I remember the first thing I did when I setup Windows 3.1 back in the day was cutomzie most of the icons and sounds. Homer Simpson’s “to start press any key… where’s the any key?” never grows old. There was this crazy “psychadelic mouse trail” cursor that I would use to run all over the screen. While the concept of backgrounds wasn’t prevalent too much then, I did have some fun gif’s that I had downloaded from a BBS that I would peek at from time to time. I had probably a dozen specialized apps for just about everything I did on that machine [including a self build Z-Modem batch download script], and I was proud of my tricked out computer.
Fast forward about a quarter of a century. As I finished finding some old photos last week, I found myself settling into the Photos app groove. I initially thought I’d just take advantage of it being able to scan all of my import directories, but I liked the final result and started doing facial recognition too. There’s nothing “whiz bang” amazing in here, but it gets the job done in a familiar way with a few extra perks, like some simple photo tools. After a recent rebuild, I think the amount of “custom” software that isn’t work related can be counted on one hand. What’s happening to me?! Next thing I knew, I was drifting into iTunes...
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
…and surprisingly enough iTunes isn’t that bad [I can hear the unfollow clicks going like mad right now]. It’s giving me podcasts, my personal music, and my internet streams nice and simple. There’s the added perk that when work calls in via Skype, the music automatically pauses itself and resumes after the call. I have my background set to cycle through the photo library [family pics is always a great motivator] and that is pretty much it.
What’s happening to me?! What happened to that uber geek that opted for a typewriter sound response on every key press every now and then?! I think a couple of things have occurred.
Computing is more utility than novelty for me
Granted I pretty much always knew I was going to be a software engineer, computers were still very much a hobbyist/novelty type setup in the home. Tablets and smart phones were non-existent. It wasn’t as simple as “start up device and get on the internet” back then [PLEASE don’t make me setup Trumpet Winsock for Win95 again!], and so a bit of “flair” was warranted once you got things up and running. Now we grab a simple tablet at our local store for a tenth of the cost of the computer I purchased for college and it does 10 times more than that computer ever did. My focus has shifted from “enjoying cool things” to “getting things done” and so the need for getting as much done with as little effort as possible has taken priority. Add to this how simple it is to wipe the computer clean and start over when the machine gets sluggish or a virus, and all that customization seems to be for naught, and not worth the reconfiguration after the rebuild.
I do less consuming and more producing on a computer now
I’m not knocking the consumption racket. I do a fair amount of Facebook, read lots of blogs/news through Feedly, and my kids pulled me into this “Royal Story” (think Farmville-ish) game so we can help take care of each others kingdoms. Part of beauty of our technology is that these things are available to us. But my mindset now is more towards “How can I give back? What can I build?” that drives my setup. Whether that is blogging some programming tips, sharing some [hopefully] insightful posts, or writing apps, the focus of my computing shifts toward that direction. I spend a far longer time these days setting up an optimal dev environment (dark color scheme, special font, additional plugs) than anything else. I even have a special tool now that makes it more efficient for me to blog.
Ultimately I’m probably just getting old and don’t have time for these “crazy kid tricked out digital appliance stuff” 8^D. I wrote a few years ago about just picking a platform and sticking to it. I’ll admit that I haven’t followed my own rules up until this point. Who knows, I just may get an iPhone afterall when it’s time to rotate out my phone next month...
How have you seen your computer use change over time?