Thursday 17 April 2014

Comparative Accelerated Chronology

In our immediate present we have an extraordinary sense of history, particularly in this age of accelerated temporal chronology. The term “ancient” used to refer to really old stuff like prehistoric civilizations such as Mesopotamia or Sumeria where they bartered in order to procure commodities, but in these days of encrypted e-commerce, the classical period might now be considered the previous few decades of the last century.

The great watershed of computing saw the introduction of DOS in the early 1980s. Originally authored by Seattle Computer Products, it was called QDOS which stood for quick and dirty operating system. The chief architect and author was a young guy named Tim Paterson. We could call this period the Neo-Aechulean (as in "stone") age of personal computing. Computers were soldered together by nerdy high school students, programmed by college geeks who didn't attend class and bought by independently wealthy enthusiasts who could afford to pay for hardware that cost more than a car.

Back then, the "Two Steves" started Apple Computers in a garage, Atari released Asteroids, and in 1982, Disney released TRON. That film is the one John Lasseter says got him interested in computer animation. John, of course, went on to run Pixar and is now at the helm of Disney.

That year was also the time Adobe Systems was founded by John Warnock and Charles Geschke. They introduced PostScript, which basically put a printer in every home. Adobe, of course, went on to acquire and distribute popular application programs such as Photoshop. The application program that has become a verb in everyday language was created by Thomas Knoll, while he was at college along with his brother John, who worked at ILM (Industrial Light and Magic). Years later, John was nominated for Academy Awards for his special effects work on movies such as Star Wars and Star Trek. He won an Oscar for his work on Pirates of the Caribbean.

This brings us to the “temporal” equivalent of the Neo-Industrial Revolution by which we compress approximately 4,000 years into 20. That’s what I mean when I say “accelerated” chronology. In this, our fourth decade of the  electronic interface, the ‘80s have become truly ancient. Contemporary generations have no idea what a rotary phone is or vector display. They have never heard of Silicon Graphics or Netscape or Mag Tape Data Storage. A lot of people don’t buy CD-ROM games anymore either. They are just a quaint storage system that has dropped out of mainstream usage.

During the CD revolution, I was at the roll-out of Spaceship Warlock in San Francisco in 1991. Two years later, MYST came out. Both games were originally authored for Apple computers only and were “ported” to the Windows platform. This produced radical compatibility problems, because the PC environment was far more open to developers and authors, which is also the reason why it is far more open to hackers, crackers and thieves who send out viruses, steal credit card information and identities. The recent "Heartbleed" security flaw for service providers is just another example.

This brings us to our contemporary age where cash is no longer preferred in commerce. Virtually untraceable, cash contributes to the underground economy. It is considered “underground,” because it is possible for transactions to go institutionally unreported. 

If you try to buy a product at a high tech outlet, do not attempt to use cash. You will be relegated to the ignominious fringe of shame and humiliation. Perhaps the concept of cash should go away so we can return to bartering for commodities instead of using electronic equivalents of accumulated wealth. I would gladly pay you a 12 inch sub for a unique internet domain. 

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