Posted by: nickgerlich | April 22, 2008

E Street

Our journey this semester is nearing its end. As I often wax philosophic, it is difficult to know how far you have come until you look back to see where you’ve been. And while I will not lay claim to having transported you great distances this semester, I do think we have all come a very long way in the last 15 years.

And that would be about how long the internet has been available to the general public.

Eye ChartYesterday I was reminded that I am growing old, thanks to one of my students in Section 71 ruing the fact that her eyesight simply wasn’t what it once was. Some of us older folks in the class chimed in with our familiar chorus of similar experiences, while no doubt most 20-somethings scratched their heads and wondered what the problem was.

Or worse yet, probably muttered something along the lines of “Sheesh, these old people. When will they ever stop complaining?

The fact is, we have indeed all come a long way…some longer than others, but a long way nonetheless. While aging is taking its toll disproportionately on a few of us in my classes (hey, my dog laughs at me every time I clip the corner of a wall), we are all sliding head-first into this thing I will call “E-Society.” Like it or not.

Our transition into this new way of life will no doubt be seen as synonymous with “paradigm shift,” for no single thing in my nearly half-century has registered as much impact on my Richter Scale. And regardless of my students’ ages, we have all had to deal with these changes

So as we begin to conclude our journey, I plan a few blogs on our pilgrim’s progress. It may sometimes feel like we are plodding along in a covered wagon, but when you look back, you will quickly realize those tire ruts were made by a Ferrari instead.

I recall with a chuckle my first introduction to computing back in 1974. Last semester I reminisced about that machine (even finding a picture of it). Communicating with that beast in Fortran IV was not a lot of fun, nor was running the paper tape through its reader while hooked up to a mainframe somewhere via prehistoric phone lines.

Let’s fast-forward (now there’s an analog term!) to 1989, when I came to WT. My office had an IBM PC in it, but there was no network. No email. No internet. Just some basic word processing, and a crude dot matrix printer. The very fact that I knew how to use it set me apart from many of my colleagues, but I was by no means a computer whiz. Just a geek in training.

Nineteen years later, so much has changed. I am always online, whether at home, school, or by fidgeting with my phone. We live under an umbrella of web access virtually everywhere we go. We pay our bills online, take our classes online, shop online.

But it’s not all rosy. We post things on YouTube we shouldn’t, like beatings, inane silliness, and divorce declarations. Let’s face it, we all have cameras with us wherever we go, and it is far too easy to not only shoot the scene, but also upload it. Everyone is Steven Spielberg.

Furthermore, the distance created between humans by a computer has prompted many of us to say things in cyberspace that we would never think of saying face-to-face. The combination of always-on communications and physical separation have empowered us (some might say deluded) and made us fearless. So we tell it like it is, without respect for the recipient.

I know. I have made that mistake before.

Life today is vastly different from when I grew up, and even just during my tenure here at WT. I never once in my wildest dreams could have seen what has transpired since 1989.

Which means maybe my eyes were already going bad back then. Excuse me while I feel my way down this street.

Dr “E-F-P-T-O-Z” Gerlich


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: