The End of an Era?
There’s a familiar ring to that phrase and I’m sure it has been used in a number of ways to describe the changing of a generational control, passage of a phase in music or the changes in technology.
I’ve seen many of these come and go but as this article points out with some truth is that much of the curiosity of how devices work appears to no longer be of interest. The End of the x86 Era by John Dvorak points out “that nobody in today’s market really cares how anything works.”
“This public divorce from mechanism actually began before the poke-and-shove interface. It was realized during the wishful thinking ethos of the 1990s when people wanted computers to become appliances.”
He continues to briefly describe the mutation of the early personal computers into the push, shove, point and click interfaces we have on the small Pad and net-book platforms we have today.
This metamorphosis hasn’t simply been confined to computing, although I can recall driving around in Minneapolis and St. Paul Minnesota from surplus store to store looking for suitable discarded electronics parts from the many major manufacturers found in the area. I and my fellow technology oriented friends wanted to build our own computers. Those with the earlier boat anchors were given tremendous street cred by fellow computer geeks for their ability to scrounge, program the I/O and display something resembling a program on the typically RF connected portable television. Graphical development in those early machines consisted of using characters such as the asterisk, period, comma, etc.
There were many other pursuits into photography, home movies, amateur radio, radio controlled aircraft and rocketry. Many of us repaired or modified cars and motorcycles. Although I never experimented much in the area of customizing other than a carburetor / exhaust enhancement, I did my own British motorcycle repair as well as some of the first few automobiles I owned. I still do some of the maintenance items such as brake pads or computer tech through OBD II scanner.
By and large the era of the do it yourself person has changed from electronics projects through distributors such as Radio Shack, Heathkit, Lafayette Radio and Allied Electronics to home projects assisted by large retailers such as Home Depot or Lowes.
I think my generation has an interesting place in history. It bridges the gap from grandparent pioneers and World War I veterans to parents who were grounded in the Depression era and World War II. We were a curious generation often schooled in trades and tinkered with many different electronic and mechanical projects. Some of these interests were idyllically captured on film such as American Graffiti or Goonies from cars to gadgets.
Will we see a resurgence in interest of how things work? Perhaps not as prevalent but the Internet has many sites dedicated to furthering our understanding. I’m still waiting for the plans to build my own Transmogrifier. Calvin and Hobbes fans will understand that reference.