i have taught computer science, programming, and software for almost three decades; in that time, i have avoided uppercase letters and periods … and i have stayed off the grid: no, i haven’t had a cell phone (‘cept for my burner 😉 ) … but now … i have an iPhone; my first one;
yeah, i know: i’ve “led” college-level courses in iOS programming: first Objective-C, then Swift … but still, i held out: no smart phone; and now, i can no longer be the guy that NPR said i was: “you just want to be the guy who says he doesn’t have a smart phone so you can tell people you don’t have a smart phone.” fair enough. i did. i wanted to tell ’em; now, i can’t: i have one;
while much is changing in my life, i think it was when i drove to a meeting in New Haven, CT without GPS that i knew i’d crossed a line; yeah, you’re probably thinking: what? that’s just crazy; agreed: and alil’ dangerous; i did it (with my printed maps) … but as you already know: it wasn’t fun; i’m an anxious guy … i need GPS;
in the 1980s, we started throwing characters (chars) at each other while online; UNIX talk was cool: split screen on an orange VT220 screen, omg! and i have loved email ever since, so let’s be honest: i have thrown my full share of chars … thriving on the ambiguity in email, leveraging their irk that i don’t use uppercase … even in their names! but, texting on a phone is different; i see my friends, hunched over their phones; nervous when the power goes out, typing with two thumbs faster than i can type (well, not really; i’m still pretty fast on the keyboard 😉 …)
… but i worry about them; i worry about me; are we this lonely? how did we all get so dependent on typing chars back and forth to one another? what is missing? what am i missing?
last night i was at my friend’s house for dinner; he and his wife are angels; but i knew with that iPhone in my pocket, i’d crossed a line; as we talked of politics, getting to know our neighbors, what shows they were binge watching, how old is Jimmy Carter, etc. … and at almost each topic i thought: “i’ll look that up”; like a cowboy with a trigger hand, i found my hand starting to reach for my pocket; i held off (mostly) … but i knew: it has happened … i’m just like them; i want to know this, confirm that; but here’s the rub: i found when i stopped myself, i looked into my friend’s eyes and i listened to what they were saying; they really didn’t want the “right” answer … we were sharing as two humans … they wanted to talk with me … and i with them … but my fingers twitched; jeez, my first night with an iPhone in my pocket and i think i am Mr. Wikipedia, the New Yorker, and Github rolled into one … (where did that come from?)
so, yeah: i have an iPhone; it is amazing (as you already know); but here’s the thing: i am not amazing … i am not cultured; i am just learning to be well read, and well … now i think this Cray in my pocket can bail me out; but it can’t; i can pretend, i can play along … but that is really not what i need;
yes, i need to know where i’m going when i’m driving in New Haven … and France; and yes, i need Google Translate like … yeah, bad; and i want to appear smart … and i want friends; i need friends; but i really want to just look you in the eye … even when my phone vibrates;
… those are the chars i want to throw … eye to eye; i to i ….
mark leblanc, july 21, 2019