WordBowl Word-of-the-Day provided by Jenny B
children’s literature advocate, writer, reviewer, educator, chanteuse
1994, Los Angeles — A friendly freelance writer/IT consultant (and future dotcom entrepreneur) offered to show me his computer lab, introduce me to Mosaic the thing that could change everything.
We weaved through Malibu on his bike, my thighs gripping his, ocean crashing to one side, craggy cliffs on the other, words whipped away by wind. Arrived at UCLA, walked through hushed halls, crossed the threshold to humming terminals, sat before a massive monitor. He clicked keys like a conjurer invoking spells, I peered over his shoulder, breathless. He grasped my hand, cautioned patience. We waited, bantered, debated, the mechanical whir of computer equipment morphed into music. We waited. The screen swirled.
We waited. I shivered, he pulled me onto his lap, wrapped arms around me, we nuzzled as the day’s surf reports appeared onscreen. I attempted to wrap my head around this as we wrapped ourselves around each other, wrap my head around the concept of any necessary or useful or desired information called forth with a few key strokes, and said, well if this thing speeds up, there might be something cool here, and he laughed, and we kissed again, so to me, the Internet was, is, a little sexy.
We West Coast media denizens, entranced by publishing and broadcasting possibilities, embraced the Internet Age. Our Brave New World.
We digital pioneers reveled in our e.mail addresses and 1200 baud modems and the dial-up screech in the background of our calls to the other coast. We evangelized, staked web turf claims, lugged laptops.
And then, Netscape IPO’d. Wall Street awoke, roared.
We attended meeting after meeting, meetings run by fresh-faced guys sporting khakis and not-quite button-downs a particular shade of blue between baby and royal, or presided over by former hippies who caught the tech wave early and rode it to excessive success. They pronounced, with the all-knowingness of prophets, “Portals are the new television networks,” espoused “paradigm shifts”, asserted “first mover status”.
“Game Changer” became as standard an opening salvo as “Hello”.
“Information wants to be free” they cried, dancing for money, venture capitalists. We media-makers did not yet know to do more than shudder. “The totality of human expression at our fingertips”, and we did not yet know to fear for our jobs.
The Bay Area teemed. From all over the country they came — the newly-graduated, the disenfranchised traditional media folks, mid-level management types casting for future financial independence, Baby Boomer executives making one last leap for career glory — people headed West, a late 20th century Gold Rush of bits and bytes and options.
The Internet steamrolled, indiscriminate. E.mail smashed USPS to governmental rubble. Long distance phone call pricing evaporated. Periodicals and newspapers trumped by perpetual publishing. Music retailing gutted, television viewing fractured. Books priced less than paper. Engineering casual wear trounced corporate dress. Culture reduced to “content”. Roadkill along the Information Superhighway.