inner workings of a PC. Modems though were something I had only seen in movies at that time. If I remember right War Games had come out years before and showed a young Mathew Broderick using his computer to call a military super computer to unwittingly begin World War III (sorry if I just spoiled it, deal with it). What I had learned from that movie is that with the right technology, I could connect my computer to other computers. Suddenly I had that technology and I was going to use it. My first computer and my first modem really didn’t have what I would call reach. Mostly I connected to local bulletin board systems (BSS), and downloaded lists of jokes, fun stories, and the occasional DOS based game. Just being able to share information with other people, computer to computer was amazing for me. I felt a new sense of community with the people at the other end of that 14.4kB connection. Games that utilized a modem would later come along e.g. Mech Warrior 2 (See #4) and change the whole equation, making my computer my go to entertainment source over my Nintendo. This early exposure to online communities helped me become more comfortable living a life that is half online. These days I admit that at least 50% of my existence is spent online, through social media, writing, podcasting and what not. Without this early experience I might not have been so brave to create an online persona with such gusto.
#9. My iPhone/iPad: Yeah I lumped these two together. They are pretty much the exact same device and I use them interchangeably; scheduling, email, reading, social connection, writing, etc3. I had to include these because they are the technology that I feel is currently shaping me the most. It is technology that I love, but over the past few month have become wary of. It is easier and easier to sit down anywhere and become engrossed in digital life. So many things to read, so much to create, so many people with whom to interact. Portable, fast to boot, easy to use, why not just bust them out whenever I have a free minute or two? Each free minute gets drawn out to three or four, and soon I’m twenty minutes into the future and usually behind on what ever it is I was intending to do. As I spend more and more time with my iPad/phone I must be constantly aware of the difference between the value of my productivity and the value of random information I take in, games I play, and people I connect with.
#10. My Nintendo Entertainment System: When I came up with the idea for this article the first thing I thought of was my Nintendo, and I have thought about it many times since then. The original Nintendo Entertainment System practically changed the course of my entire life. I know it sounds dramatic but growing up in a single parent family I’m pretty sure that the Nintendo kept me from getting into all kinds of trouble. It also helped to foster my love for technology. Video games that went beyond blocks and dots that represented people and object to actual distinguishable reoccurring characters. Characters with history, relationships, and distinguishable traits. Episodic adventures that made personal investment impossible to avoid. How could one not buy the new Super Mario Brothers game? If I didn’t how would they save the mushroom kingdom? How would I know what Bowser was up to, and make sure the Princess was safe? What would happen to Hyrule and Zelda without me to guide Link’s sword? Nintendo gave me games that had characters I cared about, stories I was interested in, and value I didn’t even know I perceived. When I was in the 6th grade my family’s house was broken into; the robbers took everything! Our T.V. gone, our VCR gone, cash, jewelry, even the vacuum cleaner; but the one thing they left was the Nintendo. Perhaps they didn’t know what it was, video games were very new at the time. Perhaps they thought that they would come back for it but didn’t have time. Perhaps they were thieves with hearts of gold and couldn’t bear to take a young child’s video game system. For what ever reason it was still there, and I thought that they were the stupidest burglars in the world. How could they miss the most valuable thing in the whole house? I think my mother was a bit upset at me for being happy that it was still there and not really caring about the rest of the stuff not being there. It did sink in a bit later that I couldn’t play the Nintendo until we got a new T.V. (super bummed). The Nintendo is one of my deepest gamer/geek roots, and it will always have a place in my history. I could write pages on how it influenced me, but I have already gone too long as it is.
Technology has always shaped my development, but it has never defined me. There is so much more to who I am than just the gadgets and toys I have purchased and played with. But tech has help shape me in a way that I can’t ignore, and don’t want to. I am who I am, and I like what I like, Geek through and through.
Tech Geek Out.
Image by Amy Loves Yah