Windows 98 Is Calling You

You Need Really Old People To Operate Really Early Technology

Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

Back in 2015 I curated a conference on Art, Technology and Change. Back then society was also questioning the role of technology, after all it was only two years post-Snowden.

I remember Liam Young kickstarting the conference with a sound and talk performance titled Kim Kardashian and The Dark Side of The Screen. Perfect title, relating to back when Kim Kardashian broke the internet. The last talk was given by Peter Sunde who delivered one of the best rants on technology I’ve ever witnessed.

During the curation of the talk I’d look at other festivals and conferences for inspiration. Especially Rhizome’s 7 on 7 stood out when I canvased for speakers. Seven technologists paired with seven artists to create something new in a short amount of time, with an impressive list of participants.

For reasons unknown I didn’t spend much time exploring the organization Rhizome. Maybe therefore I looked twice when my podcast feed this week mentioned their name. Four years later it was finally time to unravel the story behind Rhizome in Kara Swisher’s latest episode of Recode Decode.

On the podcast Kara had invited Rhizome’s creative director, Michael Connor, for a talk about internet art. Instead of being yet another conversation on what is art, and what isn’t, to me it became a conversation of what technology is, and what it isn’t.

Michael explained how Rhizome is struggling to keep early computers operational, not because the computers doesn’t work any longer, but because there are very few people who understand the software operating them. To have really early technologies working, we need very old people. Old people who were using these tools when they came out.

Today we often talk about technology as things that are happening now or in the future. Lists like Bill' Gates’ 10 breakthrough technologies are full of sci-fi sounding technologies that (perhaps) are going to radically transform our lives. However, these lists rarely cover the technologies that have already transformed our lives radically, from electricity to plumping.

Humans have always made tools. The tools we today find obsolete or too familiar to call technology were once breakthrough technologies, resulting from combined human effort. Similarly, the tools we are busy inventing today will once become obsolete or too familiar to call technology.

I’m not sure where to end this, but maybe think twice before complaining about technology?

Technology Nostalgia

Listening to Kara and Michael’s conversation, I also became nostalgic about certain features and sounds of technology that I rarely encounter any longer. I even started a list of nostalgia:

  • Skype Ringtone - I’ve listened to this sound from more countries than I can count. It is the sound of internet calls before roaming.

  • Modem Sound - For many years this was the preludium for connecting to the internet.

  • Windows 98 Startup Sound - Windows 98 was a game-changer for operation systems. I bet you don’t need to listen to the startup sound to hear the sound.

  • WordArt - Back in the 90s the web used to be more colourful and less streamlined, period. WordArt was all of that.

  • Hotmail Email Adresses - When Hotmail started offering their 100mb free email addresses email changed. When Gmail introduced their 1gb free emails, I was quick to abandon my address, yet hotmail will always feel like my first real email.

  • 160 Character Limit In Text Messages - Back on my Nokia 3310 every single character counted. We started to shorten everything (smh, tbh, wtf), cut out vowels (hey Dopplr, Tumblr, Flickr) and teachers (rightfully) complained when we did so in essays.

What’s on your list?

Five Stories on Technology and Internet Culture

  1. The First Fine For Fake Amazon Reviews

    The surprising thing about the first fine for fake Amazon reviews is that it is the first fine. But apparently legalisation hasn’t been ready for punishing fake reviews until now. Better late than never.

  2. No, Data Is Not The New Oil

    By 2020 the market for user location data is estimated to reach $250M. It is nothing. The annual revenue per user for Facebook globally is about $25, it amounts to a lot for Facebook but nothing for the end user. And while the enormous amount of data Google has on me is extremely valuable for them and would be extremely valuable for their competitors, I’d personally not be able to earn a living from this data myself. This article by Antonio García Martínez puts nicely to words what I think about monetizing data.

  3. How I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain

    Written as if he was an AA, Kevin Roose explains life before and after his phone addiction. It is three weeks ago I wrote about my own screen-time madness, and I’m ashamed to admit it has only increased since then. Let me commit to reduce phone time significantly this week. Please keep me accountable.

  4. Tiger Mom and Driven Dad

    Short story about the rise of Chinese Parents, a popular game where you take the role of a parent and need to bring your child to a prosperous future. Something inside me cringes when I read about unlocking achievements for kids such as marrying the prettiest girl in school.

  5. The Rise of Maker Communities

    It has never been easier to launch an internet project. Today there are a plethora of tools, services and courses that guides you in publishing projects without any code needed. Starting from there, Ryan Hoover observes a trend for new user-to-user platforms for people making something tangible on the internet and offers an initial categorization.

Thank you Mikkel

Hi, I’m Kristoffer and I’m one of the founders of co-matter. You just read Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

For the second week in a row we can welcome a new paying subscriber. WTF. Thank you Mikkel! The newsletter now has three paying subscribers, Nikolaj, Dries and Mikkel.

People are amazing. Happy Monday.