It’s September 1995. I’m sitting on the top deck of the bus holding it in my hand as if it were the most precious thing on earth. It is the most precious thing on earth – to me, at this moment. Finally I have it in my hands. I try to peel off the plastic wrapping. Damn, it’s always so hard to get these things off! I scrape a fingernail along one side of it. Come on! I just need a little hole so I can get my finger in to peel the rest off. Okay then! I’ll just have to use my teeth – even better when they are covered in train-tracks. Ah! Finally! I’ve made a start. I can easily peel the rest off now.
The bus is packed full of other teenagers from my school making their way home. I’m lucky to have a seat so I can savour this moment. I went straight to Golden Discs after school. Thank God it wasn’t sold out! I couldn’t bear to have to wait any longer to hear these tunes. I’m not quite there yet. I have to contain myself for about half an hour. At that point I’ll finally be in my bedroom. I’ll be able to unpack these magical new sounds in all their glory! At least, until then, I can open up the CD booklet and read through all of the song lyrics. After all, Damon Albarn is as brilliant a lyricist as he is a song-writer.
The excitement is killing me. I have all those amazing tunes from Parklife playing on repeat in my head – “This is a Low”, “Tracy Jacks”, “To the End”. Oh my God! I’m soon going to hear brand new tunes from one of my favourite bands! Come on, bus driver! Get me home! The Great Escape is waiting!
It’s September 2021. Oh look, Damon Albarn has a new single on Spotify. Wow, beautiful tune. Cool! Next? Keep it coming, no time for savouring this, I’ve every great tune ever written to listen to! Thank God I carry a computer in my pocket so I never need to stop consuming!
I love computer programming. It’s truly fascinating. We can type text into an editor. This can be turned into a representation that can be stored and loaded in such a way that tiny voltages can change from high to low and visa-versa controlling the gates and adders and other components that make up a computer processor and computer memory. It’s really incredible. From this, we can create truly life-changing products.
I do fear some of these life-changing products though. There’s no question being able to listen to any tune that pops into our heads at any moment is handy. It doesn’t stop there. We can consume pretty much any content we want at nearly any time. I find this magical. I also find it scary! It’s overwhelming. I’m not sure my brain is designed to be able to consume this much content on a whim!
I fear that our appreciation for being in the moment and savouring that song, that book, that film that we have been waiting so desperately to get our hands on is gone. Even if we do have to wait for it to be available on the digital platform of our choice, a million other things will be newly available at the same time.
I also see this carry through into learning and my ability to really get to know and appreciate a subject deeply. There is an endless stream of shiny new tech out there – most of it the same as previous tech but just branded a bit differently. There is an endless stream of online learning content to accompany it. For yet another subscription fee, we can also consume every tech book ever written – further adding to the firehose! In contrast, purchasing a physical book on a particular subject, simply by its physical size, gives an appreciation for the effort required to learn it. I just hope I can keep my eyes off of youtube videos about the next shiny thing long enough to read the book.