Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Blurring Line Between PC and Man

Before I begin, let's keep in mind that "PC" refers to computers -- ie desktop, notebook and ultra-portable computers -- as opposed to those devices that run Microsoft Windows-based operating systems. In other words, I'm not excluding the few among us who use Apple/Mac machines. And frankly, if I were to apply the "PC" label to machines that ran Microsoft Windows, that label would -- these days, anyway -- apply to Macs as well. So pfffft.

The blurring line to which I'm referring is the obvious, impending merger between machine and man that Rush once observed back in 1980 (Red Barcheta, if you must know).

But the merger between machine and man described a young boy's lust for a vintage Ferrari, not an overclocked quad-core Intel chip that could, virtually speaking, roast that Ferrari and any Ferrari put to the road since then.

Thing is, as much as we may decry or resist -- and I don't count myself among those who do -- it is fairly certain that the world has become one with the Internet. Aside from medical procedures and food and there's nothing out there that isn't readily and safely available online. Name something that can be purchased with a credit card and I can find a site where it's available and can be provided to you either electronically or via some sort of shipping service. Yes, that includes one-legged Filipino hookers. But jeez -- how cliche!

The point I'm trying to make is not that I am Captain Obvious, but rather that as the Internet and technology run rampant over and throughout our daily lives, we suddenly can see even more intrusion. For example, we procured a Blackberry Curve for my mom this afternoon. She now has four different e-mail addresses. She doesn't necessarily know all four of them -- but she's got them handy in her purse whenever she wants to send or check e-mail.

Over the past several weeks I got about a dozen or so Facebook friend requests from people all over the place. Finally I relented and logged in for the second time since I joined Facebook in the first place. And like AIM, chatrooms and live-action forums before it, it's like a Mall of Friendship and Relaxation. I know -- in theory -- that it's a site dedicated to people networking and interweaving relationships, but -- let's be honest -- if you want cheap, quick, tawdry sex, you go to AdultFriendFinder. If you want to hang out with some friends but you're in the back end of a 36-hour road trip through Wyoming and you have internet access in your Motel 6 mini-suite, it's Facebook or Channel 6.

More and more frequently, I find the TV plays less and less significance in my life, and the PC has more significance in my day-to-day activities. Not only do I rely on it for work in the office and writing at night and on the weekends, I'm consistently amazed how I do in-store research with the Blackberry before buying something of semi-importance (ie anything that involves more committment than a box of cereal or some similarly insignificant food product). I'm actually guilty of being outside a theater with friends and using the Blackberry while on the movie line to see what times movies were playing at the theater we were at.

I haven't -- not yet, anyway -- used the Blackberry's browser to order food online on the way home so it gets to my house sooner. But I'm sure that's down the road -- no pun intended.

The point is, as our world becomes more and more digital -- pictures, music, movies, communication -- the computer (and the network which permits us to communicate using same) has become not crucial but more than that. The main question I have people ask themselves is this: if you arrived home to find both your internet and your television were not working, and if you could snap your fingers and magically have one function but the other not for 24 hours, which would you pick?

Invariably, ten years ago, the answer would universally be the television. These days, I've found it's the opposite. Feel free to sound off if you'd like, but I know that my experience has me leaving the Harmony (my remote) in the charging cradle and I've landed in front of the PC to write, contact friends, update guest lists and do some research. If the TV is on, it's in the background and -- invariably -- I'm unaware it's on (unless it's the Yankees, in which case -- thanks to their awful season -- I only wish I was unaware it was on).

In either case, the thing that really blows my mind is that the evolution of digital communication continues, and I'm not referring to the purchase of a Blackberry. I refer to Facebook.

Last night I punched in about 30 people into my "network" and then, today, as I made my way from one point to another in the City, I happened to download the Facebook client for my Blackberry. My PC knew I had done that and reported it right there on the screen. So now my PC is keeping track of me. And every time I changed my status -- from sleeping to working to nodding off to cleaning up the closet missing a back wall -- the machine let people know my every move.

It's like C3P0, except it's not sporting an English accent and it's certainly not looking after me.

I think the days of the home PC being an "optional" thing are far, far behind us, as are the people who deem them optional.


Heidi said...

For the record, it wasn't a Motel 6 in Wyoming.. it was an Econolodge in Elko, NV and Custer, SD.

Boogie said...

For what record, the commitment hearings? ;-)

And was it one Econolodge that somehow bordered both Elko, NV, and Custer, SD? Was there some sort of time-warp or Stargate?

Or was it just a really stinky room? :-)