It's a new year, and you know what that means:
time for the annual Geek Assessment. Your favorite
Geek can't pass up this opportunity to glance
back--and look ahead.
The Internet as we think of it is six years old
now. To my mind it became a medium with the release
of Netscape in December of 1994. Most people hadn't
heard of the Internet back then. There were no
ubiquitous URLs on TV or in ads. Now today the
Internet commonplace and utterly intertwined with
How could we have come so far in six years? From
a handful of web pages to hundreds of millions.
From having almost no concept of an online world to
the now familiar notion that nearly anything you
want is available via this worldwide network.
I spent New Year's Day going through my
bookmarks, or favorites, in my web browser. (Now
that's Geek for you--ring in the new year by going
through your bookmarks.) I was surprised that many
of the older sites no longer existed or had merged
So Geek will now speak two fundamental truths:
1) we now have in our minds a new concept of a
universal entity of almost unlimited, freely
available resources, and 2) that entity is
constantly changing, evolving, and growing.
And where it's going, nobody knows, unless
perhaps it itself does. (Hello, Hal. This is, after
all, the year 2001. Visionary John Perry Barlow
says that the net is using us to create
But I do think we can hazard a guess in regard
to this trend. It seems to be a move toward
everything everywhere. With the ubiquity and
universality of the web, with wireless
communication, with the inexorable move toward
putting everything online, we will soon seemingly
have everything everywhere. That's Geek fundamental
truth number three.
Which brings my to my real point. I wanna tell
you about this new gizmo in my pocket. It's a
Pocket PC, and it is Geek bliss. Of course, like a
Palm Pilot, it keeps my schedule and contacts and
all that mundane stuff. But it does so much more. I
have my favorite MP3 songs on it. I can send e-mail
and surf the Internet. I can record voice memos. It
has Pocket PC versions of Microsoft Word and Excel.
I can use it to read eBooks. I can even download
full-length movies and watch them on the little
screen. I can play chess, solitaire, shoot down
missiles, play Pac Man. I can add a GPS card so
that I can literally always know where in the world
The Geek's toy is a good example of Truth #3:
everything everywhere. Of course, some of it's
silly--like who wants to watch a movie on a tiny
screen? But other aspects of it have changed the
way I see things.
Let's take eBooks. There are thousands of eBooks
that one can download freely on the Internet, and
hundreds of current titles that one can purchase.
No I don't prefer reading a book on this small
screen compared to reading a printed page. But
there are so many occasions when it's not
convenient to have that printed page with me.
My Pocket PC is always in my pocket. Think of
how often you're stuck waiting someplace and how
convenient it would be to always have a small
library with you. Currently I'm using these
snippets of time to read the autobiography of
Benjamin Franklin. (And appreciating the rich irony
that as a teenager he began his working life in the
family print shop and began his rise to fame by
writing, printing, and distributing his own
pseudonymous work. Today he'd no doubt have his own
Anyway, that's the Geek's own personal example
of everything everywhere. It's as if there are
infinite resources in this small device and that I
can always have them with me. If I had a wireless
modem, then I could literally always be connected
to this worldwide network of communication and
information and resources.
All of this has happened to me in six years,
from no concept of a worldwide network to the
palpable experience of having everything in my
pocket wherever I am. Just the quotidian
familiarity of the notion is as astounding as the
reality of the technology.
We Geeks have won the day.
© 2001 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.