Thirty Year Circle
I had recently transferred from public schooling to a school for the blind, and had barely learned of the internet from a combination of PBS, and seeing a thing on one of mom's soap operas where the text was eighty point font so the audience could read the one sentence, or word, or whatever that was supposed to make whoever flip out over whatever was going on.
I've just witnessed Reddit follow Twitter into a black hole of capitalism devouring its user base for the sake of Profits. Between looking for alternative platforms such as kbin and Lemmy that seek to emulate the experience of Reddit I'm reminded of the Tildaverse.
At a glance, these two incidents have nothing really in common. Yet for me there is a disturbing feeling of deja-vu. Both are from points in my life where everything is both incredibly static, yet also completely in flux. On the one hand, Eleven-Year-Old Me was completely unmoored from a physical situation where my scholastic needs weren't met. On the other hand, Forty-One Year Old Me is in a situation where my social and informational needs haven't been met.
I suppose one could call it less a perfect circle, and instead call it a resonate spiral where events don't line up, yet have a similar feel.
Child-Me is having to unlearn terrible preconceptions on how computers are used, which amounts to 'watch a guy flail away incoherently at a keyboard and things happen.'
Adult-Me is having to unlearn a lot of dependence on corporate-backed entities that had taken a lot of the drudgery out of computing for the sake of the lowest common marketable unit. This has amounted to 'I can't let Google remember my passwords, and I have to relearn how the forum works while I flail around the same way I laughed at the non-savvy thirty years ago.'
Thirty years ago I sat in front of a monitor wondering what I would make of this, but knowing it was something important, and thirty years later I sit in front of a much more powerful box just as clumsy with a command line interface as I was then, and yet still out of my peer group the one most willing to try even if I end up breaking something in the process.
Thirty years, and I'm still that same kid pecking away at a keyboard wanting to use a toolkit I barely understand to try making a text game for people I'll never meet but have a strong connection with.
It is not a circle. Computers, batteries, and the speed of information are orders of magnitude more than it was. This means even going back to an environment that detractors could call chasing nostalgia, or the millennial version of boomer cane-waving isn't the same. We each have far more space to work with, on a machine that can do more in less time, accessible from devices that fit in our pockets if we want.
Thirty years ago, I wanted a state-of-the-art 486 tower that probably is the size of a mini-fridge that was made by a mass market manufacturer tapping into a rising tide of demand. All for the sake of playing with the internet and games made by companies riding what was then considered either a fad or the cutting edge.
Thirty years later, I'm looking at a device made by one guy that is being made in limited runs, is low powered device that can easily fit in my pocket all for the sake of logging into a terminal connection on a volunteer-operated computer that's there purely for the love and appreciation of fellow enthusiasts.
I wonder where walking this circle will get me in thirty more years.