I first started working with computers in 1968. They looked a whole lot different then. A computer was a line of metal cabinets that filled a room the size of a house. It read in stacks of cards, and printed out piles of paper. That’s pretty much all it did. A computer did not show pictures, did not sit on people’s laps, did not link to other computers, did hardly any of the things we expect them to do today.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” I heard that somebody said that once. It seems like a great tag line for this piece that I’m writing now. But who said it? Am I remembering it correctly?
In 1968, I might have gone to the library, looked for it in books, and found it within a few hours. Just now, I did a Google search, and, in a few seconds, got back the information that who said it was Alphonse Karr; and that what he actually said was, “The more things change, the more they are the same”. Thanks to a collosal network of mind-boggling computer power, I can almost instantly pull this one small drop out of a vast sea of information
Computer things have changed enormously. And yet I still find a lot of wisdom in Alphonse’s quote. The Internet tells me that he was a French critic, who lived from 1808 to 1890, about whom Amazon has several books and posters for sale. I picture him sitting in a Paris café, sipping wine and trading quotable quotes with artists and writers. What else did he do? It would be easy to find out. I could follow this trail of information from web server to web server, letting seconds become minutes, minutes become hours, days, weeks…. could, but won’t … but there are other trails that I have followed for years, without ever coming close to the end of them.
As you might expect, knowing that I was working with computers in the 1960’s, I am the kind of person who spends a lot of time in libraries. I have wandered among seemingly endless shelves of books, wistfully wondering at the impossibility of reading them all. Today, the contents of all those books would fit comfortably on my “c” drive. But what difference does that really make?
Knowledge has no limit. There is always more to know than you can possibly learn. And always has been – that is something that actually has not changed. I think, though, that before the Internet, this was not something that mattered to most people. You had to be a nerd like me to even be aware of it. Today, anyone can share the experience of losing themselves in the information ocean.
Do you still loose yourself in the information ocean?
Thanks to Ed, my husband and best friend, for this guest post. I am honored to have him as a guest. He may visit again sometime.