Future History

This morning someone said something on the fediverse, and I responded, and my response in that moment caused me to have some thoughts. Naturally, I feel compelled to share them with you.

First, the thing I said that got me thinking…

Sometimes, someone unwittingly pushes a button you don’t know you have, and sometimes, you are well aware that button exists, but you’ve been ignoring it. I’ve been ignoring my feelings on the ephemeral nature of digital data for quite a while now, but I’ve always known that in the future, the lack of analog sources of information could (and likely will) be devastating to the study of our current time and place in history. I’m a big fan of hard copy. Things written or printed on paper have the potential to survive even the most damaging of disasters. Digital data struggles to survive on your desk in a temperature controlled house. If you want it to exist throughout the entirety of your own lifespan, you must maintain it. Coddle it. Tend to it like it’s a living thing. A photograph or a handwritten journal can sit in an attic long enough for everyone to forget it exists, and when it is rediscovered, it can be seen, read, enjoyed, learned from.

At this point, those of you who don’t know me well may be thinking I am some sort of Luddite opposed to all things digital. Untrue! I love this digital age we live in! I love computers! I love the things I can do with my iPad. I’m thrilled I can take a thousand photos to get one that’s perfect, and all it costs me is a bit of electricity to recharge a battery. It is amazing and delightful that I can communicate with the people I know near instantaneously, no matter where they are on the planet, and it brings me great joy that I can babble at length here on my blog, and once I hit “post” anyone who cares to can read it. Our digital age is wondrous, but I do worry for how humans in the far off future will learn of our time, what might survive, and if what survives (if anything) will give them an accurate picture of who the people of the 21st century were, what we believed, how we lived, and what felt important to us.

So as I’ve been shambling about the house doing all the usual morning tasks, making coffee, feeding cats, and seeing the husband off to work, there have been all these discordant thoughts and feelings bouncing off each other in my brain. That’s what my brain does when it senses a problem needing a solution or two opposing ideas that need resolution, and it can churn away at it in the background for days (sometimes even weeks) before a finished thought pops into my conscious mind. Today, it took an hour…

Don’t do an email newsletter, bring back the hard copy zine. Create something that has a chance to survive, which might outlive you.

Be the change you want to see.

A few months ago, I promised everyone a monthly email newsletter, and I have tried to make that a reality, but because I refuse to have any tracking going on within said newsletter, that cut me off from the services that make newsletter making/sending painless and easy. As I tried to spin up ways to do it all myself, I realized I wasn’t enjoying any of it. I didn’t want to do an email newsletter, but I promised people I would, so I felt like I had to do it. This only made me hate the idea even more, and so last month I (somewhat intentionally) “forgot” to keep working on it.

But oh … how I loved making zines (and receiving them), and since the day I stopped producing mine, so many years ago now, I’ve often thought of doing a hard copy zine again. I enjoyed the entire process of deciding what to do each month, what to include, how it should look, and taking the time to draw things, hand letter things, and physically cutting and pasting it all together. Printing copies on the library’s Xerox or having it printed, and then mailing it out to people who wanted to receive it and sometimes receiving their own zine in return! No pain, no struggle, no frustration. Just joyful work.

So I’m going to take the advice my brain spit out this morning. I will not be doing an email newsletter. I’m going to do a zine, and not one created digitally and then printed out (an email newsletter without the email). Nope, I’m going 100% old school. Doing it the way I did in the past, the way I enjoyed doing it. How will the people who were expecting an email newsletter react to this news? Don’t know. Don’t especially care. I can’t keep doing things just because others expect or want me to do them. I gotta do what I want to do, and what I have wanted to do for quite some time now is breath new life into my not at all forgotten zine.

Computer? Computer!

Yesterday, while looking for a particular book on my crowded shelves, I ran across my old Acer Aspire One netbook. I promptly forgot about the book I was looking for and plugged in the netbook to see if it still ticked at all. It did, but as I dabbled with it off and on over the course of the day, it was obvious it needed a new battery and a bunch of other work to be usable for anything, and even if I did all the things, it still wouldn’t really be usable for much of anything. It was barely usable when it was new! So back on the shelf it went. Was fun messing around with it though, and I did find some long forgotten files on it that I may some day remember to get onto some other device. Or not. Maybe they’re best forgotten!

When the husband came home from work, I told him about messing around with my netbook, and naturally, he thought I was trying to solve my problem of not having a desktop computer with the old netbook. Yes and no. A little bit of me had hoped it would at least work well enough to work on the backend of my websites with, and if it could have done only that, I’d have been very pleased, but no way no how does a netbook replace a desktop. Never did. I do though need some sort of actual computer. Using an iPad for everything is wearing me down. My iPad is great, I love it, and it blows the pants off the old netbook (even when it was brand spanking new), but iPads are also not appropriate for every activity.

This morning I’ve once again explore keyboard cases for the iPad. I’ve regularly checked in on them since my very first iPad. I’ve never bought one. The reviews have always been so mixed, so it’s hard to tell if they are all crap or not. The ones that look like they might be best aren’t cheap, and at the point where I’m spending half the cost of a laptop on a keyboard case, I pause. Not having a physical keyboard is not the only irritation my iPad workflow causes me. Lot of money to solve one problem, you know?

So I continue to get all my computer related work done on my iPad, as I wait impatiently for Apple to come out with the next greatest iMac. I miss my iMac. Not enough to spend money getting a 17 year old computer looked at by someone who could fix it, but I miss having a desktop computer. All the things I need to do are so much easier to do on one. But I want the very newest possible iteration of the iMac, and so I wait on Apple to present one to the public. It’s been a long wait. Too long.

Likely because he’s tired of listening to me complain, the husband has offered to fix up his old laptop for me to use. It really just needs new heat gel put on the processor, irritating to do but not terrible to get done. I’m probably going to pester him about it this weekend, because I’d like to get back to actual computing ASAP. It’ll be the first time I’ve used a Windows PC since 2006, and while generally I’d say I’m not going to enjoy it that much, I don’t know. I’m sure things have changed. It’s possible I adapt, and then I don’t even need a new iMac.

Who am I kidding? Of course I need a new iMac. I’m a member of the Cult of Apple. There is no way I can possibly be deprogrammed. I fell I love with the Apple IIe a million years ago, and then came the Macintosh. I may have been stuck using Windows boxes for ages, but in 2006 I finally got my own Apple computer, and I knew I’d never go back. Until now, because I have to, and I’m going insane trying to get things done on this iPad.