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Before the Internet: A Hack-less Life

“On April 30, 1993, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) put the web into the public domain a decision that has fundamentally altered the past quarter-century.” --DAVID GROSSMAN
Although plenty of our pastime activities included electronic entertainment and movies, the 1980s offered kids a multitude of recreational distractions that may be less relatable to today’s youth. Whether timeless or lost to time, this ongoing series is dedicated to the many 1980s activities in which we engaged.

Growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s didn’t turn me into a Luddite. If anything, my childhood era readied me for great technological advances. After all, the ‘80s were a time of new innovations. We experienced great leaps and bounds in the technological arena including video games, televisions, radios, and computers. Even as we purchased our first Walkman, we were already dreaming of video phones, radio watches, flying cars, and virtual reality.

Technology is endlessly fascinating, and with every new advancement, my mind boggles at how different the contemporary world is compared to that of my childhood. I try my best to recall how I viewed the world as a ten-year-old so when I remove this microcomputer—masquerading as a phone—from my pocket, I remember how utterly amazing it is. I own a minicomputer that is capable of video calls, online networking, voice controls, taking pictures, recording voice, gaming, calculating, and so much more.

My childhood self would have crapped his pants in amazement.

So, no, I’m not a Luddite. And yet, sometimes I really hate technology. I often try to remember the good aspects of our digital world because there are also plenty of bad things that come

along with these advancements.

Last week, five of my online accounts were breached in a concerted effort to separate me from my money [1]. Even as I type this, I realize hacks happen so often that your response may simply be, “Oh, that sucks.” Maybe you’ve had hacked accounts before and you realize usually it’s a simple matter of changing some passwords, engaging security features, canceling a credit card, and getting a refund. If you’re really unlucky the breach goes as far as “identity theft,” in which case there’s more to deal with. Generally speaking though, you’ll get refunds and secure accounts and nothing much is lost in the process. Well, nothing much except perhaps your false sense of security and your trusting nature.

And that’s what actually “sucks” about a breach: the reminder that there are hundreds of thousands of people (and probably much more) who spend their time trying to steal from you. That’s it. That’s their job, and they’re probably pretty happy about it. I doubt they sit around and ruminate over their life choices. Perhaps they feel as if they didn’t have a choice at all. Or maybe they justify their actions, deciding that the targets won’t really lose anything, or even that the targets deserve it.

When I used to imagine the fantastic places our world might go, these endless breaches and thefts never entered my carefree mind. The digital wonders meant better graphics in video games, communicating in new ways over great distances, space travel beyond our galaxy, and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Not theft and hacking.

But we’re only human, and as I grow older, the notion that these numerous advancements only enhance some people’s greed doesn’t shock me. It’s not even a realization so much as an affirmation of things I already understand about who we are as a species. Maybe that’s why so many of us sometimes choose to look backward rather forward. I won’t argue that this is a good thing, but perhaps sometimes it’s a necessary thing. Looking back—reflecting—helps remind me of the child who saw only wonder and good. Certainly bad things happened back then too. Bad things always happen. But children are resilient in ways adults sometimes can’t be, and even as I race headlong into my mid-forties, I find my younger self still has important lessons to teach.

So, for a while at least, when I take my cell phone out to check a text message, I’ll stop and remind myself about how amazing this technology is. And I’ll forgive those who use the technology with ill-intent, because as much as I want to judge them, I don’t know their circumstances, and I don’t know their reasons. What I do know is with the right intentions, our path forward may actually lead to something better. Something of which even my older self could sit in wonder.

[1] My email addresses had been part of online breaches and coupled with weak passwords and lack of two-factor authentication, hackers were able to access the emails, and from there also breached Facebook, Amazon, and eBay. All in all I lost about $170 (which I had refunded) and spent the better part of a week reinforcing my online security, setting up new email addresses, implementing every security measure available, and cancelling credit cards. Not my favorite week, but it could have been worse.

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May 01, 2023

Sorry to hear about the hacks. I have had a couple experiences with that and it does add extra fear about all we rely on in the digital world. I also agree that for all of the good that technology has provided there might be just as much bad if not more. It does create a conflict in my head as well especially since I am of a generation that has lived on both sides of some of these technological advances.

Replying to

I think that gives us a unique perspective, having lived without cell phones, internet, and home computers. It doesn't make me "the old man screaming at clouds," but it has certainly made me a bit more wary of tech as it is developed. Still, I'm just as deeply ingrained in it now as any younger generation.

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