Date: Tue Apr 02 2002 - 09:57:20 MST
You know how sometimes when you wake up from a dream, and right on the edge
of your mind is THE ANSWER and then it just slips away?
We were in Ocean City last week, and on the board walk there was an arcade.
I hadn't been to one for a while. There was the usual multi-player racing
games and other "ride ons" with super large screens and shifting seats.
Blaring action music. I was surprised to see games with motion sensors on them
to let your game characters mimic your own ducking and weaving. Beyond that,
there was a dark corner leading to an unoccupied walkway.
Tron! Ms PacMan! Space Invaders, and Tempest, and Centipede! I recalled many
summer mornings, our usual gang walking to the arcade, trying to get to the
barracks along the way before that old Korean guy on his bike. The soldiers
rarely returned their beer cans and bottles, and some of them were worth a
nickel deposit each. That was before Mike got his TI99/4A.
So I put a quarter into Tron. The stupid twister would only go clockwise,
but I fought my way into the MCP cone. I blocked the lightcycle in with the
old question mark loop. When I got my TRS80 Color Computer, the first game I
wrote was Tron lightcycles. I wish I still had that computer.
I tried Space Invaders. Never liked it, even as a kid. I watched my laser
beam _crawl_ up the screen, as my turret barely moved left and right along the
bottom under its shields. I walked away without even seeing if I hit anything.
That's when I thought about this mailing list and I had the strange feeling
that I had just missed something obvious.
I've been trying to recover that feeling. The best I can come up with is a
mix of "how do we know we're not in the spike right now", "would we recognize
it", and mostly "wasted time, we could be so far beyond this already". My kids
take raging 3D graphics and stereo sound as standard. I remember seeing my
first computer (a PDP11 or something like it) in 5th grade and thinking "this
is stupid". Never dreamed I would be a hacker. People always take what they
already have as a given, and are looking around for more. If the spike is
exponential, will the curve ahead of us always make our local section look
flat? How will we know when we've entered and passed "the spike"? Radical
change in a single lifetime? My grandparents already had that. Radical change
in a time period _much less_ than a lifetime? The end of death? AI in a
bottle? Nanotech? I hope my kids look back and write all of that off as
child's play, like Pong on an Atari. Cool for its day but just the beginning.
I guess I'll know it when I see it. Or it will always be the carrot ahead of
But that wasn't quite what I was thinking of next to Space Invaders. I
thought composing this email would help, but it didn't. I got closer with the
subject line than the body. I should have dreamed on a little more before
walking over to play Tempest.
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