Saturday, February 23, 2008

Holy Gigabytes, Batman!

Holy Gigabytes, Batman!

It's still amusing to me that my Google mail account can be stuffed with some 600 MB of extensive back-and-forth between friends, teachers, editors, bosses, and the goofy daily emoticon swap the wife and I engage in. You know:




It's like a mere 10 percent of e-mail capacity in the golden age of Gmail, and yet it swamps by a factor of three the Mac I took to college with me.

Don't even get me started on the pea-brained capability of my old Commodore 64.

Plugging my Power Mac 7100 right into the wall in my dorm room at Carnegie Mellon was my introduction to the wondrous and corrupting world of the Internet, circa 1994. People were still "fetching" documents and pictures across the country then, usually on campuses. Mosaic, an early forerunner of Netscape, was clanking along in its beta version, but no worries. At tech-savvy CMU we were hooked directly into each others' computers via the campus ethernet (first in the world to go wireless a few years later), and so began our transformation into electronic squirrels, hording all the free games and pictures (porn? NO...!) and movies and sound files, etc. we could click our happy little fingers to.

I remember in the first blush of downloading, I imagined I might squeeze an entire pirated movie onto my hard drive, as if that were even possible then. Instead, we made due with 20-second snippets from Animal House and sound files from Ace Ventura and Pinky & the Brain, and thought ourselves with it. And we were, for the time.

Part of being "with it" was the ritual almost-monthly scrubbing of your hard drive, or else employing the nascent StuffIt and other compression programs to clear up space on the computer for more bootlegged junk.

My 250 MB hard drive -- which ran a cool $4,000 for the whole system back then -- quickly capsized. And I had to browse the computer tech mags for the ominous-sounding external storage devices. I paid around $800 for my 750 MB "attic" to cram more junk in, which I connected to the main three-encyclopedia-volume-size drive with a SCSI, or "scuzzy" cable. Remember those? To take the air of geekdom off the whole hook up, I named one drive Chip, and the other Dale, or Calvin and Hobbes, or Gwen and Pam, whatever floated my dorm room sensibilities at that particular time.

And now my Gmail slush pile alone could devour poor Calvin... or was it Hobbes?

Oh well. At least I never had to resort to receiving e-mailed porn. That crap comes whether you ask for it or not.

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