The Future

This Tweet could be my life

The internet has a weird way of making you feel at home
The Future

This Tweet could be my life

The internet has a weird way of making you feel at home

I can’t stop looking at this picture.

I was a very young nerd. I didn’t have very many friends. I didn’t socialize well. I was enamored with technology — and with how things worked — from a very early age. When I was 6 or 7 I would get my parents to take me to Radio Shack so that I could peruse its aisles of transistors, wires, and switches. I would buy random combos of little lights, toggles, and minuscule motors and build meaningless machines, which I found endlessly fascinating. I was extremely curious. Probably too curious. Around this same time, I dissected our pet fish after it died to see what it looked like inside. I wasn’t scared or weirded it out by this — I just wanted to understand it better. My mother let me keep it in the freezer for a little while. She probably thought I was insane.

When I looked at the picture in this Tweet, it was like looking at a childhood that was mine, but wasn’t. That desk has an eerie familiarity to it. That desk was my whole world when I was a kid.

My first computer was a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A. My second computer was a discount Coleco Adam, an add-on to the doomed ColecoVision game system which my brother and I played religiously. The software for the Adam came on cassette tapes and took forever to load. I was obsessed with the game Buck Rogers, a notoriously hard sci-fi space shooter.

Eventually, I discovered the PC. The PC-XT to be exact (the above image is a PC-AT, the second generation of the DOS-based computers). My father bought me one of the later models with a 10MB hard drive installed. The monitor was CGA (4 colors), but I think I eventually upgraded to EGA, which meant that it could produce a maximum of 16 colors. Black, gray, blue, light blue, green, light green, cyan, light cyan, red, light red, magenta, light magenta, brown, yellow, light gray, and white.

My XT was the most incredible piece of technology that I had ever used. It was the first line of “personal computers” produced by IBM, when IBM still cared about consumers, and it was magic. It had expansion slots in the back. It had a 5 1/4-inch floppy disk drive. It beeped loudly if you pressed on too many keys at once. And it would do pretty much anything a computer was capable of doing in the mid-80s to early-90s — which put unbelievable control into my greedy, nerdy hands. I played The Bard’s Tale endlessly. I played Space Quest. I really wanted to play Leisure Suit Larry but I wasn’t allowed. I dialed into the earliest BBS’s I could find on a 1200 baud modem we had (an external expansion). I got into trouble. The PC-XT was my best and most loyal friend.

I can’t stop looking at this picture. A rendering of a desk somewhere by the artist Daniel Karner. He made the image in 2010, rendered in 3DS Max, but it depicts a scene in 1991 — a scene I feel strangely, longingly at home inside of. There is an Uncanny Valley quality to this that makes me feel ill at ease, almost seasick. And yet, it also makes some kind of perfect, symmetrical sense. A tweet of an image, broadcast around the world, produced by a computer in the two-thousand-aughts, rendering a scene from my childhood, made by an artist in Germany.

The future is weird. The future is great.

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