Life as an Extreme Sport

Concluding Nostalgia

A running train of thought on the conluding passages of Ceruzzi’s A History of Modern Computing.

Phillip intimates that we’re beyond postmodernism – how does he see it, then? Apple still follows a very modernist conception of business, controlling every aspect of its product and (save for a brief period in the early 1990s) not allowing anyone else to produce finalized hardware models. Or is that the key – that although they control the end product and look very vertical on the surface, they have actually differentiated out and adopted a postmodern strategy of allowing many other companies to make parts that are only assembled into a final Mac-whole at the end of the production cycle?

One could apparently make an arguement for Apple following either vertical or horizaontal market – is this a new post-postmodern world where both models live and function side by side, depending on benefit offered, or have I missed some inherant structural mark that would clearly separate a niche company back to modernist vertical structure or plant it firmly in the distributed network of the postmodern?

Reading this book is a trip down my childhood memory lane. It’s so strange to think there are people out there for whom Gopher is just a mascot, Mosaic is something you do with tiles, and BBS makes no sense whatsoever. People for whom cupular modems, baud, hell – external modems – are just odd and fragmentary parts of the digital past. For me, each ghost brings a fond memory, a smile, and a realization of shaping leading to who I am today.

It’s interesting that Ceruzzi asks if we can anticipate “the dark side of networked digital computing” – after all, isn’t that what William Gibson did with Neuromancer, back at the very advent of the personal computer? Isn’t this prediction of the dark side what an entire genre of storytelling has been based on – Neuromancer, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Spider and Jean Robinson’s neural net addiction books, Neal Stephenson, even the entire cyberpunk movement?

One could even argue that writers like H.G. Wells predicted the chaos and conjestion caused by the car and ensuing social changes, but this would admittedly be tenuous connections at best. But those above authors and stories can hardly be dismissed as tenuous – their inspiration directly stems from the advances made in technology and their writing the predictions of horrors that could come from it.