This is a WordBowl first: A retelling of a story originally posted in 2014. I recently participated in a literary event at NYC’s legendary KGB Bar, and in preparation for my reading of tech-related stories, I reworked the original “synapse” as my opening piece. Let me know what you think. Happy Reading!
Would you like to play WordBowl? Click here!
The point at which electrical signals move from one nerve cell to another.
Origin: New Latin synapsis, from Greek synapten “to fasten together”
Word credit to Chis Brake of the eponymous entertainment talk radio show and podcast streaming from Indianapolis http://chrisbrakeshow.com/
First flirtation with technology began with a suggestive note wedged into my locker by a heretofore casual buddy M, followed by an illicit rendezvous in the computer lab known to be empty between First Period (M’s class) and Last Period (mine). Fumbling initial attempt to access what M called a mainframe and, once in, copy M’s program, tweak, save under my name, day’s assignment complete before I slid into my seat for roll call. We snuck glances at each other, suddenly shy, smiled. Bonded by this audacious act, we needed no words. Still, M leaned in, breath tangy, whispered so now could you write my Great Gatsby paper for me?
We slipped surreptitious from the room, first M then, after counting to sixty to avoid suspicion, me, face flushed.
“Hacker” not yet in our lexicon, “hack” a term for the talentless, people who produced low-quality work or quit because they lacked the right stuff.
We had given computing class a shot, playing it straight, but weeks of basic BASIC instruction resulted only in dot-matrix printouts of numerical patterns: boxes, circles, ghosts. It appeared we would go no further than to make not-so-pretty pictures, although when spring hit, just shy of graduation, we learned to create computations, write programs that calculated actual mathematical results, which hinted at some powerful, if not exactly profound, alchemy.
This trade of access to his programming for access to my writing — which may have been frowned upon had school administrators caught wind — was in today’s business parlance a savvy practice of “maximizing our resources” or “leveraging our respective core strengths”. We were ahead of our time. We were living the future.
In retrospect, I might have chosen more wisely, become the lead technologist, made him the English Lit guru. Had I known what those 1s and 0s would wreak.
I was bewitched by this computing backdoor, a function that bent time and space, allowed me to explore the landscape of a novel while my classmates tippytippytapped on their keyboards. I escaped the classroom confines for nearly an hour, returned to reality as the bell rang, a weekday Tesseract.
The worlds conjured by coders still decades in the future, the future which is now our society’s past, our ever-iterating present. It was beyond my ken to envision worlds erected out of numbers instead of letters, fabricated not by authors but by engineers and profiteers.
Flash forward, Bay Area, early 1990s, the emerging tech wave cresting-to-boom, me at a magazine start-up covering all that emerged from Apple’s campus on 1 Infinite Loop. We styled ourselves mavericks, us Macintosh advocates, the fashionable underdogs in the Great PC Wars. We evangelized the virtues of our closed operating system — a pure play, no glitchy underlying DOS — and we were design-smug about our hardware, too.
We traded tech tips — tricks to unlock hidden software Easter Eggs, keystroke shortcuts — the talk of tech still about tech itself, even as the hedonism of the first IPO era loomed and “tech tips” became synonymous with Wall Street trades.
Even before the commercial internet, we were plugged in, wired, connected. Our rarified air crackled with possibility, all possibilities, radiating out from our Bay Area epicenter. Casual conversations over hoppy IPAs sparked sideline projects, engineering equivalents of garage bands. For the guys, that is, the programmers, the ones who wrote the code. We women, peripheral people — regulated to PR, CSM, marketing — until we were needed to write their stories.
Boilermaker has hacked the craft cocktail scene, how else to explain their seriously top-shelf concoctions served with seriously unpretentious flare? Bonus points to this East Village bar for boasting an ENTIRE MENU of Boilermakers and extending their oh so easily rationalized as the-more-you-drink-the-more-you-save Happy Hour specials ’til 8pm.
All that Happy Hour writing required some serious next-day editing, so I settled into a widow seat at Toby’s Estate, the Brooklyn-based roaster who has (thankfully!) opened a Manhattan outpost in the West Village.
If you’d like to revisit the original “synapse.” post, click here.
Do you have a word for WordBowl? Use the form below! I look forward to diving into your word world!