The River Thames is a pewter-grey surface, ruckled by a chilly breeze. The South Lambeth Road is a hard S of tarmac. In one curve there are the Portuguese cafes, in the other a Days Inn Hotel that, quite frankly, none of us believe ever has any clients. I’m sitting in the Sylver Surfer Internet Cafe posting the first of what I hope will be many many blogs for this site. Why the Sylver Surfer? Well, it’s notionally the closest cyber-gaff to my own home, and I quite like the conceit of wending further and further away from the Self natal cleft as I make these posts. There’s this, and there’s also the fantastic obsolescence of my own computer equipment – which I haven’t upgraded for the past nine years. I’ve never deleted an email message either – there are over 15,000 in the inbox – and nor have I downloaded any of the software required to read the more advanced websites of today. As a result, my own site, put together by the inestimable Chrises, Mitchell and Hall, appears as a uniform field of colour on my home computer, which takes about fifteen minutes to download.
I agonise about upgrading. While I agonise I can almost hear the measured, robotic tread of technological advance as it stalks past my door. Why bother to try and catch up? Perhaps it would be better not only to post these blogs from cyber cafes, but also to do the rest of my writing at them? My friend Tony, who’s some sort of massively powerful Uber-geek at the BBC, tells me that Google will give me a couple of gigabytes of cyberspace in which to store my shit. I like the idea of every thought and observation I make being dumped in this electronic lumber room, while I, joyously unencumbered, tie my mangy collie Tim on to a length of old packing tape, and proceed to Vauxhall Park for a few cans of super-strength lager and a gobbing session with my mates.
I think you may be getting my drift: it’s the sheer profligacy of computing power that strikes me dumb with Luddite inanition. The idea that the average teen, goofing out on MSN, has more calculating capability at his or her fingertips than the entire guidance systems of all the ICBMs aimed during the Cold War, makes me feel an awful dizziness. I stare down between my feet at the deep, deep time, wherein tens of thousands of generations of humans struggled to find exactly the right way to hit one flint with another so as to achieve a decent cutting surface. We’re not fit for such jewells at these VDUs. It’s all going to end badly.
P.S. I don’t have a mangy collie called Tim, just in case you’re intending to put the ALF on to me. I haven’t had a dog in years – and the idea of picking up ordure in the streets, then wiping my fingers on the net, does not appeal.