Monday, October 05, 2009

Do you remember what it was like to live before the internet?

Just ran across something I posted some time ago, on Charlie's Diary

"Do you remember what it was like to live before the internet, or mobile phones, or compact discs, or walkmen?"
I reflect on this thought, I was born in 1967.
To be honest, I really haven't seen almost anything change that I hadn't been directly involved with since I was about 7.
I mean computers have gotten faster and so has networking, but few other things really.
At 7 (1974) I had stolen Cable TV from the Neighbors and eventually got in a lot of trouble for it when I mom saw lots of my friends coming over to watch TV. We could never have afforded cable ourselves.
Built my first computer from scratch. I had a ton of reel to reel, record players, cassette and 8 track players that I gathered from the trash and repaired and sold. Also no shortage of broken Color TV's. Every TV I ever owned was savaged and repaired.
Had an LED based digital Watch from some holiday too. That was cool, since I could look around under the covers with the RED led light. I guess it would tell time too.
And by in large the most significant thing was watching the Twin Towers get erected from my kitchen window every day. But this is now gone.
Since then, by age 12 I had machined a 2 stroke engine from scratch and made a crude moped.
I had contracts programming Tandy model II and III computers for North Jersey Buick dealerships to help there salesmen provide a printout to customers with all of the cars features and a price encoded so the sales guys would know there price. At that point I had also been fixing broken CB radios for people and had acquired some from that.
Had built my own modem from scratch, and a number of telephone based gadgets.
At 14, (1981) I started making digital samplers and music synthesizers for what would be come some of the earliest Rap/hip hop/house and techno music in New York City. Based on TRS80's ,Commodore PET's and 64's.
By 16 I had acquired a CD player (1983) about 2 years before they came out in 1985.
There were no discs available and the Italians that had come across this secret Japanese technology brought it to me because they didn't know what to make of it when they inadvertently came in possession of a shipping container full of the players, I am sure they were hoping for Walkman or something they could sell.
I remember the joke was "it fell of the back of a ship *cough* " I am sure Sony is still wondering where that container went. Ironically if there weren't so protective of it and drew attention, they wouldn't have lost it.
At that point my life was mostly trying to hack government computers to get on the "NET" , crack long distance codes, and find ways to play games with the phone companies, credit cards, and credit bureaus (AKA Bastards).
We also had a packet based radio network amongst my friends and ran one of the largest BBS's on the east coast with 64 floppy drives connected to one TRS80 model III.
Also at 16 (1983) I did much of the heavy lifting to build a TV Studio and set up Public Access Channel V in Clifton New Jersey with grants from the local Cable TV provider, we had taken over 1/3 of the schools library to do this.
And at 17 while a high school senior was officially an employee of the board of education and still a student.
At this time we had finally finished downloading a pirated version of Unix Source code at 300 Baud and began a 5 year attempt to make that code run on PC's.
At 19/20 (1987) I was working at Stanford doing cancer research, where I first had legitimate access to the Internet at 10 Mbps. At this point I had uncompressed streaming audio and video across there campus network, and started selling the first commercial sound product for PC's the audio byte.
Come 1992 I posted 386BSD on to the Internet the first complete Open Source OS. It had been running for almost 4 years but the team at Berkeley was not publishing it. So when they decided to back out I took matters in to my own hands. The Internet has never been the same since being that was also the first clean source code for a TCP/IP stack, FTP, TELNET, DNS, and a whole mess of other Internet services.
So for me it's always seemed like this stuff is moving really slowly. I am constantly pounding to move these things forward in the right direction and overcome resistance.
The only thing I really appreciate is the improvements from Moores law.
The one technology that changed my life was Surface mount electronics and FPGA that have rendered much of my electronics skills useless.
Since for almost all of my work was done on close to zero cash, and FPGA's and surface mounts cost a lot of money to work with I have hit a wall there.
As such I have been relegated to software and also the push for GPL Linux because again, there is a lot of forces also trying to raise the cost of programming. Like M$, Adobe, Java, IBM, who's wonderful tools make it too expensive to the non cooperate no college types.
So I guess the few changes that have really effected my life has been negative.
Even the explosion of Internet technology was like me and my buddies had a private beach we loved to hang out on and suddenly it was open to a hoard of idiots that came in and trashed the place.
Leaving SPAM and garbage everywhere. Thank god for GOOGLE!
So here I sit some 33 years later doing almost the same thing, back hurts more now, but for the most part technology had only served to limit my options, and now days it's not nearly as easy to work around.
I can no longer fix my car, or build my own electronics or network and make calls without everything being monitored. I can't even Intercept the HDMI video going into my TV because it's all encrypted.
So where is the upside here? I guess I am a High Tech Luddite.

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