An Ode to the Information Age and Progress
Updated: Feb 1, 2021
Some of us are frustrated that an app doesn’t work the way we expect it to work, have tendencies to call and speak to IT customer support in a snide manner or become perplexed when we are first learning a new software program…. When do we take the time to think and appreciate what is really going on in the age in which we live in?
I remember a defining moment, in 1993 when University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Professor E. Bruce McDougall, Ph. D. Told us to invest in the World Wide Web. I felt as though, everyone of those souls, sitting in that very classroom, on the fourth floor of the very grungy, Hills North, hit pay dirt. We have just been given the clarity as to why we chose to be in that very program. Bruce told us to email him and in turn, he will respond with our assignments. I don’t know about the other students, but I took a ten-minute walk to the W.E.B. Dubois Library, used the elevator and or sometimes took the stairs to the tenth floor where the dial-up network desktop computers were in windowless room, imitating a phone booth for ultimate privacy. I would not give up on the screeching sound of the dial up connection and the five to ten minutes it would take to connect. The orange cursor blinked slow, the tall keys clicked loudly, the DOS-like, pixelated letters, were in a way, borderline, intimidating. After the first message was send forty minutes after initially deciding to send an email, I would leave only to return a half a day later hoping that the assignment had been emailed back. All because we had faith in what Bruce was telling us was truly the wave of the future coupled by knowing that we had no choice but to experience this World Wide Web thing, this new way of communicating and sharing of information first hand.
Fast forward to today, almost thirty years later, I am grappling with the amount of the unfathomable progress and evolution. The UMass LARP students are in the most beautiful building on campus and some can argue the most structurally significant building to the east of the Mississippi River. The reflection of so many great industries, governments, partnerships, inventions, visionaries, mathematicians, artists, startups, not to mention our advancing cultures and societies. We need to be appreciative of Tim Berners-Lee, Robert E. Kahn (TCP/IP) and Vint Cerf, and so many before and with them for the advent of we now know today as “The Internet”. Additional appreciation goes out to Richard Stallman for his open-source software invention and all of the engineers and programmers that share their wisdom to propel computer science at dizzying rates. Lastly, for the absurd, but true fact that one smart phone has more computing power than the whole world did in the 1970s.
If we give ourselves the luxury to reflect on today's technology, dare I say, that there is almost no time to be frustrated about an app not working the way we expect it to work, or would even consider treating IT customer support with nothing but the ultimate respect, kindness and admiration for their brilliance and foresight to venture into the world of computer science. We can simply appreciate the fact that each time we learn these technologies, synaptic connections are being added to the already trillions of connections within our individual brains not to mention the connections we make within our cultures, communities and world as a most inspirational by-product.
I am very grateful to be in existence during the information age and that these perplexities are in one way, diminishing while new perplexities are being welcomed with open arms as we evolve into a new, ever-expanding species and the universe beyond.
View of UMass from the top of Goat's Peak lookout.