by Eric Schwartz
from The AmiTech Gazette, March 2013
I was involved with the Amiga since I was a teenager. Before that I used a Commodore 64, among other computers, and Atari game machines before that. Today I'm in my forties, and looking back I realize my own life has followed the history of home computers, from nonnetworked game devices to the Internet-dependent portable wireless devices of today. I shudder to think how I might have fared if I had to grow up in today's world where any careless release of information might open you up to spammers, identity thieves, cyber-bullies, or the nation of China. I certainly made enough mistakes in days when the stakes weren't quite as high. Who knows what's to come in the future, when the old-folks homes are full of the Internet generations.
One of the interesting things about technology is, given the right mix of popularity, usefulness, availability, and affordability, it becomes something "everyone has." Of course, obviously not everyone on Earth has it, but it's ubiquitous enough that most people you know probably do, and it suddenly becomes strange to deal with someone who doesn't. Possibly inconvenient too, such as when the assumption is "everyone" can get a message on their voicemail or answering machine or mobile or e-mail, and you find the exception. Myself, I don't always fit the profile of "everyone," and often fall behind the pack sometimes, or ahead at others. In earlier times, things such as telephones and radios moved from status symbols to standard equipment in most homes. Later it was television. At one time, it wasn't considered unusual not to own a television at all, while now many have several, and if someone says they have none at all, they are assumed to be either impoverished or some kind of elitist snob. In the eighties, having a computer in the house slowly gained more and more acceptance as a regular thing, and in the following decade having at least one of those computers connected to the Internet followed. In the early nineties, being "on the net" was considered largely the exclusive domain of the nerds and geeks by the general populace, where less than a decade later it became to domain of pretty much anyone and everyone (possibly to the chagrin of those nerds and geeks who knew how to conduct themselves). The new "everyone" is rapidly adopting Internet-connected smartphones and similar devices, to the point where they could even supplant those other things everyone once had, like land-line phones, digital cameras, and maybe even home televisions and computers.
As I mentioned previously. I don't always fit the "everyone" mold, and my preferences and priorities aren't always the norm. My life as an Amiga user is probably testament to that. I've also grabbed onto a piece of tech here or there that didn't catch on with the general public, though I used it and liked it myself. I've worked with the earlier generations of digital cameras by Sony that used floppy discs and CDs. I've never owned an iPod or any other personal digital music player, at least not any where that was its sole function. My mobile MP3 players always had at least one other function -- a PDA, a computer, an automobile. Speaking of PDAs, I've had two by Palm, neither of which functioned as a phone (even though Palm kinda pioneered the concept). It took a very long time before I finally got a mobile phone, well beyond that point where the proverbial everyone already had them. I didn't go for the smartphone, instead choosing the minimum for cost and worry. When your phone costs fifteen dollars, you don't feel all that bad if it gets a little dinged up, unlike a five hundred-plus dollar iPhone with an equally pricey data plan. It also helps that I didn't really expect to be repeatedly consulting some net-connected app while buying groceries or driving or taking pictures of my dinner. To take up that slack, I have the new tablet I've mentioned over the last few months of articles. I'm probably using it wrong though, as unlike many I'm not using it as a window to Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or FlibbleFlorts or Skibbles or Monkeyfist or whatever else, though I do play Angry Birds. I've been trying to use it for art and graphics (why I got the Galaxy Note with the pen), even though it may not be as suited to the task as a desktop or laptop computer. It's enjoyable, gives me room to grow and learn, which reminds me of the fond feelings I had in my early days when I was coming to grips with the Amiga. The real point is it's useful and fun at the same time, which is sort of the point of a tech toy, no matter if it's a console radio or a mobile media device, no matter if "everyone else" has one or not.