Sharing a Computer

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.

Seven Deadly Sites

I read a cool article that compared different social media sites to the seven deadly sins (so I guess in a way, the author was saying that the Internet was hell?), but I found that some of them weren’t totally accurate (at least not for me), so I reworked the list. Here’s the original:

Lust = Tinder (It’s some kind of dating site, but I’ve never used it.)
Gluttony = Instagram (Because people post pictures of food.)
Greed = LinkedIn (More money, more jobs, more problems.)
Sloth = Netflix (It’s not social media, but the comparison is accurate.)
Wrath = Twitter (Oh, so many heated arguments about nothing!)
Envy = Pinterest (Because people post so many perfect-looking projects.)
Pride = Medium (I’ve never heard of it.) or Facebook (People posting about themselves all the time.)

Here are mine, but they’re not strictly social media:

Lust = 4chan or porn sites (Seems like those are the granddaddy of lustful temptation, not necessarily Tinder.)
Gluttony = Pinterest (I’m not on Instagram, so I see more food and recipes on Pinterest.)
Greed = Tumblr (I follow a lot of notebook and journaling blogs, and I want to buy everything I see on there.) or Amazon (for obvious reasons)
Sloth = YouTube (I watch more YouTube than Netflix, and it’s so easy to say “just one more video… it’s only 3 minutes!”)
Wrath = or any news site (The world has so many problems that it makes me angry.)
Envy = Blessed Is She (Ironically an uplifting Catholic site, but it makes me envious because the site features those who are much better writers than me.)
Pride = WordPress (I’ve debated many times about whether I should shut down my blog because I’m trying to figure out why I’m posting. To show off or because I honestly love writing? This is my main Internet home, so in a way it’s my Facebook—I don’t think I could ever give it up.)

What are your seven deadly sites?

Am I Driving My Car, or Is It Driving Me?

This post is more or less a Luddite’s rant about new technology. So here goes. 🙂 I was forced to get a new car when my old one tragically passed away in an accident this past June. I’ve always been nervous about driving a new car or someone else’s car because… what if I crash it? What if I can’t adjust the seat properly? Am I responsible enough to have a brand new car? Why are you trusting me to drive your car? My name isn’t on your insurance! (And so on and so forth.)

Anyway, I got a Chevrolet Cruze and the best things about it are that it (a) gets really good gas mileage, (2) is my favorite color, and (3) has an antenna that reminds me of a fish’s fin. The worst thing about it is that it’s more or less a computer on wheels, and even the base model (which I have) has a ton of unnecessary features. The car has its own WiFi, an “infotainment” system, power windows (my old car had manual roll-up windows, which I liked because it was old-school), a backup camera, Bluetooth (so you can connect your cell phone to your car and make calls or look up stuff on YouTube), a USB port instead of a CD player (so now I have to rip all of my gazillion CDs onto a flash drive… *sigh*), and an automatic stop feature that supposedly saves gas. (When you press the brake, the car shuts off. It’s really weird.) The car would have had SiriusXM radio, but I opted out of it.

The car also came with a three-month trial of OnStar, which I let expire. Less than a day after the expiration date, a sales representative called me up to convince me to re-enroll in the service. Apparently, if you ever get in an accident, the car will automatically use OnStar to call emergency services. The sales representative made it seem like I would get in a horrendous accident and no one would be around to help me if I didn’t have OnStar. Well, that might be true if I was driving in the middle of nowhere or in the middle of the night when nobody’s around, but that doesn’t often happen. I wondered what people did before the onset of all this new technology. I thought about my old car, which had hardly any technological features. After I got in the accident back in June, the emergency services all showed up immediately. No OnStar needed. The only thing OnStar is really good for is the navigation system, but again… what did people do before GPS? I think it was called a map, and I think it was printed on something called paper.

Now about that “infotainment” system… I find it hilarious that as soon as you turn the radio on, a pop-up message appears on the screen and tells you that pop-up messages might distract you while you’re driving. That’s one of the dangers of connecting your phone to your car via BlueTooth: text messages from your phone appear on your car’s screen and absolutely could be a distraction while driving. So I resisted connecting my phone to my car, mostly because I don’t like talking on the phone while driving anyway. Some cars (I think mostly minivans) even have little TVs in the backs of the seats, which are meant to entertain children but really end up distracting the people who are driving behind the vehicle with the built-in TVs. When I was a kid, I listened to books on tape when I was in the car. Or I brought a stuffed animal (or five million Beanie Babies). Maybe those simple things aren’t good enough for kids these days.

There is also a creepy vibe behind the technology. When I had the free trial of OnStar, the car would send me a diagnostics report every month that told me how good a driver I had been. Somehow it calculated my driving score by keeping records of how hard I pressed the brakes, how quickly I accelerated, and what times of the day I drove. I sometimes wonder if the car had secretly recorded all the times when I started to sing out loud (and off-key) to my favorite songs or ranted about the other crazy drivers all around me. So I live in fear that if I ever commit a crime, the car might be able to go to court and testify against me. However, that’s not to totally reject all the computerized features. I like when the car tells me it needs an oil change, one of the tires needs air, or how many miles it can go before it needs gas again. The backup camera is also extremely useful, especially for me because I hate backing out of spaces. (I think they are making the backup camera a mandatory feature on all cars sometime in the near future.)

The dilemma with all this new technology is this: Do you allow it into your life for safety’s sake and the sheer convenience, or do you shut it out of your life to maintain your privacy and focus? The whole thing makes me think of a science fiction novel in which cars come to life and take over the world (sort of like Christine or Transformers but much more sinister), which gave me an awesome idea for a future NaNoWriMo story, but that’s a separate post.

Is this a friendly face, or an evil grin that’s plotting mischief? Only the auto makers know… or do they?