September 13th, 1999.

Accidental citizen.

There is a common view that I am some kind of technically proficient person with a good grip on all things with plugs and flashing lights. I have been referred to by some as "our computer friend," which quite apart from being a serious demotion is a very bad way to describe me.

I use computers because they are the tools for what I do. I prefer the title of "creative professional." That makes me sound less like a geek and more like the person that I am - a computer user out of necessity rather than desire. I'd even correct the term "computer user" with the more accurate and perhaps a little snobby "Mac user."

The thing is, computers, be they Macs, PCs, or nasty boxes with four-letter commands, constantly confuse and perplex me. Just a few weeks ago, while preparing the final version of Reality Radio ready for the web, my computer decided to stop allowing me to launch the application I needed to complete the task. Not long after this little dilemma had been resolved, some virus called MDEF infected my server. I thought it was called "M Death," but no, even the title of the nasty little bugger made no logical sense. MDEF? I mean, who thought of that one?

So now, at ten to eleven on a Sunday night, right about the time I start to think about jumping into a nice hot bath with a copy of something interesting to read, my normally trusty G3 has decided to create a little vortex for me to figure out. What? Did I look like I needed a challenge? Was my computer looking at me thinking that life has been a little too kind to me recently? Or is this just part of what life is like as a citizen of the new digital age of information and communication?

I'm no techno-wizard, no expert on computers. I only watch Star Trek if it's on, I don't make a habit of it. When it comes to this technological revolution and the whole internet community thing, I am very much an accidental citizen. I am the lost tourist of the 1990s, a guy not lacking in purpose but lacking a map.

I use a Mac because they are simple to use. Everything works by dragging and dropping something somewhere, which in turn does something someplace in some way. I have no idea, no understanding, and perhaps more importantly, no need or desire to know how my simple actions make stuff happen in this world of zeroes and ones. It just happens, and when it all works, like everyone else, I just accept it.

People think because I "do websites" I am somehow connected with this whole "technical age." Perhaps I am? Perhaps we all are, in a surreal kind of way. Computers, after all, are simple, colorful little things that on the surface look easy and often quite inviting. However, behind that friendly face lurks a completely different animal. One that snaps at you with expressions that make little or no sense at all. Reason and logic should rule this mathematical world of exact science. Instead, lunacy and mayhem seem to wreak havoc at every corner.

Is the order and stability of my computer world really just a bizarre and twisted anarchy ruled by geeks and super geeks, where cybercrime, viruses, and techno-theft are a virtual reality? AOL CDs should come with a warning from the U.N. about political instability that could cause outright war at any second. Or would that be "iWar" at any second?

Some people are scared to go out at night. To hell with that outdated notion. I am scared to stay in. My computer sits on my desk, connected via a telephone wire to other computers, who, as I write this, are being taught how to reason and think just like humans. My Mac already speaks to me; the update to the Mac operating system will require my voice to start up. The day when it starts an argument with me isn't far away now, surely.

Frankly, this whole new world of technological innovation and exploration scares the crap out of me. We have mobile phones that contact satellites to tell you where you are (think of it, your mobile phone knows exactly where it is in the world right now... that's scary!), we have video recorders that won't miss your TV program, even if it's rescheduled, we have microwaves that know when the food is cooked, and cars that can detect when you are not driving very well, then take over without telling you! Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "We have guided missiles and misguided men."

It wouldn't be so scary if I had a grasp on what controlled these things, or on how they worked. But I haven't got a clue. I accept them because they work, and hate them when they don't. I hit the computer with the same arms in which I embrace the technology.

As for tonight, what's left of it, well, my bath will be delayed while I try to figure out just what is causing my version of explorer to screw itself up. And even after that, I will have to find a solution to the problem of my non-drying laundry, that despite the fact it has been in the tumble drier for about 4 hours, doesn't seem to have done anything other than just get hot and wet in the most un-exciting way.

It all confuses me. Perhaps that's just me. Maybe that's the price of living in a world where everything runs on zeros and ones.