How’s this for a milestone in your life: A few weeks ago, I bought my first TV. Yes, that’s right – 32 years of living and I’ve only just gotten around to actually owning one. Personally I think that’s a good thing. I’d like to say that my life is packed to the gills with extraordinary social demands, much like my cousin, but most of you know that I’ve been something of an itinerant and so the reality is that I’ve basically just watched other people’s all this time.
Anyway, yes. That wasn’t my point. This new telly, which is really nice but thoroughly underwhelming, is ‘Internet-ready’. I hooked it up with a piece of RJ-45, logged into my Youtube account, and for some reason searched for Atari ST (honestly, it was a mindless search). I then noticed one video in particular, chuckled to myself, and hit play.
Rox walked into the room, snort-laughed, and asked me what on earth I was playing. It’s just a shitty low-resolution scroller with a digitised (mono!) version of a chart-topping 80’s dance hit. But the thing is, this demo is one of the first examples that I can remember of hearing ‘proper’ music (i.e not synthesised) on a computer. Think about it. This is long before the advent of Fraunhofer’s cash-cow (the MP3 format) and its subsequent ubiquity on almost every device known to man. We take all that so much for granted now, but once upon a time it was a genuinely amazing thing to behold, at least to my then 14-year-old ears.
I know, I know – you can go back way further than that to before computers made any sound at all, to when it was all black and white and so on, but what I’m driving at is this: When was the last time you were genuinely amazed by a piece of technology? Like you actually stood back and thought “holy shit, this is amazing!”. Maybe I’m just old and jaded, but that never happens these days. Sure, Apple’s iPad is awesome and I understand its potential implications but it didn’t give me a boner in the same way that playing IK+ on the Amiga for the first time did, or seeing the 3Dfx technology demos did, or hearing that demo.
The irony of all this isn’t lost on me: I’m sat here on my Apple laptop, milled out a solid billet of aluminium, with a dual-core processor and 4GB of RAM, effectively running a portable datacentre inside virtual machines. 18 years ago I’d have never imagined such things would be possible (mind you, I don’t think I’d have come up with something so mundane), and it SHOULD be amazing but somehow it isn’t – the magic of these devices and the advances in technology just don’t seem to be what they used to be.
I remember when it was all fields around here…