Ah, Jared's Java. Pleasant taste. Slight Monsterism.

Welcome to the home of my mind, where I brew my intellectual and spiritual joe. Sit back and let me pour you a cup or two. I promise not to cut you off, even after you get the caffeine jitters.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Geek Yearns for Yesteryear's Noisy Gear

In the midst of my craziness, I pass on this article to you because it strikes an emotional chord with me. I have memories that I share with this journalist. This is taken from Wired.com. Lore Sjoberg is one of my favorite journalists.

Commentary by Lore Sjöberg

I want to start out here by saying I'm totally in favor of progress when it comes to computers. I understand that I now have enough computing power on my desktop to send the Library of Congress to the moon, and I'm very pleased about that, because if nothing else it means I almost have enough power to navigate Orgrimmar without my frame rate dipping into single digits.

You're not going to hear me complaining about how kids these days don't know how to sharpen a slide rule or extract typewriter ink from the rare but majestic Underwood squid.

Having said that, I've been known to settle back in my easy chair, a snifter of brandy warming in my palm, and indulge in a bit of nostalgia. I'm very happy with the current state of computing, but I have to admit there's one thing I miss about the beige, boxy computers that kept me company through my childhood: The noises they made.

In particular, I miss the warm, grumpy sounds of the floppy drive. I remember sneaking into my grandparents' computer room -- that's right, my grandfather got me into computers; he is an awesome man -- at 6 in the morning, unable to wait until everyone's awake for another round of greenish videogaming. I extract a floppy, an actual floppy that flops, from the treasure-trove of pirated games and slide one into the drive. I switch it on and I'm greeted with a startled beep and a clatter from the hard drive, followed by a series of mechanical grunts as the machine wearily rummages for data.

Looking back, I'm reminded of a Victorian-era butler, awoken by the lord of the manor's young scion, deferentially performing whatever unreasonable duties have been laid upon him. "Yes, yes, you want to play Karateka again, of course, no rest for the weary, I'll just find the data for you shall I? You know, there's a lovely television in the living room, it could ... no, no, you want to punch things, of course, I understand, I'll have it for you in no time."

Better yet, when something went wrong you could hear it. Hell, you could practically feel it. The drive would respond to a corrupt disk with a scraping shudder that resonated in your spinal column. You didn't get a dialog box with an exclamation point and a polite boop, you got a death rattle.

While we're at it, I miss the screeching of the dot-matrix printer. It lent a certain urgency to the creation of yard-sale signs and book reports, like the cries of a thousand paperboys announcing the sinking of the Lusitania. Citizens gather around my printer and world leaders pause in their machinations to await the emergence of my latest document: ASCII art of Mr. Spock.

Skipping ahead about a decade, I also miss modem noise. I have DSL at home now, and the only indication of a healthy connection is a series of identical rectangular green lights. My old 2,400-baud modem used to inform me I was connecting to a dialup BBS with a miniature industrial symphony, the sound of two computers locating each other across a vast expanse like primates in the jungle, only one of the primates has 32-color pictures of naked women for the other primate.

Each new increase in modem speed brought with it new variations on the theme. I particularly enjoyed the whooshing sound of a landing spaceship that came with later, faster modems.

Apparently there are still people who connect using dialup, and Google has evidence that many of those people are searching for a way to turn the connection noises off. Don't do it, people! Treasure what you have, even if it puts your teeth on edge and makes the poodle lose its hair. You hold a small jewel of sonic expression that will soon be lost to the winds of progress. Or just get DSL, it's great.

2 comments:

clumsy ox said...

I freaked out a younger guy a couple years ago by dumping a filesystem to raw tape with tar. That sort of thing makes me feel old.

But then, I made a living on Alphaservers. If THAT don't make me feel old...

Danielle A. said...

No where near as technical... but sometimes I miss those Apple IIe's that our "computer science" classrooms had in elementary school. Complete with a floptastic floppy of "Oregon Trail". There was something about terrible graphics telling me I was going to die of the plague that left a warm place in my heart. :)