Posts Tagged ‘Computers’

The Current Age

June 1, 2019

One of the central figures in my book, “Street Song,” is a man I call Ed. He was twice my age, a serious student of reality, and he kept me grounded when I was having my toughest times on the street. I remember one day in the summer of 1976 when he came looking for me, wanting to see how I was doing and told me something that made a big impact. He said the next big thing in human history was going to be computers. He didn’t actually say it, but the implication was that computers were going to be the next big distraction to keep us from taking a clear look inside ourselves. It sounded ominous, and I think what he told me has been borne out.


Agreeing with Gates

November 3, 2013

I don’t often find myself agreeing with Bill Gates. I think there was a time when he was striving to be the richest man in the world and he was incredibly arrogant then. But he seems to have let go of that. I see that in a recent interview with the Financial Times he said:

“PCs are not, in the hierarchy of human needs, in the first five rungs.”

That takes my breath away. I’m so pleased that someone like him can see that and say it. And then there was this:

When asked by the Financial Times whether Internet connectivity is more important than, say, finding a vaccination for malaria, Gates responded: “As a priority? It’s a joke.”

“If you think connectivity is the key thing, that’s great. I don’t,” he added.


“I certainly love the IT thing. But when we want to improve lives, you’ve got to deal with more basic things like child survival, child nutrition.”

I think this should all be obvious by now. I’ve seen life before computers and life after computers, and I much preferred life before computers. I still don’t have a cellphone and I am perfectly content without one. Their centrality in people’s lives is a temporary thing. It has to be.

I’ll return to this topic again in the future and with a deeper perspective. This blog is so distant from my mind these days. The book has a strangle hold on my brain right now. Not a bad thing, of course.

Calling Me Back

March 21, 2013

I start every morning by turning on the computer and checking email, reading the news, sometimes doing a little bit of research regarding something that came up while I was writing. Occasionally, I will rent a movie and watch it at night. But I’ve come to despise computers and the Internet. I’m convinced that staring at a computer is bad for me. I know that my vision is more shallow since I started using them (not eyesight, but vision). This morning I was giving myself a little talking-to about how I need to stop using the damn thing. Stop reading the news for starters. I don’t need to know the details of how ugly the world is getting. It’s never harmed me in the past to get away from the daily assault of news stories.  I wasn’t thinking “every now and then,”  “a day or two,” or even a week. I was thinking months. I need months away from it to get healed.

Immediately after my little talking-to, and just prior to getting down to work on Street Song, I checked email. Only one came through, a blast from Tammy Baldwin, the new senator from Wisconsin, whose campaign I’d given money to. The subject line read “Hibernation=not an option.” I’m not sure I agree, but it was a pretty strong coincidence. Sometimes I steer by them; sometimes I don’t.

Nearing the end of the road

June 19, 2011

I have a habit of taking up a new interest and devoting myself to it so completely that I do little else—for years. I’ve done it with music, the Italian language, bicycles, the study of history. Invariably, I reach a point where I can’t go any farther with a particular study. I begin to feel that it isn’t essential to my life and so gradually I let go of it. I feel this happening with computers now. I started out with Windows around 1996, and switched to the Mac in around 2000. My first Mac had OS X, and I’ve upgraded to each new version as soon as it came out. Right now the Mac world is all excited about Lion, the new upgrade coming out in July. I’m not. I find that I don’t care at all. I doubt that I’ll bother with it. I’ve gotten deeply irritated with the belief that Apple is constantly pushing: that tech must be at the center of our lives. I would rather sit down and play my guitar than download a song from iTunes or stitch together a fake song from pre-recorded loops in Garage Band.

When I look out my window, I don’t see anybody. Everybody’s indoors. I keep thinking I should go outside, sit down, wait for some people to show up, and get into a conversation. Yesterday I went over the hill to the annual North Beach Street Fair where I sat down in a doorway and studied people as they walked by. After a while I realized that I was actually making some people nervous, which reminded me of the famous line from the Gregory Corso poem, “Power”:

Standing on a street corner waiting for no one is Power

A-Bloggin’ and A-Rantin’

November 8, 2008

I’ve been somewhat hostile toward blogs and blogging. It has seemed faddish to me, I guess. I tend not to like made-up words, like blog and vegan. I’m doing this for a bunch of reasons. One of them is that I don’t hear many people saying what I want to hear said. So I have to say it myself. As I begin this, I don’t feel that I’ve found the right voice. I feel stiff. Although I’ve never been enthusiastic about the Internet, due to my work as a writer, I use it every day. I’m currently learning HTML and CSS, and I use Photoshop and Word. But I tend to believe that, overall, the Internet and computers have done more harm than good. More and more people are abandoning the real world and real community for a vicarious life of sitting in front of a monitor. How can that be good? I can’t imagine anyone writing poetry on a computer. One of my goals for the future is to be in a position where I have no computer and no telephone—just a regular old mailbox. I read an article in the New York Times about a writer in Maine, Carolyn Chute, who lives at the end of an unpaved road with no phone, no fax, and no computer. I admire her. Technological development is not the purpose of life. I don’t have a cell phone, and I never will. I think they’re intrusive, and nobody has ever convinced me that they aren’t a danger to your health. I wish they would go away.

End of rant.