It takes me back to when our children were young. Then the reason we not that infrequently found ourselves in McDonalds was that they had reliably clean and usable baby changing facilities when that wasn’t that common.
Tonight I had other dependents’ needs to service and again McDonalds was the answer. This time instead of the reasonable needs of one or two human “reines bébés” (king/queen baby as we were told the French term their toddlers and youngsters), it was IT “reines bébés”.
Hence I found myself doing a 5km round trip from the campsite to McDonalds, my face burning with embarrassment (OK, that might really have been the sun I’ve absorbed today).
Why you may well ask? Well, because the wifi here works (but only for one machine at a time and then only if it decides you’ve logged out the first: nothing to do with whether the first was disconnected or not). To be fair, it doesn’t seem a bad connection here and it’s 24 hours for three Euros, but the crunch was that it seemed to block DropBox uploads and they seem to be the only way I can get ‘photos off my camera. This came on top of the IT challenge yesterday which was that the system on that campsite was strictly one wifi connection per ticket and clearly logged the MAC address so I stuck with working on this, my touring laptop and didn’t at four Euros per ticket, and with only about six ‘photos from the day and all of the same dolmen, I opted to leave ‘photos. It hadn’t helped that it had taken two tickets (they didn’t charge for the second) as the password for the first simply didn’t work.
Tonight I didn’t have that many more ‘photos, and it turned out that a lot of them were complete rubbish, but I did want to upload them and see them so … off to McDonalds I went and got a very cheap coffee and well over an hour of fairly fast internet for three devices.
How is it that we seem to have, or certainly I seem to have, put myself in some sort of tortured slave relationship with IT a lot of the time? It, and oh boy that it, or that IT, covers a multitude or things, so rarely seems to just work, or not to just work, reliably, every time, year in, year out. When I started with computers (first year at university, 1975, but in earnest, in my last year of pre-clinical university, 77-78) they were pretty primitive by modern standards but boy if things wouldn’t work, it was always because I’d done something wrong. The first computer I bought was one of the world’s first “portables”: an Osbourne II weighing 27lbs, i.e. 12.3kg. (Hm, cursory search finds only this about the Osbourne I, I’m sure mine was 27lbs not 24 and I know it had double sided 5.25″ disk drives not the Osbourne I’s single sided: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osborne_1.) I loved that thing and it just worked. OK, I didn’t switch it on for 24 hours after my sister poured water into it watering my plants but I stood it upside down and the water came out and we put it next to a radiator and it dried out and went on working for some years. When I finally sold it and unscrewed the case to see what wonders I was selling (to a someone already buying it as a historical but working curio really), I could see the limescale marks on the circuit boards where the water had dried.
I had had it several years and really had just worked. By then I was learning a lot about stats and programming writing myself a very simple stats package as nothing really existed for such beasts. I had just encountered SPSS on mainframes at the time. I was programming in the database package, dBase II, which came with it and for the first time in my life I found a bug in a programme. I can’t now remember what it was that didn’t work in dBase II but it was unequivocally a bug in it as opposed to the umpteen bugs I kept writing. (One thing I learned at the time was that I am a very, very mediocre, OK, frankly, a very bad, programmer!)
Oh boy I look back on those times with rose coloured glasses I’m sure, but I do think we have gone up an evolutionary blind alley with our current dependency on IT (and other technology, products and services) that simply aren’t reliable, user friendly or built to last). How we back ourselves out of the blind alley is a hard question: the sort of evolution of human cultural systems doesn’t have the harsh relentless logic of Darwin’s biological evolution nor the relatively simple genetics that underpin his system, though he didn’t know it. (OK, I accept, it’s not the simple Mendelian genetics I learned at school and med school now we understand more about gene regulation, but the “genetics” of what we buy, what we use, how we choose to communicate etc., is a very different beast.)
Ah well, I got to experience McDonalds for the first time in perhaps 15 years. Now it’s time to turn this machine off as it’s the strongest bit of light pollution near me on the campsite and I might just, for the third night in a row, see a very faint milky way if I do turn it off and am lucky. Good night!