Colossal Pilasters
An Observation, Updated Fridays


Imponderables


by Mike Czaplinski, Noted Crackpot


Life is full of imponderables.

How can a benevolent and all-knowing God of Mercy allow the abject suffering in the world?

Why do fools fall in love?

Why did Toho Studios letterbox "Godzilla Vs. Hedorah" (aka "Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster")?

But, for me, the biggest imponderable is:

Why do people think the Internet's so goddamned special?

I mean: computers are just glorified pocket calculators hooked to a televison set, and the various computer networking schemes in use are, ultimately, all descendents of the ubiquitous telephone system invented by Alexander Graham Bell (who was, himself, inspired by broken telegraph equipment). And despite all the fancy-schmancy pictures it transmitts, what's the most widespread uses for these magic boxes of sand? Email. The transmission of straight text.

But, if you get your news solely from USA TODAY or CNN, you'd think that the only people using the Internet are the Unabomber, sexual predators who want to meet 10 year old boys who dress in leather Little Bo-Peep costumes (swastika armband added for the white supremicist pedophiles), or pale doughy guys who want better pictures of Pamela Anderson's chesticalmammilary development than they get watching that very special episode of BAYWATCH five nights a week.

What gets me even more ticked off is the behavior of people on the 'net who claim to be net.veterans (Hell, some of them have the hubris to declare themselves to be net.gods). They act like the 'net is their private preserve, a digital Shangri-La that is being polluted by people who don't have the time or inclination to wrestle with loading SunOS from a paper tape and debugging the code with an abacus when they can't ping their ISP's main server. I used to take umbrage at people who claimed that the 'net was full of self-important snobs who had nothing better to do with their time than cut down others for no apparent reason, until this guy named Carl (a noted net.personality on some list somewhere, I gather) flamed one of my posts to the Usenet group alt.folklore.urban. Now, normally such behavior doesn't really bother me, but the message he chose to rip me for was one where I acknowledged some factual errors in a previous post on the subject (which was "Has Anyone Ever Been Electrocuted by a Telephone?"), that had been pointed out by another poster. In essense: he abused me for admitting I was wrong and being a good sport.

Now, I'm sure that in person, Carl would never have behaved in such a troll-like manner. Yet, behavior like this goes on all the time on the 'net, where people who would never consider spraypainting expletives on your car have no compunction over cracking into your webserver & altering your homepage to make it appear that your hobbies are wearing latex and rubbing curdled milk on gerbils to the strains of Mantovani records. Whether someone is a complete novice, or whether they actually do know that things like Three-Way Handshaking isn't some Masonic ritual but is part of the connection process used by certain TCP/IP applications like telnet or ftp, they seem to let the anonymity of the Internet go to their heads.

I find it fascinating that the things that people are saying about the potential of the Internet (bringing the world together, allowing for better education, whiter teeth, fresher breath etc.) are almost word-for-word the same things people said in the middle part of the century about Television. 50 years from now, people will look back on all the hype about the "Information Superhighway" and laugh the way we do about all the rosy TV prophets' (and I'm not talking about people like Billy Graham) proclamations.

That is, unless our descendants have wiped out all the old files from their disks to make more room for pictures of Pamela Anderson's chesticalmammilary development, which by that time will probably look quite a lot like the "Ascent of Man" painting.

If you'd like to comment on this column, please email me.

If you're Carl and you want to abuse me for taking your name in vain, save us both the ulcer and send a letter to president@whitehouse.gov.

Till Next Time,
Mike


Copyright ©1996 Mike Czaplinski
mike.czaplinski@washingtondc.ncr.com

No matter what my e-mail address may say, I don't speak for NCR, and the fact that I'm compelled to say so is a sad, sad commentary on the lack of common sense prevalent in our overly litigious society. Nyah.


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