Thursday, May 07, 2020

All The Other Kids Are Playing Spaceman

October 17, 2000 Eolake Stobblehouse, MyMac Magazine
“When I was young the only way to get a buzz from the web was if your
PC had a lose wire”

You kids think you have it hard when you don’t have a gigahertz PC?
Ha. When *I* was young, I worked in a company with only two computers built from cardboard by Bozo CyberElectric. We had to hold the monitors by hand in front of our faces because there was no money for stands. The keyboards were painted on a slab of wood, and we had to imagine what the text would look like if they had worked. We had only one mouse to share, and we lived in horror of the day the cleaning lady might find it and kill it.

Our portables were bigger than the desktop machines, and our CEO, who had a bad back, used to sneak off to meetings in town with a desktop machine when nobody was looking. One day one of the portables caught fire, and we found out that an internal cable, bitten in two by a family of mice living in the machine, caused it. 79 mice died in that fire.

This was in the early days of Macrosnuff, and Gil Bates came over himself to deliver system software updates, called “service packs”, like those necessary to make the software be able to create text on the screen. I remember the $700 service pack we had to buy because it turned out that the software was using our customer database to mail out promotional material for Macrosnuff. Mr. Bates said that the blame was on faulty memory modules in our PCs.

Web technology was primitive. The coding language for the Web did not handle vowels all that well, so we tended to try to keep our language mainly to consonants.

We ran our corporate web site on a PC powered by flashlight batteries. If the web site had more than five visitors in a day, we had to send them the pages manually, by e-mail, and describe to them how the colors were supposed to look because our designer only had a grayscale monitor.

The web at that time was run not on the telephone net, but on nylon strings strung from house to house, the modem was plugged via a microphone to a soup can at the end of the string. Text files downloaded so slowly that fast readers had to wait for them. Online pornography was not a threat to the young yet, because even a photo of a very short model would take two days to download, and that was not even including the file name. I once started downloading an online trailer for the then-new film Jaws. The shark has yet to appear.

Today of course PCs are so powerful that many web sites are doing fine without any discernible content at all, and Macrosnuff is making money by shipping empty boxes with license agreements. Online porn is such a problem that 4-year-old surfers are giving their parents lectures on the birds and bees. It is estimated that by 2010 the web will represent 203% of the global economy, and the connections will be so fast and the computers so smart that surfers can leave their machines to their own devices, and go catch a few rays.

It’s a brand new world:)

“All The Other Kids Are Playing Spaceman” is about… our culture, and stuff like that.
The first person to spot from where the title comes wins a prize.

Eolake Stobblehouse