Monday, February 14, 2011

The computer revolution recapitulates the sexual revolution

When I was young, computers could only be accessed within well defined institutions (like university computer centers), with approved software. But then personal computers became available, and pretty soon we were all computing promiscuously, at home and in the office, with third party software (unless we were Apple users, in which case we still used approved software).  And computing wasn't just for data and work anymore, it was also for fun, something you could do spontaneously.

The internet only accelerated things. Old barriers broke down.

Then came viruses. Strange software wasn't safe anymore, you could catch something that could really harm you. And you could pass it on to your correspondents and collaborators if you were infected. You had to be careful with whom you traded bits and bytes.

Today Apple is back in vogue; iPhone apps are approved software. We all have virus scanners, and our IT checkups may now include routine tests for infection. Our junk mail filters try to protect us from inappropriate contact. We practice safe computing.


Frank said...

Hopefully some day safe computing services will be commodified,* so we won't have to (i) be prudish or (ii) trust Apple.

* Like condoms.

Dr. Tufte said...

A few years ago I had to clean the laptop of our friends' (coed) daughter.

She wanted advice about what had gone wrong with it.

I used this basic argument: the way she used her laptop use made it a "slut". She got the message and many months of painless surfing followed.