When I was small there were no computers. Well, that's not quite true. They existed but they had far less memory than the average modern microwave and less processing power than a washing machine. They also occupied an entire room and cost more than a Rolls-Royce. The ones used on the moon landings would not be able to run a basic word processor now. There were no iPods or CDs or DVDs or even VCRs. Hell, there were damn few colour televisions around! I watched the moon landings on a monochrome set. My record player still had a setting for '78 rpm' but I'm not quite old enough to have owned such a disc.
I had a reel-to-reel tape recorder and was delighted when cassette recorders appeared. The quality was lousy but the portability was appreciated.
Television had three channels and they weren't on all day. Remote controls were unheard of, you actually had to get off your arse and travel the six feet across the room to change the channel, and if you were further than six feet away you couldn't see the screen because it was too small. If you missed a program, you missed it. No means of recording existed and there was no special repeats channel and BBC iPlayer was so far-fetched it didn't even appear on 'Tomorrow's World'. You know what? Aside from a momentary disappointment at missing the latest Bill and Ben, we didn't mind. We just went out to collect newts, tadpoles and lizards and work on turning our mothers' hair white.
The idea of computers fascinated me. A machine that does what you tell it to do. I was 18 before pocket calculators reached real-people prices and they didn't do much. The posh kids had ones that could do square roots but we had been taught to do that with pen and paper anyway. So it was with some excitement that I brought home my second-hand ZX81 with the astounding 16 kilobyte expanded memory and set to work learning BASIC.
Programs were recorded onto cassette tape. If the power went off, the machine forgot everything and it had to be reloaded from the tape. Sometimes 'save' didn't work. It was an intensely frustrating machine but when it did work, it was a lot of fun. Still, moving to an Amstrad PCW was like moving from a Morris Minor to a Ferrari. Then the 286 - damn, that was like being in control of the Enterprise! It had 2 Mb memory, a 30 Mb hard disk and a proper colour screen.
From then on it started getting silly. Now there are terabyte-sized disks that could, if they failed, lose the entire history of the planet. Memory is measured in gigabytes but every time the memory increases, a new operating system appears to use it all up. Speeds have moved from that 8 MHz 8086 laptop I once had into the range where if I run my old Lotus Works database, it will find a file before I know I want it.
I don't write programs any more. I can't follow all the C++ and the HTML and the Java (I thought that was coffee) and all the rest of it. I used to upgrade computers but even that has become uneconomical. Now I just use what's there, and programs do far more than I need them to anyway so there's no need.
I was on the internet in Compuserve days on a dial-up modem. It took the total collapse of Compuserve to get out of that damn company's clutches. Now I have broadband and to be honest, it doesn't seem all that much faster. There were no animations or fly-in ads in those days. Pages were simple and to the point.
Speaking of the point, it's time I got to it.
I like gadgets. I like electronics. I like the Internet and I like the spell-checker facility when I'm thinking faster than my fingers can type. I wrote my PhD thesis longhand and had it typed up. Today I type the novels straight in. This is, to me, a good thing. To the typists who depend on work, it's not, but there are still curmudgeons out there who would rather dictate or hand over scrawled notes for translation so the typists will last a while yet.
Sometimes I step away. If I go on holiday, Internet is limited or zero. If it's a fine starry night I like to sit in the garden with cigars and beer. There haven't been many of those for a while. Sometimes on fine days too. I have sat so still for so long that sparrows have perched on me. Mice have run right up to me and the look on their faces when I say 'Hello' is priceless. I have paper mail I haven't opened yet, never mind Email.
I have been on the internet since before many of the Facebook generation was born, and yet if you take away their computers, they get withdrawal symptoms.
The scientists asked volunteers to stay away from all emails, text messages, Facebook and Twitter updates for 24 hours. They found that the participants began to develop symptoms typically seen in smokers attempting to give up.
There is no chemical here. No active ingredient. No physical drug. Yet they show the same symptoms as smokers trying to give up or druggies going cold turkey. I have been online far longer than most of them and yet being offline doesn't affect me at all. I have never thought of it as a neccesary part of life. Like smoking and drinking, it's recreation. Addiction is a state of mind. Nothing more.
Richard, in the comments here, mentioned animals that appear to be addicted to nicotine. Animals are not human and do not think like humans. If you give them something they like and then take it away, however, they react rather like humans in that they get annoyed about it. Many of those forced to stop smoking become 'born-again nonsmokers' and react violently when confronted with someone who is still allowed to do what they are no longer allowed to do. That's an animal response. Those who give up smoking because they want to aren't bothered by other people continuing. That's the human response. Animal responses to the withdrawal of something they regarded as a treat do not translate into human responses to something they don't want to do any more. I still say the addiction is an illusion.
The zero-nicotine Electrofag cartridges should arrive soon, snow permitting. Then I'll know for sure.
The only way anyone else will know for sure is to try it themselves.