I was cleaning my netbook earlier. It was making these weird noises as if it was choking, and on taking it apart I found the fan was full of dust and muck. So I cleaned it and then looked at it. Really looked at it. And I went off on a reverie.
Pretty much all I do, all I think and all I create is contained on the hard drive in the picture above. And it suddenly struck me as how remarkable that was, and how fast it’s happened. How incredibly fast.
Take music. When I first got into music there was tape. To record anything of worth you HAD to rent a recording studio, and the equipment therein cost a small fortune – literally. Tracks were laid down on damn great reels of expensive two inch tape and mastered onto reels of quarter inch tape … and there was tape hiss. Oh, if you had another small fortune you could remove most of it, but never all. Hiss was part and parcel of recording, then.
Computers took a while to infiltrate. But the incredible thing was that the programs you used were elegant and tiny. They had to be because RAM was finite, and again, cost an arm and a leg.
Now, any idiot with a laptop can record an album. Without tape hiss. Without tape. Now programs are huge and bloated because elegant code doesn’t matter anymore – RAM is cheap.
Then: longhand delivered for someone to type out. Edit it with red pen and re-type. Rinse and repeat. To become a writer you really had to want to write!
Now: open up program of choice and off you go. A gazillion websites inflate ‘writers’ egos. Some even make it. NaNoWriMo (I’ll say no more).
Then: actual film stock. Twenty four or thirty six shots on a roll. Develop and print in a darkroom.
Now: digital. Snap as many as you want because you’re bound to find one good, usable shot. If not, photoshop it. Bing bang boom, done and dusted. Deliver the ‘product’ by email. No more messengers on motorbikes.
Then: actual film and cameras and crews, etc.
Now: digital cameras and storage. Make a documentary during lunch; a feature film over the weekend. Edit at home (oh, and write the music too, if you fancy it).
Those bits and bobs stuck to the motherboard behind the hard drive in the photo above are enablers. Art is no longer precious or special. Art is everymans and everyman is an artist.
This blog wouldn’t be here without my baby netbook. Neither would my music be available all over the world, or Midnight Dude, the book I wrote a story for and typeset.
I wouldn’t know the wonderful (albeit virtual) people and friends I’ve met on-line, and I wouldn’t have websites to visit and loiter away my life on….
It was at this point my reverie ended. I looked at the cat as I put the back cover on and fumbled with its screws. Percy’s real. He’s not an avatar. Neither is he a trainable toy that follows me around the house meowling until, in a fit of pique, I remove the batteries.
I look out of the window. The garden fence I fixed this morning is still standing. Its real, not virtual. As am I, for my sins. But with the rate of change; with the rate of human invention, for how long? How long will it be until I’m just a virtual plaything? How long before the real and the virtual blur so much it becomes impossible to tell the difference?
Without a shadow of a doubt computers have changed our lives; my life. But is it really for the better, or should the Luddites rise again before it is too late?