Reflections of a ModemJunkie

Summer Reverie Edition

by Leonard Grossman

I really don't know if it's just the time of year, but it's happening again. There are actually moments when I think I have been freed of this addiction. I actually went 10 days without touching a keyboard. Granted, I was in New Mexico on vacation. But I had taken my Sharp Wizard along in case I needed a quick fix and I never touched it. Never even unpacked its modem.

And since I've been back my time on line has definitely declined. I check my mail, peek at a couple of newsgroups. But some days I don't even look at the Web. What could be happening? In part it may be the Olympics. And I was reading a great book (Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Gunderson). Maybe, too, it's the cumbersome cast on my broken leg. There is no way to sit comfortably at the machine.

Maybe also its is the memory of the majesty of the mountains, the wonder of the colors, the fresh air, the exhilaration and the shared time spent with my wife instead of up here alone in my study.

But maybe it's also something else. As everyone gets online, maybe the uniqueness is wearing off. And as the Internet becomes more and more a commercial, multimedia, infotainment extravaganza, perhaps it is really not as interesting or as useful.

On the other hand it is becoming ubiquitous. In spite of the fact that only a small percentage of the population is online and that many of those who are haven't the slightest idea how to get their AOL software to work or to make use of it, it seems impossible to find a bill board or a t.v. ad without the mandatory "http://......" line at the bottom. If I could only get that Spinal Tap IBM Olympic promo out of my mind.

And although I never touched a keyboard in New Mexico, I discovered that virtually every business person I met either had a web page, or a connection to one (someone else listing his product or service) or intended to do so in the immediate future. This ranged from a company providing specialized telephone systems for prisons to Native American artists.

But many of the pages could be useful, many companies are being talked into including the latest, flashiest graphics and other new features on their pages. What are they paying for this flash and why?

When I want some information, I really don't want to spend online time downloading swirling globes, flashing marquees and figuring out how to manipulate frames. There are appropriate sites for such flash and bombast but as the judge said to me when criticizing my closing argument in a mock trial many years ago, "Some day you may have a case worthy of that level of histrionics, but I doubt it." The other day I found a notice that the once popular MPEG Movie Archive site had been closed permanently. It is in brilliant color with blinking type. It took more than a few seconds to load. What was the point. If you are going to close a site, don't make the surfer wait forever for the information. The same applies to price lists, product catalogs and so much more.

One of my sets of pages is devoted to images of stained glass windows. Of necessity, it includes a large number of images. But, even there, I have reduced the size of the images, and even separated the site into a number of pages to make viewing easier. For those who are interested, I have made many of the images available in higher resolution and larger size files, but I have given the viewer the choice. (By the way, you may enjoy the site: (

From the 50's to the 90's we became a nation of couch potatoes. The attempt seems now to turn us into mouse potatoes. I hope it doesn't happen. The computer is essentially a solitary activity. The its an advantage as well as disadvantage. It provides time out, separation, individual possibility. But there is also need for flesh and blood community.

If you think the battle for the channel remote is vicious now imagine what will happen when multimedia computers with wall size flat panel screens dominate our living rooms. With 50 million pages already, who will control the mouse? But that is a nightmare for the future.

Oddly, because of the time I spend up here online, I find that when I choose to watch t.v. I enjoy it more. It is a chosen activity rather than a habit. And often it is a shared experience, which computing will never be.

Now... Where will I stay when I go back to the mountains? There is that Taos website. Let me check their recommendations...

Copyright 1996 Leonard Grossman

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