eredien: Dancing Dragon (Default)
Did you live through the endless summer? Do you remember the sound of a furtive modem connecting at midnight? A voice synthesizer module spurting out unmodulated vowel sounds one after the other until they all blended into a string of soothing white noise? Was your first email address--like mine--iterated by a new number each time you got a free AOL disk, because subscribing to dialup was too expensive? 

If you did, you will feel a lovely shock of recognition of the early days of the internet as a limitless, yet strangely limited, social space, within this book.

But it's not just about that. 

I plan to give a copy of this book to people who grow up and can't understand what it was like before Amazon Prime could deliver you anything you wanted in two days; before most people had internet but after most people had seen their first web address and knew it had something to do with computers; back when reading a WIRED article about a cyberpunk-inspired company-sponsored rave in the early days of Silicon Valley made me go home and teach myself to program in HTML for a summer.

I want to give a copy of this book to my parents--my mom who loved King's Quest but couldn't follow onto the byways of the internet; my dad who still can't differentiate between "Google" and "a web browser;" who must've worried and wondered almost as endlessly as I did about the dynamics of a place where I could be good friends with people I've met twice in my life; where I co-wrote novellas with someone on the opposite coast until someone ignored the little sign I put on the phone and disconnected me--but who worried about it without the firsthand knowledge of its possibilities and little oubliettes of esoteric digital knowledge.

Most of this book is a personal memoir; the last few chapters go into a much-needed, deeply felt argument for the return of serendipity to the increasingly commercialized and self-promoting internet.