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Digital Media Autobiography

I can clearly recall the first time I ever laid eyes on my first computer.  It was Christmas of 1997, and my grandmother and grandfather had purchased a Gateway 2000 computer for me, complete with Windows 95 software.   I actually remember the first time I saw it, and can remember thinking to myself, “What am I going to do with this thing?”  However, within days I was hooked.  It was a large, clunky white computer which looked extremely similar, if not nearly identical, to this:

All of the equipment from this picture is identical to the equipment that I had as a kid – those big speakers and that awkward little white microphone, the purpose of which I was never quite sure.  The hard drive looked like this – it took up a lot of extra space, and was so large and horizontal that you could have shelved books on it.  I remember the saga of booting the computer up every day which, by today’s standards, took forever; when I look back I can still hear the start-up sound of Windows 95 as I sat in my basement playroom and patiently waited for the computer to complete its boot-up process.

I remember what a big deal it was in those days to “go on the computer”, which was then more of a premeditated action (if that makes sense); compared to the way in which I (and so many others) are on and off of the computer at intervals all day nowadays.  For those first couple of years, the Internet was nothing I had come into virtual contact with – I merely practiced typing on Microsoft Word, and spent lots of time playing computer games via CD (I think I recall something like “The Magic School Bus Goes to the Rainforest”) or desktop computer games (my favorite being “Mouse Trap”).  I think it wasn’t until the year 2000 that we first connected our computer to the Internet – I remember my uncle installing the dial-up connection and helping my parents install AOL and create an AOL account.  For the first year or two, the Internet was beyond an experience; I remember what a big deal it was for me to write an email from my parents’ email address to my uncle, or to send an instant message to my older cousins.  Again, I can vividly recall the noise the computer made as it connected to dial-up Internet:

It wasn’t too long before my computer (which was actually the family computer) and its Internet connection began to feel outdated.  I had my Gateway computer and dial-up Internet until the year 2005, and I believe I was the last of my friends to get cable Internet.  For at least a year before making this transition, I recall being at my friends’ homes and seeing how different their computers looked from the one I had – mine, as I mentioned, was clunky, white and square-shaped, while theirs were black, slimmer and worked much faster. Dial-up Internet also held me back in that I could only go on the Internet at night and/or for only a few minutes during the day because my Internet connection blocked any incoming phone calls to my house.  When we finally upgraded to cable Internet, along with a brand-new computer, the ease and speed with which the computer worked was unbelievable to me.  I since have never been the same in regard to my intake of computing, particularly of the Internet – I remember shortly after getting the new computer, a minor malfunction in the Internet modem led to us being without Internet for a day or so, during which time we resorted to temporarily using the old Gateway computer (which was plugged in elsewhere) with the dial-up Internet.  It was amazing to see that in the short time I had a swifter computer and a fast Internet connection, I’d already become increasingly impatient with what had only recently been second-nature to me, and the sound of the dial-up Internet connection was like nails on a chalkboard to my thirteen-year-old self.

For another course I took here at Fordham (Communication & Technology with Dr. Sternberg), I read Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media in its entirety. One of the arguments I remember him making was that electric speed, in so many words, had spoiled us and changed the means by which we experience time, space and distance, among other things.  In specific regard to time, I find this to be relevant in that the increased electric speed which I had only begun to experience via my new computer and Internet connection had already evolved the way in which I experienced time; what had been a normal waiting time for me not long before suddenly was an excruciating test of patience.  This also echoes what I’ve read so far of The Shallows by Nicholas Carr – in a short time, this new speed seemed to reprogram my brain into what I expected my computing/Internet experience to be, so when I re-encountered the diminished speed I’d once been so used to, I was unable to immediately adjust.

One of my high school graduation presents was a Hewlett-Packard laptop which I still use today, nearly three years later (does that make me an old man?).  I’m planning on getting a new one relatively soon, but as I elaborated in class I’m reluctant to purchase a Mac.  Most of my friends have Macs and it’s amazing how soon after I got my laptop I already began feeling outdated by this.  The few times I’ve been on my friends’ Macs, I found myself unable to even know how to close a tab or a window.  This worries me in the event that I should ever purchase a Mac I won’t even know how to use it, and seem to have once again fallen behind technologically with my own age group.

Going off of this, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that sometimes I feel behind in my generation, because I always feel like having the latest technology is almost like a race – for example, it’s almost as though as soon as you have the latest iPhone, a new one comes out and your version of the iPhone quickly becomes archaic.  Just as you’ve become comfortable with, perhaps completely dependent on, this version of the iPhone, you must either adjust to the latest version to stay “with-it”, or conform to walking around with a phone which might be considered outdated by some.  I don’t consider myself completely old-school and don’t want to walk around with a dinosaur laptop or phone, but often I’m tempted to give up this race and not feel the need to get to the technological finish line first.

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