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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

COMPUTER GAMES

I was told repeatedly as a child that computers were going to solve all of our problems. And once upon a time I believed that. The problem was I failed to get a definition of what “our” meant in that context.
Since September 9, 1945, when a moth was crushed by a relay in the Mark II Computer at Harvard University, and became the first documented computer bug, these computing machines have shrunk in size while multiplying in function and have been the bane of pseudo-intellectuals and porn net addicts like my self world wide. And, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center (known to geeks as the F.B.I.C. Skully), in 2007 there were 200,000 on-line frauds that cheated the naively connected out of $239 million. And yet, in the face of such rampant fraud and selfishness my only reaction is to be impressed that somebody has actually found a way to make this coordinated anarchy function to their benefit; because I sure haven’t.
We invented the internet -and by “we” I don’t so much as mean myself as members of my grandfalloon; Americans. Except some Americans actually understand how and why these machines work. I used to but I don’t anymore. I understood Fortran. Today nobody even remembers Fortran. The young geeks of my middle age are now old rich geeks. They invented the home computer and the Inter and the Ether nets. They built empires out of Microsoft and Apple and Comcast and trashed IBM almost to death, right here in America. And yet the United States ranks a distant 15th in broadband performance, according to the Technology and Innovation Foundation. South Korea ranks first with an average download speed of 49 Million Bytes Per Second, while the average US rate is a blazing 4.9 – 1/10th of the Korean speed. The Japanese pay an average of just $0.13 per megabyte, while we pay an average of $2.83, proving once again that capitalism is really good at producing more capitalists but not necessarily more wealth. The average computer in Sweden downloads four times as fast as the average American Computer, the average Australian pays half of what we do for service (and this was figured in 2007, before the Bush devaluation of the U.S. dollar.)
While we were patting our selves on the back for winning World War Two, the rest of the world was working their behinds off to get around us. Now, being behind, it is not going to be easy for us to catch up. And by “us” I don’t so much mean me as that grandfaloon again: Americans. It took 27 years for the world to produce one billion personal computers. It is expected the world will reach two billion PC’s in the next seven years, by 2015. In fact, today, the U.S. is home to just 24% of the world’s PC’s, and just 238 million out of the 1.3 billion people browsing the World Wide Web every time you try to log on. It is no longer a question of our dominating the world, but just struggling to find space at the feeding trough, an open tit on the sow’s belly, any portal in the information storm. How we fit into the New World Order is the current NO-Complete problem we face.
NO-complete problems, or Big Oh problems, are infinitely complex, meaning they are like the message displayed on one users’ screen: “Error: Keyboard not attached. Press F1 to continue”. In short, you can’t get there from here. So when you got’ta go, how do you go? Where do you go? And where do stay while you’re there? What we need is a Web travel agent, to guide us into the next generation of computers. And I’m your boy. As the saying goes, on fourth down those who can’t do, pundit. So what do we know about the next generation of computers? First we know that computers will always be referred to as she, because a computer always remembers your mistakes and is always ready to remind you of them. Second, we know that computers will always be plagued with viruses because computer viruses are written by bright young geeks who have brains but no sense of social responsibility, which also perfectly describes the creators of the next edition of Grand Theft Auto, which is why having designed the world’s next great computer virus that brings the internet to a screeching halt is a real plus on your average geek resume.
We know that the next generation of computers will probably be designed by somebody other than an American; a Russian, maybe or a Hindu. And given the male social supremacy in those two cultures, the next generation of computers will probably be designed by men. This means that the next generation of computers will have access to much larger data storage systems then today, but will still be largely clueless, and that they will only be able to handle one big problem per night. But on a more practical level, the future computer may very well operate via nano-magnets and quantum tunneling, as developed in Professor Enrique del Barco’s lab at the University of Central Florida. In short the future of computer Geek-dom will be seeking to make faster and smaller the new bigger. And the biggest thing in the future will be virtually invisible, a virtual computer doing your virtual bidding in a virtual world, in which you can enjoy the sensation of being virtually broke.


And that is what the future will look like; much like today, only we’ll be dead.

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