A megabit blowtorch.

Tuesday, June 6th, 1995

A gracious good afternoon from here, although we all know it may be just about any time when you get this document downloaded from some mysterious server somewhere. It’s yet another component of how cruising through the World Wide Web reminds me of the old days of surfing through clear-channel radio stations–those 50,000 watt ‘blowtorches’ that made a voice come out of your AM radio on dark 2 lane roads…a voice, from…from where? Is that, too, a kind of one-way Cyberspace, the mysterious ‘where’, the confluence of your imagination and some lonely person in a dark room surrounded by acoustic tile and faced with a microphone and a transmitter log…?

I dip into these pages–lately I’ve enjoyed and been impressed by student pages–everywhere from Ames Iowa to just across 10th Street at Georgia Tech, where a heck of a lot of young(ish) people are learning to do this stuff as a career. I dip into these lives–and find many similar threads. They’d like a good job after school (or have one.) They’re trying to balance work in front of computer screens with A Life, and so make a big point of talking about music or running or biking or coffee or whatever it is they use as an antidote to sitting and typing. They link us to their friends, who have similar interests and lives. They show us their pets, and say that although everyone shows off their pets, they must, too. One person in Seattle is very proud of her bright, bright yellow new Toyota, and shows us three views of it. (We have a new vehicle, by the way, and are proud of it as well, but I’ll try to keep that insufferibility off the net.) If they’re women, often they link us to a page that addresses the challenges of Women in Computer Science, and discusses the issues and attitudes that make it difficult for women to punch through the gender crap and do well. I read in these documents about men who have set up pages that are merely collections of links to women’s home pages, as if that’s some sort of dating resource, and some genuine weasels who rate the women’s pictures of themselves, forcing old misogyny into a new medium. Desperation, disregard, and, above all, loneliness.

I visualize all of these people as I was many years ago at a small 10 watt radio station in Vermont, sending out as faint and solitary signal, pleased if my voice touched even one person in the blackness of night.

Little transmitters, reaching out etherward. We seek connections, traces of humanity in a medium that can leach that away, and send out signals, familiar and bizarrely new.

Yesterday (June 5th) was my brother-in-law Gordy‘s birthday, so that must mean that next Monday is my brother James‘s. June is, as always, a dizzying array of birthdays, weddings, and preparations for getting out of town at the end of the month, when Atlanta’s heat becomes truly brutal.

I’ll see if I can take you along on our trip this year. (Don’t do me any favors, you say.)