This article on Slate brought me back to the mid/late 1990s and early 2000s when my brother and I shared the family computer (which was really my dad’s computer; my mom never had any interest in it). I don’t remember what the computer itself looked like, but I remember that the monitor was one of those huge, ungainly CRT things that my dad pulled out of the garbage at IBM, where he worked. Beside the computer was a stack of floppy disks, another stack of computer game CDs, and an Artemide Tizio desk lamp, on which my brother and I used to hang action figures and small stuffed animals. I remember that my dad hated when we did that because the lamp was expensive. We had Windows 95 back then, and to this day, I still believe it is the best operating system that ever was.
My brother and I spent so much time playing games on the computer, and those are some of the best memories I have. We’d play all day during the summer, and we would attempt to take turns on the computer, which sometimes became a fight that my dad would have to break up. Then I’d go to my room and read when it was my brother’s turn, which, to a great degree, was better than all the silly games we played on the computer.
The article talks about how playing (or working) on the computer was once a shared family past-time but is now a solo endeavor because where there used to be just a family computer, there are now computing devices for every family member. Laptops, cell phones, and tablets all make the Internet portable and personal, so one can easily retreat to his bedroom or another enclosed space with his device, with no need to share it.
Back in the day of the family computer, you had to interact with people to share the use of the computer. You were the audience when your siblings were playing games. Nothing you did was really private because a parent or a sibling could walk up to you at any time because you had no claim over the computer. It belonged to everyone. I think it should still be this way. Computers and the Internet can too easily be used for evil or for aimlessly wasting time. Sharing a computer can prevent “ownership” of the device and remind us that we are still in a world with other people. Maybe those people would like to “play” with us, so we’d be better off turning away from the screen.