September 2020

Jail

September already. Time flies.

And things change as times move on.

And with technology, time moves faster than you think and not always in the direction you expected.

Just indulge me. There is a purpose to this.

When I started working with computers, around 1981, the early years, I suppose, it was all about control; the user’s control. The entire fascination with computing was inputting code or data or text and having the ability to manipulate those things in virtually any way that you wanted. Those were the days of MsDos and the C: prompt; directories and trees and control keys as shortcuts. Some still used: Ctrl P for Print, Ctrl C for Copy; Ctrl S for Save. But there were hundreds of them, including all the F keys.

Screen

Windows came out in 1985 although there was still a visual part of it that displayed familiar Dos features. It was around 1990 when Windows 3.1 came out that everything became both far simpler and far more complicated. Windows 3.1 was very, very visual and embraced the idea of folders. The inability to read was no longer a major stumbling block. We were on pictures and pictograms. I’d had a year or two away from computing and missed this transition. When I returned, I had no idea where I was. I had a coloured screen full of objects instead of a black screen with familiar green writing. It took eons to discover that a folder was a directory. It all sounds a bit dry and a bit old but… it was the beginning of the end. This was when the operating systems starting operating us instead of the other way round. We should all have seen the writing on the wall, but we didn’t.

So, we’re now where we are. Totally at the mercy of operating systems and Apps and different versions of familiar pieces of software. WordPress are as guilty as anyone. We now have the Block Editor. I’m sure a lot of time and effort and money has been spent in developing it and that it looks more like a professional editing suite, but why has it been imposed? I spent at least three times as long trying to get my August’s blog into some semblance of shape only to manage to delete the whole thing an hour or two after it went live. Embedding a photo into the body of text appears to be no longer even possible. And the only way to get the old system back is to pay them (plugins don’t work on the free version). Of course, it’s probably because I’m old and I don’t like embracing change.

Although I do…

We are now slaves to the machines. It crept up on us didn’t it? Dido’s Test and Trace trying to contact us by Bluetooth to tell us to stay in rather than a coordinated system by those who know how to do these things; A level results being calculated for thousands of students by some gormless moron pressing ‘Enter’; Massive losses of personal data (you could insert Dido’s name in here again); Credit being blocked automatically by algorithms designed by private firms. At the beginning of all this, 1981 for me, possibly earlier for many, we looked towards the future when computers could do the heavy mental lifting for society. Instead, the powers that be see it as a way of appearing to be making progress while doing exactly fuck all.

Honestly, we thought it was all going to be great.

I remember the fear from Unions back in the day that computers would take jobs and the only counter argument was that it would create a paper-free society. As it turned out, it was the Tory government that destroyed jobs (Coal, steel, potteries to name but three) and we are now utterly drowning in paper.

sssd

I remember a computer being brought into the office where I worked with seventy other engineers and half of them walked out until, ‘that piece of shit is taken away.’ That was a Pericom desktop that used an 8″ floppy disc. The original SSSD (single sided single density) could hold the equivalent data of 200 punch cards. That seemed enormous. It was 250 1/4 kilobytes. We eventually moved on to the mind blowing DSDD (double sided double density) that would store 1 – 1.2 Mb of data. My iPhone is the equivalent of 256,000 SSSD 8″ floppy discs or 51,200,000 punch cards. I tried to work out a 10Tb storage system and my calculator told me that the number is 1e+7 discs. Apparently, that’s 2000 million punch cards. And that lovely little device that instilled fear into anyone over forty five never cost even one soul his or her job. It was policy that did that. They shouldn’t have been in fear of their jobs, they should have been in fear of their freedom and liberty.

Bit over the top?

We all lost control of a major part of our lives and our wages were halved. There were loads of jobs (eventually) they just didn’t pay a living wage. And make no mistake, that was intentional. It was planned.

But all is not lost. We still have our desktops and laptops and iPads and Smart phones and iPhones and they all connect us and that is an incredibly powerful thing. We just have to wake up to that fact.

Cloud

We are constantly distracted by Instagram and Facebook and Snapchat and Twitter and we are left to our own devices (with our own devices) to argue and fall out over the garbage that is fed to us on a 24/7 basis from mainstream media. Diversionary tactics. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We have those devices and they are powerful tools. We just have to learn to use them intelligently instead of stupidly. We had Brexit forced on us by the manipulation of data and the collusion of the social media platforms to give voice to liars and braggarts. It was our data that was sold, sorted, sifted and manipulated to give people who were already primed for the propaganda, by their own admissions on their timelines, to be riled and rousted into a righteous frenzy about things that didn’t even exist: can’t control our own borders (we could) Turkey are joining the EU (they never were) the country is full (have you ever flown over it?) Facebook have banned The Lord’s Prayer (they haven’t) the filthy scum from abroad want to steal your jobs and rape your children (they didn’t, most wanted to join their families and besides, we’re bombing the shit out of them). By handing our data over to private companies we were all profiled and then it was easy to target individuals with false information that would feed into their way of thinking: people with military backgrounds saw postings of muslims burning poppies when, in fact, many of them sell them; folks with a small ‘c’ conservative background were bombarded with border control and sovereign government and abiding by our own rules and not the EUs; we already had that. And of course, the less stable, EDL type who are obsessed with an English or British identity that they don’t even understand, they were whipped into a fury that actually ended in murder.

Don’t even get me started on Black Lives Matter. All those gammons posting ‘All Lives Matter’ and then in the next breath, ‘Let them drown!’

The point is, we are encouraged to be distracted by this shit. It keeps us fighting among ourselves. Homeless people are for either a) helping out or b) spitting on, depending on where you’re coming from.

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The little problems are inflated to the point that half of us can’t think of anything else while the establishment is shafting us on a day by day basis. So, those devices, your PC, laptop, iPad and phone, can be used to fight against this horse shit. It might seem pointless or futile but you can join pressure groups, you can sign petitions (yes, I know they ignore them but it’s fuel for them on the front line of the fight for our interests), you can argue with friends who post disgusting or ill-informed opinions (don’t unfriend them, persevere). The establishment has billions to throw at this stuff and can buy the voice of people that we trust (the press, the audio / visual media, politicians and celebrities) but collectively, we can fight it. There are sixty odd million of us in this country, about fifty two million of us can vote, and we all, mostly, have access to the internet. A petition of over six million against the Brexit decision seriously rattled the establishment.

If half of us didn’t want it (and now that figure appears to be over sixty percent) then that petition could have been twenty six million.

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That’s eleven million more than voted for it.

Just a thought. Don’t be downhearted. Things can change and things will change. We are governed by charlatans and liars, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. We can change it. We just need to convince more people of the way in which they are being manipulated for the benefit of the super wealthy and at the expense of the normal working person.

Use your device as a weapon against oppression. They haven’t blocked us from doing that – yet.

So, that was an unusual September blog. I had no intention of writing half of that stuff but, once I started, couldn’t stop. I know, a bit like being sick.

The banner photo is Dartmoor Prison in Princetown where all our government should be.

And that’s a little Blackening Wax Cap up there (Hygrocybe conica) 

Oh, and yes, the green writing is my version of American Pie (or The Gasman Cometh for those that know).

But don’t be disheartened. Control your own destiny and slide over to my Website for some more waffle and maybe even buy a paperback.

See you in October!