This post is nine years old. Computers are practically disposable now, and the problems described reside largely in the past. I’ve reinvented myself completely a few times since writing it, and so has, apparently, the kid I describe at the end.
Still, I like the post. It’s an interesting snapshot, and I want to preserve it. So here goes:
I’ve said for some time that computers are the great leveler. We no longer live in a society ruled by whoever can lift the heaviest rock or catch a deer with their bare hands (though, admittedly, such a contest would liven up our election process). Regardless of race, gender, or any other arbitrary designation, kids who grow up with computers have a huge advantage over kids who don’t.
At it’s most simple: data entry jobs pay better than fast food.
But there is a deeper level, much closer to my heart. The computer can extend artistic ability.
- The simple freedom an “Undo” function allows can’t be summed up in words. When you can save your progress and experiment without fear of destroying your work, that opens up some possibilities.
- The computer offsets it’s expense by eliminating many of your consumable material costs, allowing you to layer performance data, and automating repetitive tasks. Canvas and paint are expensive. As is hiring a full orchestra. Or a room full of in-betweeners to work on your animation.
The computer offers a level of flexibility never before available to all but the seasoned pro. It opens sophisticated art forms which would be prohibitively expensive to enter by any other means.
The problem, of course, is that computers themselves are prohibitively expensive.
I’m not talking about software licensing, although that can certainly run up a few dollars. No, kids have clever ways around that expense.
(you really don’t want to know what your kids are up to. but I do recommend keeping a nice heavy mallet next to your system in case the feds show up)
(Your computer stores no information in the monitor screen. Smashing that will only make the feds laugh at you and your kids shake their heads in disbelief.)
Mostly, the cost is just maintenance. Call your local computer store and ask them how much they’ll charge to send someone out to your house to reinstall some software. It’s ridiculous.
When your computer dies, it takes a certain amount of hope for the future with it. When someone asks you to restore hope for the future, how much can you ethically charge them? As a technician, I struggle with this issue. Which is largely why I have no money. I put too much time into fixing people’s systems, and then I fail to charge them what I’m supposed to because of my deeply passionate belief that computers should just work.
I’m getting off topic, but what if we taught kids computer repair as soon as they’re mature enough to handle a screwdriver? I mean, auto shop is offered as soon as you have access to a vehicle, and it’s universally agreed that this is a good and responsible thing. But kids are depending on computers without any equivilant lessons in maintenance.
If you think about it, there’s no reason why we couldn’t take that one step further, and have all of them MCSE certified by graduation. Sure, most people will never need to administer a corporate intranet, but is that any less useful than the current curriculum? No, the problem is our whole economy would collapse when the next generation takes our jobs and makes us serve them at McDonalds.
I’m drifting further and further off subject, but I think I’m on to something here. I’d much rather campaign for education than fight this uphill battle one computer at a time.
Any ideas how to go about this?
(I’m working with a number of organizations already, but am not yet convinced that any of them are particularly effective)
ANYWAY… This whole thing was just an intro to my topic, which is that I found a poster child for the cause:
Meet John Charpentier.
John writes music on his computer. Innovative stuff, blending elements of classical and techno, and rivaling the film scores of many action flicks. He writes his music using a freeware program he downloaded over the internet, on a long outdated family computer. Regardless whether you like the genre, it’s clear this is professional quality. He’s 17 years old now. I believe he was 16 when his computer died, taking all of his unfinished pieces with it. He hasn’t written anything since.
You can check out his music here. Doing so translates into ad dollars for him, which will in turn become new equipment. It’s surprising that the world would let such potential be lost for so long. Seems like someone out there could commission some original music in exchange for equipment. Prime endorsement opportunity, guys.
As stated above, this post is nine years old. That mp3.com link doesn’t work, nor does the link to John’s personal webpage. He’s given up his “Isotropy” alias, and his old tracks are pretty much lost to time. He now produces music as Sleep City Metalworkers, and his latest blog entry tells of another computer meltdown.
Some things change, some things never do.