Tuesday, May 08, 2007

2001: A Cyberspace Odyssey

"The future is already here. It's just not widely distributed yet." - William Gibson.

Gibson's article about Tokyo is interesting, it's the city people look up to when they try to envision the future. The future, if you go by his world view, that all culture is a product of technology.

In 2001, I'd managed to talk myself into a job at Computer Gaming World India. I was going to be paid for reviewing and playing games. It thought it would be one of those dream jobs: wine taster, porn star, something like that. Turning passion into a profession worked for Jeremy Clarksen, I figured.

It quickly dawned on me that print magazines are no fun, especially when they got no advertising money, but I stuck around for one reason: broadband.

In 2001, JDM, the company I was working for was a 300 strong IT media company with dual T1 lines. I'd say about 270 of them were mostly email & surf type guys. Broadband just meant faster email for them. And then there was us, the alpha geeks. We were kids, most of us, and the internet was our playground. We were all tuned into everything the undernet could offer: Napster, MIRC, FTP fileservers, games, software... we hoarded everything. When we ran out of hard drive space, we'd put some data on the copyeditor's machine. And then some on some other machine, and so on. We didn't stop until the CEO started cracking down on us.

I remember the first time I saw a DVD rip, it was a rip of X-Men. Our jaws dropped. In less than three months, we had over a hundred movies. We were resourceful.

Everyone had their own specialty: one guy collected ROMS and ebooks. One guy had all the games scoped out. One guy took care of the movies and software. And then there were some who had a prodigious appetite, who had scoped out everything. And had extra hardware to back it up.

We stayed in late nights, delighting in this information that came straight out of a firehose. We shared folders, burnt CDs, painstakingly, one every 20 minutes. Getting this information out of the office: it was a pain. We used to come during weekends to get it out. We really cherished these bits.

I don't know how all that information empowered or changed us, but I can speak for myself.

It's like we I from the future. There's a big ego trip in being a distro. Information that I shared would then go through ten loops, and then be thrown back at me, a few months later. "Hey, have you seen this?" and then I'd say, "Yeah yeah, of course I have. Months ago."

How we would hoard data. If only we knew how useless it would become with time.

Speaking of useless, a friend of mine, who shall not be named (because this is an article about warez) worked at a cybercafe as some kind of sysadmin in the pre-2000 era. Of the 256k bandwidth, he hogged 70% of the bandwidth. While the cybercafe owner barked at the ISP for the slow speeds, this friend of mine worked like an ant, amassing a gigantic collection of porn. He right click and saved, one after another, image after image. Everything meticulously sorted and categorized in folders. 600 MB of it.

Three CDs.

We were dedicated.

Things have changed now. Technology has made obsessive collectors of us all.

1 comment:

ahmed said...

Funny. It has done the exact opposite for me. I now treat the interwebs as a vast local drive: Download, consume, delete, repeat.