August 17, 2003

Haunted houses ...

I read this in Lileks:

...I hope someone has a camera pointed at Manhattan, ready to capture the moment the power comes on line. I suppose it�ll be a block-by-block rollout, but wouldn�t it be spectacular if the entire island lit up at once? What�s slightly creepy is the the thought of the offices that were cut-off in the middle of a normal day, and didn�t have generators. Imagine all those screens popping on, hard drives spinning up, printers whirring to life. The modern office, full of wide-awake machines with no masters...
I think Ray Bradbury would have had fun with things like that. Remember the story There Will Come Soft Rains, where all the people have perished in a war, but the automated house goes on fixing meals and lighting cigars for people who never come home?
...Eight-one, tick-tock, eight-one o'clock, off to school, off to work, run, run, eight-one! But no doors slammed, no carpets took the soft thread of rubber heels. It was raining outside. The weather box on the front door sang quietly: "Rain, rain, go away; rubbers, raincoats for today�" And the rain tapped on the empty house, echoing...
And think about all the little lights that glow in a modern house if you are about when it is dark. Little green lights, little green numbers displaying the time, or flashing 12:00 12:00 12:00 if you haven't figured out how to reset them...machines telling us not to worry, they are alive and ready if we need their help.

In the corner of our little library I made a rack for our DSL modem, router and hub. They remind me of monitoring machines in a hospital. I can glance over and see the little green lights telling me our system is alive, still breathing... (What's frustrating is that for a couple of years I had 3 units in the same stackable series, from 3-Comm. But their uniformity was an aesthetic pleasure that couldn't last. New gadgets replace the old, and now they are all different shapes and colors.)

I imagine that in a few more decades all our electronics will be implanted in chips in our brains. Then entrepreneurs will sell gizmos that have little green lights, just to make things look right. And a new generation will come along and wonder why Grandpa's house has such oddities. (And a Google chip in their heads will give them the answer instantly, and spoil the mystery.)

Posted by John Weidner at August 17, 2003 8:51 AM
Weblog by John Weidner