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I don’t like computers (happyassassin.net)
450 points by cheiVia0 403 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 263 comments



This struck a chord with me.

Unlike the author, I think I still like computers, but only in their essence. I like programming, the detective game of debugging, learning new paradigms, getting lost in abstraction, the thrill of watching powerful automation doing it's thing.

But I don't like what computers and the internet have become. Without constant mindful adjustment, all my devices inevitably become attention grabbing pushers of just-so packaged bits of media. I don't let that happen, but that's clearly their essential inclination. Keeping this at bay feels like swatting away the tentacles of some persistent deep sea creature.

I feel everyone's attention span eroding. I feel people packaging themselves for social media, opening their self-image and self-worth to the masses. I see a flood of undifferentiated information, the spread of hysteria and belligerence, the retreat of quietude, humility, and grace.

This is all downside, but lately I'm losing the upside. While I still love the technology underneath it all, more and more I feel like I'm working in the service of something that's driving humanity collectively insane.


I don't like what the internet has become. I always get wistful watching 1990s movies, seeing people logging in and getting articles from the NYT website: http://www.internethistorypodcast.com/2015/10/martin-nisenho....

Now, there was a lot of crap on the web back then, but it was still text maybe with some blinky graphics. On today's rich media sites you sometimes can't even select the text. E.g. try copying the address out of a location that Google shows in response to a search (on mobile at least). Text is the basis of civilization--surely deemphasizing text represents the downfall of it.


I think I'm beginning to understand why vaporwave is a thing. It harks back to a simpler time when we all looked forward to jacking into cyberspace with our Ono-Sendai decks, but the Mac (or Windows 3.x/9x PC for true pedestrians) on our desk with NCSA Mosaic and a 28.8kbps modem brought us close enough. Before trolls (unless you hung out on USENET), before 4chan, before everyone tried to sell you an app, and sell your data to some advertiser.


For me computing peaked in the late 1990s. NT4 and Word Perfect 7, surfing the internet on a 256 Kbps SDSL modem.


Some would say August of 1993.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September


And before drive by infections of all kinds...


Neal Stephenson wrote a pretty interesting essay on the societal implications of deemphasizing text. In the beginning was the command line: http://www.cryptonomicon.com/beginning.html


I'm getting pretty good mileage out of using uBlock Origin's "Advanced user" mode and by default filtering everything (other than the initial HTML). Then as needed I can allow images, JavaScript, third party content, etc. progressively. The base experience though is much like the 90s web experience. Of course there are sites with almost no content in the the initial HTML file.


Yes Werner Herzog mentions the collective insanity of humanity in conjunction with text messaging in one of his documentaries. Games and text messages and social media have captured peoples brains. People are drawn into their devices mentally and emotionally in a way that barely makes them present in the actual world, even when they are walking to work or dining with friends or driving. There is something so magnetic about these devices that draws in almost every person who encounters them in a way that is not healthy.

Because it's all happening in real time to humanity as a whole it's hard to see the bigger picture of how we are changing. I think of it as probably being like how people responded to the invention of fire. It just made perfect sense and took over the world and happened to everyone together. Being present in the midst of this historical change is an opportunity to know something very deep about human beings, who we are.

The biggest thing about these changes from my perspective is that people are devolving into something that looks like a collective autism. Like they are obsessed with the fact that something is happening somewhere else at all times and the device has opened a window to seeing it. And yet when you look out that window into the collective digital consciousness of pictures and texts and advertising you see that there is actually nothing happening at all that isn't exactly what you would expect. People doing things. But always somewhere else.

The main thing I don't like is when I am walking downtown and people are literally just wandering mindlessly as a herd texting on their phones not even looking up at traffic as they cross the street. They navigate by being aware of other people's direction and path but oblivious to their own. For example, I will be crossing the street and another person who is texting will walk just a few steps behind me texting, looking at their phone, never looking up at traffic and trusting that if they follow my path they will end up on the other side of the street. I don't even know really how to describe that experience but I am sure everyone else has it too. It's like people have been reduced to herd animals walking collectively while immersed deeply in their devices... because there isn't possibly anything at all happening in this present moment that is worth paying attention to. And I am not talking about one or two people walking around in this way. It's practically everyone.

Honestly, am I the only person who notices this? I wonder.


My pet theory: the digital world is just real enough for us to inhabit without feeling alone, while removing a few crucially difficult elements of in-person interaction. Because we can't escape the reality of being social animals, we gravitate toward the easier social world - the digital one, and thus we end up checked out of the physical world way too much.

I've been disturbed, above all, by the following dynamics that are missing from the digital world:

Social awkwardness is alleviated by asynchronicity, there's no such thing as awkward silence online, and you can carefully craft everything you put out there.

One can avoid various flavors of vulnerability and ennui. Hiding your face from others means no one can see your exhaustion, dissatisfaction, denial, boredom, etc. - and because you see yourself more clearly when reflected through the eyes of others, a lack of that reflection makes self-deception that much easier. And on the flip side, avoiding seeing these things on the faces of others allows us to escape the difficulty and obligation that empathy imposes on us.

This would all be great if we didn't need these and other hardships of the analog world to truly flourish, but we do. So existence in the digital-social world becomes akin to slow carbon monoxide poisoning. It fools your system just enough that you don't realise that you're actually suffocating - the ill effects pile up while the alarm systems (loneliness, need for intimacy) stay mum.


Why do we need those things to flourish?


If I may I would recommend the work of Sherry Turkle[1] from the MIT. There are several talks from here on youtube, and I particularly like her conversation on the good life project podcast[2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherry_Turkle [2] https://soundcloud.com/goodlifeproject/sherry-turkle


http://akns-images.eonline.com/eol_images/Entire_Site/201595...

self obsessed, self absorbed, selfish-stick zombie society living through 4" screen.


Except for the awesomely peaceful looking old lady!


You aren't the only one noticing it. It seems to me that these devices tap into a collective unconsciousness, and this I observe to be anxiety or general human fidgety. I wonder if these devices entrance us the same way books and text entrance us. Books create realities that only exist in mind, perhaps these images, feeds, videos are the same thing, but in a modern way? our devices entrance us to a state of mind not so different from reading a book (which is more healthy nevertheless), and i think because human consciousness is merely a feedback loop, we seek for things that reflect the mind well, so hence mirrors, text, photos, videos, and these devices.


I love to put my phone down.. but at the same time it takes me from boredom. For instance, I'm in a strip mall while the wife shops. There's nothing else for me to do but reflect on philosophy (that is read hackernews and reddit shitpost).


Nothing wrong with being bored. Try just sitting there and think about things rather than pull out your phone as soon as real life is boring. Your attention span will thank you.


I don't understand why people are so uneasy about being bored, is it the fear of missing out or is it addiction of always having a jolt of dopamine for each new "like" they receive?


It's a phase.

The Internets form a global AI with humans as the neural nodes. The isolation from the "real world" that you observe in so many people is isomorphic to nerve tissue being isolated from environmental factors. The bulk of nerve cells in your body are transmitting and processing signals that originate far from their surrounding tissue.


This is very well put.


This is literally what I'm trying to convey in my personal statement for university. I'm thinking of studying computer science at uni (I'm in my last year of high school) and this is precisely my dilemma: how to keep my interest alive by focusing on the beauty of programming itself, automation, the abstract creative nature of it, while ignoring the overwhelming downsides: drowning in this virtual world that is out of touch with reality, in this mass of useless information, useless innovations, profit-driven apps, addiction to smartphones, etc. Consumerism as it was in the 60's, applied to everything digital.

I'd be more than happy to discuss this further with anyone as it's something that's preoccupying me a lot right now as I try to decide what to pursue in my studies.

Another thing that helps me cope with this tech world: hoping to be able to contribute to or work along standards such as those of Calm Computing (https://www.calmtech.com/), or TimeWellSpent (http://timewellspent.io/). Through things like these, and through the pessimistic view I have right now of the tech world, do my best to contribute to it in a beneficial way, more "ethical way." Basically, I'm motivated to work in tech to try to "shift" it a tiny bit, to fight the enemy from inside.


What you're seeing is the information equivalent of an endless, free salad bar with everything a human being could possibly eat available in unlimited quantities. There are high-quality veggies and hideous junk foods, clean water and toxic booze, fresh foods and spoiled. Go ahead, eat anything you want, as much as you want, whenever you want.

Whether this will be heaven or hell for you ultimately depends on whether you can carefully and deliberately develop "consumption" habits that support you in the long run. With proper care, the more options the salad bar offers, the better your chosen subset will get.


I largely agree with that sentiment, but it is difficult to separate oneself from the rest of a society that has made unhealthy choices. The market is driven by the masses and we participate in the market. The salad bar may be unlimited, but there sure are larger areas of it dedicated to serving the tastes of everyone else.


Yes, it's a perspective that I have to work to maintain. It's hard to constantly have to seek for the high-quality veggies and reconvince yourself that what you're doing is worth it.


> how to keep my interest alive by focusing on the beauty of programming itself, automation, the abstract creative nature of it, while ignoring the overwhelming downsides

Focusing on the thrill of programming while ignoring the downsides is how we got here. Maybe you meant "focusing on the beauty... while ameliorating the downsides". Anyway, you seem much more self aware than I was at your age, so I'm sure you'll do fine. :)


> focusing on the beauty... while ameliorating the downsides That's a great way to put it, thanks.

The second thing that worries me about doing compsci is the fact that I'll have to dedicate a huge portion of my life to staying in front of a screen. It bothers me a bit but for now it is outweighed by the advantages.


This also bothers me. There's something soul-sucking about screens once you spend more than 4 or so hours in front of one. And because I can't really put my finger on what it is about screens that has this effect, I can't come up with even a sci-fi version of a solution to this problem.

The closest I've come to even an inkling of a solution is the idea of a high-refresh-rate e-ink display and doing everything in a fullscreen terminal, because somehow my kindle doesn't have the "screen" effect on me. But I'm really not sure if this would actually be helpful, let alone plausible.


But you're a programmer, so you must manage no? I've actually thought about the e-ink display. I would immediately buy a very simple, lightweight e-ink laptop that allows me to do simple tasks.


I've been feeling this too, but mostly this reply is to save your beautifully worded comment so I can find it again.


Hacker News recently added a feature that would help you out there. You can 'favorite' a comment now by clicking on its timestamp and then clicking the 'favorite' link. You can easily check all your favorited comments on your user page.


Very cool, thank you for the info!


I agree with the sentiments. I don't agree with the notion of the good-old days however. It only takes 5 minutes on a PC running Windows 3.1 to remind me how much of pain those days were at times - at least in comparison to now.

You see the difference is that I was much more patient and tolerant then. Now, thanks to the Internet - I have become very impatient, anxious and my attention span has dropped almost to zero.

I hate theee things. The way technology has changed me. This is why I have grown more and more disinterested in technology and all its promises. Even though if I were being honest we have never had it better in terms of the range, options and diversity of the field.

I think technology has made me a worse person. More informed but less interested. It's given me more opportunnities at a time when i feel most exhausted and apathetic. Perhaps this is normal considering we are going through the "internet" revolution. A lot of changes. Many of which I don't like within myself and society in general.


The tech is still fun and cool, it's the hype that's taxing. VCs promising to invent human immortality 'we're going to solve the problem of death' was the pinnacle of their hubris. Calm down guys. A global communication network is great but it ain't an invention on the level of a cancer cure.

People who love computers take a hobbyists view. It used to be a hobbyist thing. That's gone forever if you look at the world the influence now of global power structures and corrosive effects of greed. You can preserve the hobbyist mentality about it yourself in your own pure joy of it but if you don't naturally your going to get disillusioned about the whole thing.


> VCs promising to invent human immortality 'we're going to solve the problem of death' was the pinnacle of their hubris.

I have a different view. I'm thinking, "finally someone is fucking serious about what should obviously be the goal of everyone". If rich SV people are willing to throw money at something actually useful for a change, I'm all for it.


I disagree. It should not be the goal of everyone because we have hundreds of other larger humanitarian issues on earth than delaying aging & dying. That literally is a "first world problem". Let's fix the crises first


we have hundreds of other larger humanitarian issues on earth than delaying aging & dying

Do we? Preventing people from dying is at the core of what "humanitarian issues" actually means. Yes, too many people die because of violence or starvation or lack of basic medical care, and we should absolutely address those problems, but the effects of aging are harming billions of people and will ultimately kill them.


Death is a guarantee, even if you extend it. While in the United States we may live 70-100, in other countries they live to maybe 40, while child mortality is sky high. It would be awesome if we can close that gap first, instead of making the divide between the rich and poor even wider.


It would be awesome, sure, but if both things can be done in parallel, why not?

This smells of a "if I can't have it first, nobody can have it" thinking. Do lives of the westerners matter so little? Are they not people too?


Why not both?

To me, your argument sounds a bit like the argument that we shouldn't be exploring space because we have enough problems here on earth.


Both is fine. I disagreed with OP that it is the goal of "everyone". It is only the problem of the rich.


Really? Mortality is only a problem of the rich? Huh... interesting.


Mortality by age, and mortality by violence, starvation, sanitary conditions, diseases, etc, etc are very different problems. See the difference?


If you can give a million rich people an extra 1000 years of life, is that not as good as giving 100 million poor people an extra 10? Arguably it's better since those thousand years are going to be spent in greater comfort than the 10 years in the other case.

How much should we value global justice relative to human life?


The problem I see with your strawman is that only the rich have the ability to extend age for the rich, further leaving the poor behind who are unable to close the humanitarian gaps on their own. What have we done to deserve to live 1000 years while others starve, other than being born in better circumstances.


That was not a strawman, unless you think I missed something about your position.

The question I asked was how much we should value the extent to which people "deserve" longer life against the moral value inhernet in extended life. You have to show that the fact that the rich have done nothing to "deserve" extended life (which I'll assume is true for the sake of argument) is bad enough to outweigh a million people getting an extra 1000 years of life, regardless of who those people are.


> People who love computers take a hobbyists view.

This is the key. You can ignore all of the distractions and use the incredible resources available to you to dive deeply into whatever topic you're currently interested in. If you remain vigilant it's an amazing time to be alive. Just turn off the facebook and ditch your smart phone if you can. I haven't had a phone in three years (just use skype and IM to keep in touch) and I couldn't be happier.

In my opinion, there are two things that make life worth living: hobbies and relationships with fellow sentient beings (I was going to say human relationships but I'll leave the door open for future machine buddies; I personally believe that if the AGI problem is ever cracked, humans will become far more attached to their AIs than to their human friends. This may be what drives the next wave of isolation). The Amish have a good way of dealing with technology adoption: if a technology is interfering with your core values, it should be avoided at all costs. It is possible to avoid our ubiquitous digital skinner boxes if you adopt this practice.


I wonder if it being so fast to get stuff done is leading to more fatigue now ?


What does biotech investment even have to do with computers at all?


> I agree with the sentiments. I don't agree with the notion of the good-old days however. It only takes 5 minutes on a PC running Windows 3.1 to remind me how much of pain those days were at times - at least in comparison to now.

I think, even back in the day, not many people were excited about running Windows 3.1.

Early 90s, the excitement was probably more on the Mac, BeOS or maybe even still the Amiga. If you already had access to the internet, then there was of course the release of Linux.

Edit: Oh, I forgot about the Apple Newton. Now that was a piece of hardware that seemed to haven fallen out of a time machine. I never owned one myself but around 2000 I worked for a few weeks with somebody who had one. That machine made my Palm IIIx look like a simple paper clip.


I kinda share the feeling. Well I still like tinkering with some things that nobody else seems to care about. But most of the time it feels like doing stuff with computers is just fighting the new technology (which I don't care for) and then there's politics, copyright & contracts, things that further try to ruin it for me.

For most part I can't get excited about any of the news about software, programming languages, new services or big tech corps. I look at the front page of HN, yawn and move on. I don't care what Apple is doing, I don't care what Google is doing, I don't care about your new javascript framework or microservice, not about your new OS, I don't care about a new smartphone or laptop...

The few things I find interesting are things I keep to myself because every time I've tried to make a discussion about them, nobody else seems to be interested. Or it may even be met with hostility.


Please share what you find interesting. I'm curious to know.


Apparently, this is left as an exercise for the reader. Hint: use your imagination.


My imagination says lava cakes. That's what he finds interesting.


Now, I'm intensely curious.

What is it that you like?


making a great living by pushing buttons on the interwebs, most likely. many of us lose the childhood passion at some point but still can be good technologists. our interests shift over time, but discipline and the ability to get shit done means you are valuable to society, and especially to others in your field.

what i really am envious of are people who take their fading passion (for lack of a better of work) passion in pure technology and judo-flip it into massive career leverage in another industry they have new-found passion or interest in.


Would you care to share those things now? Here or email if you prefer


Gonna join in. I too would like to know those things!


I would like to know too.

I have some weird interests that I guarantee puts people to sleep (watch repair, horology), but I'm a weirdo.

I have a feeling your interests might interest a lot of us?

As to myself, I'm tired of computers, and the Internet--it all peaked, for myself, around 2008. I wont say why because everyone got so pious, for Very good reasons.

I do miss the plethora of information people were scanning, or uploading back then.


To me that just sounds like nostalgia...


I agree. I remember learning to program on my graphing calculator in the early 2000's. Nobody cared, unless i could make a game they could play. Flash forward to now, I enjoy making web apps. None of my friends care unless I can make an app they can use.

Nothing has really changed. Being a maker is still as uncommon/weird as it always was. It might seem like everybody likes tech today, but they liked tv and video games and phones too. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same...


A little off topic but I also got my start on graphing calculators (Ti 83 plus)!

And your experience mirrored mine as far as external interest, outside of games and in my case, programs that "did the homework for you", no one really cared about the process of making them, it was all about if the end result was something they could use


Ti 83 plus here too :) Such a great platform to start on. Press right arrow to go to the edit tab, easy to see examples. And the instructions in the manual!!! Whoever put those there is responsible for my career, or at least my passion. Realizing that I didnt have to do math homework was addicting :)

"programs that "did the homework for you" " Lol, I was careful not to tell people about those. I knew they would peer pressure me, and eventually they would get caught using one on a test.

"And your experience mirrored mine as far as external interest"

I think this is common for any creative task. I love music, but I never really cared to learn the scales, or any instruments. Nor do I listen when others talk about them. Nobody wants to see how the sausage is made I guess :)


Sometimes things actually get worse though


Yes threat of hostility keeps me to myself too.


I really think there was a hidden shift in the past 10 years from dreamers trying to implement things helping humanity to asocial computing whose only purpose is to extract more money than humanly possible. Before these dreamers had an edge as the power-hungry people didn't get it; now they get it and use it to extend their power and even using these dreamers as disposable ways to reach their goals. It's difficult to get excited about it.


The same is often said of literature, cinema, healthcare, childcare, tourism, and just about everything. Heck, this was a criticism of the Sophists in Ancient Greece!


Whether it was said or not, I lived through it, so I have first-hand experience that tells me there was a shift. It used to be that programming was an unpopular hobby of unpopular people (nerds!). Now not just IT, but the whole geek/nerd culture got commercialized, to the point that today's programmers are nothing like the ones from 10+ years ago. Today if you pick a random developer in a random company, you'll most likely find someone with only shallow knowledge/understanding of programming, who is in this career just for the money, and only cares about the craft between 9 AM and 5 PM.

It does feel like the culture I grew up in was invaded and taken over by barbarians.


To an extent that was always going to happen as the field expanded, if you look at any established field (medicine, law, engineering) you have people who are insanely passionate about the field for the field and people who realised it would provide a good standard of living.

I don't think this is a bad thing necessarily, the overall expansion of numbers has also radically increased the number of people doing interesting things as well, you just have to find them and they are everywhere, there are still programmers doing things for the passion of doing them.


How do those that are interested in just doing a job affect you at all? Are you upset that you can't say you're a programmer and hold it as a badge of honour that you're not one of 'them?'


I got used to it so it doesn't upset me at all. The thing that affected me was that when I came to the workplace, I expected to meet more people "of my kind". Instead, I've met the same normal people who laugh at you for programming after work or having scientific interests (i.e. "having no life"). Adults are more polite about it, though.


I agree that it probably has happened, but it probably happens to every single hobby, artform or profession. If it's worth money, then mercenaries will be attracted to it.


Yes, this seems to be tragedy of human nature where the lowest character traits shape the society, not the highest. Now it's happening in tech and happening faster than ever before.


That's an oversimplification. For good or ill, greed drives innovation and expands access to these services, while "retaining authenticity" is often a cover for "retaining exclusivity". We shouldn't be too quick to label traits as 'high' and 'low'.


i think blowskis point was, people have been saying the same thing for 2000 years[1], so it's hard to take it seriously :) The example of sofists is supposed to be absurd - i dont think anyone today believes those ancient philosophers were just in it for the money/power.

[1] see https://xkcd.com/1227/ for a similar example.


This wasn't hidden at all. This isn't some mysterious phenomenon, it's a function of going mass market. _Everything_ that becomes universally popular provides such a huge incentive to monetize that the stable equilibrium is exactly this.

You can see it very clearly on the consumer side: in the 90s and 00s,"kid who spends time on the internet" was practically a subculture. Now, it's just the culture.


A common lament of "hippies vs. yuppies" since at least the 60s, I think. :(


I think the world has always been made up of people fucking around for various more or less silly reasons, money-making being a huge one, dreamy utopianism another.

What dreamers are you talking about? What makes you think they aren't still dreaming?


It's not that the dreamers aren't dreaming.

Its that people have figured out how to grok the dreamers, and convert it back into what the dreamers tried to get away from.

Business 2.0 is now back to being business 1.0, - the only sad part is that you can see the cage built with bars that have their own signature.


I don't think vague metaphors are doing your argument any favors. Please be more concrete.


I imagine kids in the 90s thought of the internet as a magic tool that would revolutionize society, 'defeat' all the big businesses and industries, and other such naive notions. Now Google/Facebook = big businesses, and society has gotten better overall but no magical revolution.

I think the same thing would probably come of the 'AI singularity-never have to work again' hype - mainly businesses utilizing AI for better ads, with a marginal increase in quality of life.


I guess I can relate to the general feeling, but I would say that it's not computers I don't like, it's the internet. And if you look at the bulleted list in the original blog post, you see that most of the things listed there are internet related - probably, as one might argue, because computers == internet these days.

But that's why I say I share the feeling: what drew me to computers when I was little was the tinkering with this fascinating machine that did as you told it (so you better told it the right things or else it would end up in a mess without mercy). It was a time were you felt you could still reach a point were you're actually in control, computers were still simple enough that one person could pretty much understand all of it.

This is no longer the case today. The complexity of the modern IT landscape is just intimidating. You couldn't possibly feel like you could one day be in control or on top of things anymore. Everything's changing, everything's growing at too fast a pace to keep up.

Therefore, if what drew you to computing in the first place was a personal connection and interaction between yourself and the machine, it's no wonder that that magic has gone now.


Since I am now 30 years into the this career, I now see the young software engineers and wonder to myself what a shit-career they must be embarking on. I don;t know that for sure — I don't know how much I am just projecting, or is Software Engineering just not as fun as it used to be for some of the reasons you cite (too much changing too fast, never a sense of being able to fully control/own the architecture)?

Regardless, it gives me some comfort to know that I've enjoyed a good part of my career up to this point and I'm a lot closer to being on the way out of my career than the way in.


Which, as an old guy, I just ordered a Raspberry Pi. Just enough of a contained system to explore without having to become expert-level in 5 other fields just to get the thing to work.


I'm guessing a similar-ish age to myself.

Besides the internet, one thing that's changed is that computing has become a much less solitary activity: in the 90s and 2000s we were still seeing the tail end of the microcomputer era which was very much built by individuals hacking away on stuff at home or in tiny businesses -- and when larger businesses hired "microcomputer" (and to some extent PC, and web) people, they still worked in very much the same way.

Today, the IT workplace is all about "teams and practices", and even if you're working on something intensely personal as a side project, there's still a degree of expectation that if you want it to amount to anything you need to get it out there as a collaborative, open source project. Or a company with other people involved.

At least for introverts, computing used to seem like something of a refuge. That's definitely less true today unless you deliberately do something that's totally personal.


I miss that old computer. That feeling of top of the world when something I made just works, without worrying being judged by framework standard, patterns, team collaboration, pair programming, etc etc

Someone mentioned about 14.4k hayes modem, I miss that too, BBS was a wonder land, people talk and share and respect without worrying being downvoted or disliked.

I miss the world without portable computers, nowadays it's hard to hold on a conversation with someone without her being buzzed away by phone/watch, heck it is even impossible to start a conversation to people sitting next to us, buried her head in her shiny gigantic smartphone.


> I miss that old computer.

Emulate at the Wayback Machine

> 14.4k hayes modem, I miss that too.

Most providers offer slower speeds for less $!

> nowadays it's hard to hold on a conversation with someone without her being buzzed away by phone/watch

I live in the 2nd largest Amish community in the US, there are still a lot of people/places without buzzers attached to them.

> it is even impossible to start a conversation to people sitting next to us

This is nothing new, the best book (my opinion) was written long before any of this stuff, How to win friends and influence people.


This is a normal part of growing up. It sounds like the author is perhaps in his mid-30s? 40ish? Am I close? Actually that doesn't matter at all, because this happens throughout your entire life. It's happened to me several times.

The secret to human interests is that they have an arc. A beginning, a middle and an end. Are you still doing the same things you were doing when you were ten? Maybe, but maybe not. I'm certainly not. There were no computers when I grew up. Well maybe a few ;)

It's natural to be bummed out when your interests (work interests, love, play, etc) change. It feels weird and uncomfortable, like we are losing something. It feels bad. You wonder if you are in a deeper funk...like real depression. Will it return? Is it a phase? You don't know.

The best way I have found to deal with this is just to watch. Observe. Hmm. I'm really not feeling this today and haven't for a while. That sucks. Don't get too caught up in it. Let the feelings rise and fall. Keep noticing. What is it that I do get turned on by? Well, I'd really like to be reading right now. So make time and do it. Let your urges take you where they will. Trust them. Let them lead you towards something that does it for you. The author seems to have that covered. He (she) is aware of things that are interesting. Keep doing these things. Let the things that interest you reveal themselves. Have faith in this cycle. It does eventually resolve itself.

I realize that this whole deal is tough due to responsibilities. Family, etc. People are counting on you. You have bills to pay. Appointments to keep. Keep them. Stick to the routine while you explore. This is important, because learning about yourself is easier when the external drama levels are low.

You will know if this course works, because you will feel better. If you still have angst and it is getting worse, then you may need to talk to a real person (a whole other kettle of fish).

My advice: listen and watch. Do what you need to while exploring what makes you happy.


Thank you.


Heh, and I don't have a problem to say that I'm looking for a career switch. In fact I've been doing software engineering professionally for +15 years now and quite honestly I'm sick of it. Have been for years now.

I still enjoy programming but only that and when I get to program my own hobby programs and focus on the parts and problems that I find worth solving and doing. I don't enjoy the SW dev work at work, doing stuff that I don't care (or the world doesn't care about), solving problems like fixing build files, or having a shitty tool that crashes or having all these stupid useless (meta) problems and the general nonsense prevalent in the IT/tech industry. Just as an example of what I mean the other day I was having a problem with automake (WARNING: 'aclocal-1.14' is missing on your system.) when building protobuf (not going to get into details, it's very obscure). My motivation for this kind of (nearly daily) crap is about absolute 0. I'm sick and tired of it all.

The only reason why I'm still doing this is because I haven't realized what would be a feasible alternate job for me to do and which direction to go to.

Overall I feel like this job has changed me as a person as well. I'm extremely cynical these days about anything related to tech/IT. But hey at least I have a great taste for cynical and sarcastic humor now (for example Dilbert)!


Replying to my own reply,

furthemore I guess the most painful aspect about is the realization of own's limitations and understanding that despite the effort to self improve, study and actively try to learn I'm never going to be a top tear developer with a fancy career that would take me to places. I mean I'm a solid developer but still I'm just a "SW dev" and lacking a massive fluke in this industry thats probably all I'm ever going to be. Partially it's also about me not being very career orietented (at least when I was younger) but now when you realize that you've hit middle age, your friends have moved up in the world to bigger companies, bigger jobs/positions and salaries and after 15 years you're beating the same dead horse (hey, look what cmake just vomited out!!) it feels... well it feels like you got deceived.

Basically same thing in a blog format: https://giantfublog.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/the-difference-...


This resonates with me, BUT - I think looking up to peers because of their tangible accomplishments is a kind of self deception. If you were the best earning person at high school reunion - would that make you happier on the whole, or would you just enjoy boasting at the reunion, and that's about it? Who are you really envious of? The rich people, or the dream-come-true people with an average or even low income? I'd rather strive to be in the second group. I'm deeply envious of my guitar teacher. I certainly make more than him, and giving lessons can be boring - but making music makes him deeply happy.


Well large paycheck would be a nice thing, but more than I guess it'd be about accomplishment, making something worthwhile and recognition and/or making something that'd actually make the world a better place and obviously getting to do what you actually enjoy doing.

>>I'm deeply envious of my guitar teacher. I certainly make more than him, and giving lessons can be boring - but making music makes him deeply happy.

I'm envious of guys like that too. It's great if you can spend your time doing what you enjoy. My first 5 years in the tech were like that. But the luster is definately gone now.


Have you tried contracting?

I think from there it is easier to go into different directions: Want to gradually transition from service to product? Want to create a company and manage other people doing your work? Want to gradually switch to different kinds of projects?


And after you got used to a senior engineer salary, finding something comparable in another industry where you have no experience can prove to be quite a challenge.


Yup.


Then try this point of view:

Imagine you get the same amount of money you get know ("basic income" just for you). How much money are you willing to spend monthly on projects you enjoy and that make you feel useful?

Subtract that amount from your current pay check and see if you can find something in the new lower range :-)


Yeah, if only accomodation wasn't so so expensive. Also considering my options for going back to university to study something else. But lets face it it's going to take some massive will power and financial juggling to make a career switch happen at middle age.


Albert Schweitzer is my favorite career-switch example. Unfortunately I find large parts of studying to become a doctor rather dull - I've actually taken a couple hundred hours of courses. Also, thanks to the Internet and all the information on it I would not feel as good about myself as Schweitzer did because I would be only too aware of global forces beyond anyone's control that let any individual efforts seem completely useless.

For example, the recent headlines about the outburst of violence in Ethiopia. Imagine you were one of the people who spent a decade or more building a business there to help the people - only to see it all go up in smoke in the course of an hour of rioting because larger issues in the country remained unaddressed. It feels to me like I'm waiting for larger issues to result in a "signal", and that until then individual efforts are actually pretty useless because greater forces are at work pointing into another direction. So what I do now is work on my skills and on my continued education.

By the way, speaking of studying, I started a math study (I already did CS and half of "business administration"), but during the first year I found out that while it was extremely interesting it was way, way too narrow. I had too much of a desire to try something completely different. That's why I ended up studying a lot of medical topics. I think edX and Coursera and the course websites from Stanford, MIT and many others are a very good option these days. After all, you only really need one degree to say "I studied", actually getting another one has greatly diminished returns. I'm not talking about the knowledge you gain but about the piece of paper. As for the knowledge, I would find studying anything too narrow and limiting. Picking up whatever I want from the available (university) courses has been much more satisfying. 70 courses thus far and counting :-) Added benefit: No time pressure. Learn whatever whenever and wherever.


A different angle, but I don't like computers that are in your face, costing time, rather than giving me time.

I don't like games. I don't like VR. I don't like AR. I don't like television. Also reading HN too much makes me feel empty.

However, I do like smart things that do stuff for me and get out of my way. I really like waking up in a warm bedroom while the rest of the house is allowed be cold. I like the convenience of telling Alexa, "play something relaxing" when I come home from work. I like having to clean a little less thanks to a Roomba. I like not having to switch off stuff because it's done automatically. I like an AI to schedule my appointments.

Every computer that minimizes my interactions with computers or gives me time, the most precious resource, I like!


Hey, your taste is your taste, but I don't see why you'd come down on screen-based entertainment but appreciate the other things that 'cost' time: books, cooking for yourself, dishes you have to wash, shopping, theater, hiking, etc.


All of those apart from dishwashing and some of the shopping are benefits/entertainment, surely?

I think it's useful for people to make a distinction between "I'm doing this by choice as entertainment" vs "I'm doing this as a default activity that's sort of addictive, and not really enjoying it". TV, social media, and, er, Hackernews can fall into the latter category if you're not mindful.


Totally this. For me, it's about whether the cost is imposed on me, or chosen voluntarily.

So I love videogames, but I hate those designed to suck you in on purpose via cheap psychology tricks. I love books. But I hate ads, infomercials and content with very low quality/size ratio. And I absolutely hate maintenance tasks (dusting, washing dishes, exercise) and wish they could all be automated away.


> I absolutely hate maintenance tasks (dusting, washing dishes, exercise) and wish they could all be automated away

I sort of share this opinion, and when it comes to dusting and washing dishes I still agree. But recently I started weightlifting and its come to be much more fun than just straight cardio ever was, now I look forward to going to the gym. Worth a try if you haven't already.

Also polishing my shoes is a maintenance task, but I find it very relaxing and gratifying when I'm done. But yeah, as soon as I can get a robot butler to handle the other stuff I'll be happy as a clam.


I agree, but also feel that sometimes 'maintenance tasks' can be incredibly humanizing. Life can feel artificial when there are too few maintenance tasks.


Feels to me like the Stockholm syndrome thing (for lack of a better term). You can't avoid the bug, so in order to keep your sanity, you start to treat it as a feature. Similar thing as with treating death as a "natural state of things", ergo good.


A counter-intuitive finding: studies claim you'll feel happier while doing lame tasks if you concentrate entirely on the task at hand (i.e. being in the present.) I find this rather difficult to test, but momentary glimmers are promising.


N=1 counterfinding, but I find myself incredibly frustrated if I "concentrate entirely on the task at hand" while doing household cleaning. Instead I try and think of anything else.


These sorts of discussions add more value to my thought life than 'healthy and normal' 'real life' conversations (sports, weather, ailments, traffic). I find that "real life" relationships involve a lot more wasted time. So I guess your mileage may vary.


I think it's dangerous to place "add value to my thought life" too high on the spectrum of things that are valuable. Human connection, empathy, direct service to others are also tremendously important parts of life that are sometimes forgotten when "thought life" is put ahead of "real life" too often.


Yes, I think it's about taste indeed.

+ "Light pollution" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_pollution) versus "City of Light" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_Light)

+ In Holland "Horizon pollution" of windmills at our beaches versus nostalgia, Unesco world heritage and thousands of tourists at Kinderdijk.

That what might feel like "Information pollution" to one will feel like a bath of excitement and enjoyment to the other.


> I really like waking up in a warm bedroom while the rest of the house is allowed be cold.

That sounds pretty cool, what is going on there?


Different person, but my radiators can be controlled remotely, so I have a timer to turn up the bedroom radiator and fire up the boiler 10 minutes before getting up. The other areas in my house don't need to be heated, so they aren't.


The same for me. I've radiator valves that are scheduled (one time I'll add presence sensing to it as well).

Moreover I've "district heating" from the industry region at the Rotterdam harbor. So, I don't need to fire up a boiler. I have heat per radiator as soon as the valve opens.


My GF laughs at me and says that I'm a terrible techie, outside of computers and programming, I'm just not that interested in technology anymore, A lot of the fluff around IoT seems just that fluff, I'm excited by the possibilities in terms of things like city management, I couldn't care less if I can turn my lights on when I walk into my house or if my toaster is connected to the internet.

I don't buy gadgets, I own tablets to watch the odd movie and for device testing otherwise I would only have one, my phone is a 4 year old Nexus 4 which I broke the back on and covered in black electrical tape (I could replace it but I don't care enough to do so), I use a 17" Vostro for working the odd time I can't be at my office or at home and it's dented and has stickers stuck all over the scratches, I'm not even sure I remember what the stickers where for.

I'm just not excited by new hardware like I used to be, I only care when it'll have a demonstrable impact on my enjoyment of programming where once I'd have lusted after the latest and greatest I couldn't even name the best model of i7 or whatever at the moment, I only care about that stuff when I'm building a new desktop.

What does excite me is how technology is having a meaningful impact on peoples quality of life.

I think in a way thats just part of getting older (I'm 36).

That and every time I interact with technology that isn't one of my linux machines I come away feeling like I should hunt down whoever wrote the software with a bat and some bad intentions, one of the downsides to been a programmer is that the deficiencies of everything are so much more obvious.

Prime example, I bought a LiFX 1000 bulb (WiFi/IoT bulb) to put into a ships lamp as a christmas present for the GF, it took me 45 minutes to set the thing up, followed all the instructions to the letter, de nada then I thought "I wonder if changing the wireless channel might work" and lo and behold changing from Channel 13 to channel 9 made it work.

Nowhere was that documented in the instructions (which I read) and had I not been a techie I'd have never thought to try it, my point been where once I'd have thought "This is cool" now I just resent the 45 minutes I won't get back.


I just lost 3 hours of my life debugging JavaScript utc vs local time issues in a top rated React datepicker component. Where I used to relish the learning from such experiences, now I feel vaguely resentful and just want that time back for more leisurely pursuits. What I've realized is there is an exponential drop off on how much time "learning experiences" like these will save me in the future. For example, for this category of debugging, it might taken me several days early on, then 1 day, then 4 hours, then 3.5, now 3, maybe 2.8 next time, etc. I think unconsciously when I was starting out I thought all this hard work I was putting in would pay off such that I'd eventually get to a level where I could basically blink and new 1000+ line projects would just appear effortlessly, bug free, and ready to go. The reality is much farther from the truth. While my investment has paid off immensely, there is still a ton of uninteresting ditch digging that still has to get done in the service of making stuff. For me all the way up to the most brilliant engineers out there, there are still plenty of 3 hour slogs left where we will never get that time back and the result won't feel like it was worth it.


Everything you said and the fact that the 'surface' to learn anything well is now huge so we have lots of abstractions all of which leak and require you know a fair bit about all the layers underneath if you want to consider yourself 'good' at what you do.


I'm guessing I'm a similar age to the author from the reference to parents shouting at the phone bill from my 1200/75 modem running all night. And just recently I've felt exactly the same way. My job involves both running systems and writing software, and the joy has disappeared from both. I used to work all day, then come home and hack all evening, but now I don't know if I'm burnt out, but I can find no interest in making computers do cool things any more.

There's been one small bright spot - I tried learning Haskell and loved the way functional programming stretched my brain but there's an awful lot to learn to do anything useful. But Elm, wow, do I love Elm. I feel the excitement I felt when I saw Ruby on Rails for the first time ten years ago. It's finding something interesting and useful to build with Elm that I'm struggling with now.

I wonder if it's the message that if you're not building a product that will build a unicorn company, then it's not interesting that's part of the general malaise.


Thanks for writing this. I can completely relate.

I noticed this when I got my first job, some ten years ago. Back then, I was hacking on Maemo like crazy. I moderated newsgroups, I contributed code to anything I could, in any language that would let me.

I loved my new job. I worked anywhere between 40 and 140 hours, depending on how much work or stress there was. Very quickly, this started eating away at my ability to contribute and participate in the communities I loved and adored.

After some time, I even struggled with becoming a troll against those very communities.

Fast forward some time, and I still haven't found a way to produce software as a hobby. Sometimes I'll get a burst of energy, and manage to architect, document and write a few thousand lines of code over the course of a few weeks, but it's definitely not sustainable.


"I wonder if it's the message that if you're not building a product that will build a unicorn company, then it's not interesting that's part of the general malaise"

This. You realize that like 99% of people just have some boring job being a cog in a wheel, right? I met a janitor once who was really passionate about saving the planet. His impact was limited to purchasing 'green' soap.

Not trying to be preachy, just wanted to put things in perspective. And see eludwigs comment above :) https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12879025


"Somewhere along the way, in the last OH GOD TWENTY YEARS, we – along with a bunch of vulture capitalists and wacky Valley libertarians and government spooks and whoever else – built this whole big crazy thing out of that 1990s Internet and…I don’t like it any more."

It was great fun before it all got so serious. Very funny and true ;)


Only us engineers still see the internet as the internet.

To most of humanity, what it really is is the media, a communications medium, and a few other things. We sw engineers are the roofers, plumbers, and drywallers keeping this invaluable, rickety, incumbent-infested, ethically iffy edifice upright. Of course the work is grim, if you look at it in this (IMO correct) light.


Yup, I often joke about this, with colleagues too! Hack upon hack, paid for in chocolate bars and coffee, the internet is what it is.


I'm always tempted to classify the internet as a test network in our firewall documentation, because that can't be the production version.


All places have a test environment. Good places have a separate production environment.


I take your point. But I'm not at all convinced that the production version is going to be more fun.


Maybe it was when the Internet killed the newspaper that it was no longer fun and games.


It was the Snowden revelations that finally had a serious affect on me. I still enjoy creating things, but the internet has soured. Work is up and down, mostly down. A new job at the right place will fix that though.


OP is getting older. And, like me you move from nights of Gentoo tinckering to Arch, to 30 min Ubuntu LTS installs and hoping the default config files are what you need. And, in the future I see myself buying a Synology.

A child is intrinsically motivated to play, you loose this as an adult. No biggie but your shit just needs to get the job done, and the job is not learning as much about the shit as you can. Such is life, you have other things to do now, like raising a kid, and getting enough sleep while doing it.

As with life I learned a lot when young, taking the time to learn the stuff that I still use now. Perhaps computers extend the playing age because they are intellectually satisfying for much longer than other forms of play, but eventually you're done playing.


> OP is getting older. And, like me you move from nights of Gentoo tinckering to Arch, to 30 min Ubuntu LTS installs and hoping the default config files are what you need. And, in the future I see myself buying a Synology.

Feeling this. Except I hate crappy things. There is just a threshold of brokenness I am willing to accept. Consumer products are designed for shinyness and to break and be obsolescent. So most of the time when I have a problem, I learn the right way to do it (TM) look at the ready made solutions and conclude: Oh dear, I have to do this myself again or pay a shitload of money, haven't I?

I think my father passed this on to me. It may have something to do with craftsmanship. There is a German term called "Handwerkerehre" [0] (honor of a craftsman), which is culturally quite significant and encapsulates that you have to feel insulted by poor attitude and quality of work. He was a construction engineer and we always used to have professional grade equipment around the house. Either do it right or do not bother at all.

[0] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handwerkerehre


I don't speak German but I love that word already. Craftmanship however doesn't exist in consumerism and capatilism where the goal is maximize profit and minimize cost. Whatever quick crap that I can sell to you to make better gain for myself is the way to go. Product development lines (not only in tech but in other fields such as construction) are dozens of levels of deep with each link adding a layer of indifference and workers who just don't give a f*k and nobody takes overall responsibility for any of the services/products rendered.

Eventually this our communal fault for having a strong bias towards price.

Personally I'd love to buy better quality products even if that means the price is higher. I'd love to replace quantity with quality. But sadly that doesn't exist in many fields / product categories and going for the "Premium" product still gives you that same "made in china" experience unless you can really afford to buy those luxury items such as have a single carpenter build you your dining table by hand. (Which is something I'd love to do but the cost is prohibitive)


> Personally I'd love to buy better quality products even if that means the price is higher. I'd love to replace quantity with quality. But sadly that doesn't exist in many fields / product categories and going for the "Premium" product still gives you that same "made in china" experience

The solution to this seems to be XaaS, where the business behind it buys the professional solution and rents it to you on demand.

Another way I deal with it is to buy extended warranties (e.g. for a vacuum cleaner etc) so they at least have additional costs if they sold me a crappy product.

You also should buy brands and then shamelessly abuse customer support. I own a Logitech mouse since about 10 years. Not only is the mouse still working, they also replaced its gliders free of charge after I have used it already for 4 years. Guess which brand I will recommend and buy in the future. I trust that they would want to protect their brand if a feature version would turn out shitty and replace it for me and improve the product for others.

I think this topic is way deeper than it sounds at first. It concerns all areas of society and has effects of historical significance up to the question of war and peace. Essentially it is added layers of complexity equals lacking accountability resulting in lost trust.

Some of it of course always has been that way, it is just that we see more if it now. We have never been healthier, there has never been a lesser percentage of poor people worldwide and so on. Maybe it is just a shift the most developed nations have to make. We have been cranking out features and innovations, time to refactor a bit and improve the base. I think it is already happening due to focus on green products.


I find solace by retreating back into my childhood. My home office contains a collection of obsolete yet comfortable pieces of hardware. A BBC Micro, an Amiga, a Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh, a MAME cabinet, and a small collection of pinball tables.

I can happily spend hours immersed in the past, and when I'm done, returning to modern digital life is somehow refreshing.

See also, the Computer Chronicles YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/ComputerChroniclesYT


I just wanted to add, that whenever I've worked too hard for a few nights straight and find myself on the edge of that dreaded burnout... I start to "not like" things.

I know you say you've been watching your hours, but burnout doesn't maybe just come from hours.

For me, it's the first signal I need to do something when I start to feel there's no food that is really tasteful anymore, there's no games I like playing and there's no job or person in the world that could possibly make me happy.

I get that's not the issue of the post, but maybe it's something to think about for all of us?


I think all technological revolutions were a big game changer and people who didn't follow it lost a lot of advantages for that. It is the same with this one. Now if you are 55 years old (and this guy seems to be) and you have saved enough money to stop caring, then go ahead.

But don't misunderstand that this is a luxury that you need to be able to afford. If you don't have rich parents, or saved enough money to live without the internet, you must must must find a place in the internet world that you can stay at (e.g. some FOSS 1990 style mailing list) and at least find some way to use social media (gnu social or G+ anyone?) in some reasonable way and have some kind of internet presence (e.g. a github page and some foss projects you supply commits to).

Really, try if you can't afford the luxury to ignore it. Politics always talks about the gap between rich and poor that gets bigger and bigger. But the same is true for the gap between people who take part in the internet and use it to their advantage, and those who ignore it. Both these gaps already overlap to some degree, and that overlap will continue to grow!


> you must must must find a place in the internet world that you can stay at (e.g. some FOSS 1990 style mailing list) and at least find some way to use social media (gnu social or G+ anyone?) in some reasonable way and have some kind of internet presence (e.g. a github page and some foss projects you supply commits to)

I'm curious why you would say this. I understand that most of the people here are coders and github or the like would be a good place to point to potential employers for work samples, but a "1990s style mailing list" isn't going to increase your visibility enough to get hired. It almost sounds like you think a presence on the internet at all is a good end in itself.

> Politics always talks about the gap between rich and poor that gets bigger and bigger. But the same is true for the gap between people who take part in the internet and use it to their advantage, and those who ignore it. Both these gaps already overlap to some degree, and that overlap will continue to grow!

I agree in part, but there is a third category that the OP hints at which is "consumers of information who don't create". Most people use Facebook, Twitter, etc. for consuming entertainment and advertising their identities, but they are not using it for any advantage. People may be able to use them to network, but most don't, and there is nothing inherently worthwhile in using social media by itself.


> a "1990s style mailing list" isn't going to increase your visibility enough to get hired

This is too limited thinking. I can't tell you what the opportunity will be, but there are opportunities if you participate pro-actively, even if you think of opportunities only as job opportunities. In percent it's probably smaller than in 1990, but in absolute numbers it has grown just like every other market around the internet and IT.

> there is a third category

Completely agreeing with that part. To some degree they are also part of these people who don't really use the internet. If you just scroll through your facebook feed and click like here and there, you are not participating. You must at least be able to answer most daily questions via google to be considered participating.


> I can't tell you what the opportunity will be, but there are opportunities if you participate pro-actively, even if you think of opportunities only as job opportunities.

I agree. However, I think it's worth noting that this is no different from any other community/social activity. You can make the same argument for being involved in churches, civic organizations, the local city council, etc. In fact this argument could be used to encourage people to give-up some of their time on the internet and become more involved in the aforementioned analog organizations.


> Now if you are 55 years old (and this guy seems to be)

I don't quite think that's the case. More like 35, by the timeline given. This isn't old-timer grumpyness, it's simply seeing something you grew up with change, while you lose your childhood naivity, and it loses its innocence. Welcome to adulthood. It ain't quite as unilaterelly great as we all pictured growing up ;)


> must must must find a place in the internet world that you can stay at

Why?


I wonder this as well, why? I believe there is life outside the internet.


*edit: At first I wrote a text that listed lots of examples, but usually people don't agree with examples that aren't close to what they have experienced. The question "why" is a really good one, and we should ask it more often.

Look around you. Are you a heavy internet user or not? How is your life comparing to the alternative? You will probably realise that the person with more internet knows more (why? how?), his opinion has more facettes (why? how?), finding things (places, translations, info, jobs) is easier for him (why? how?). And he has a much bigger world view (why? how?).

Much fun while learning by looking!


> you must must must find a place in the internet world that you can stay at

That's why it's no longer fun. It's no longer a choice, an improvement over some baseline. It's an obligation.


I don't have a phone (mobile or not). I especially do not want to carry a pocket computer around with me, but that's just because it would make me feel so powerless to have a device that can track me, that I can't hack, and I don't have certainty of what it can or can't do.

Am I just old? I'm in my mid 30s. According to Douglas Adams, that's kind of the age at which new things are just perceived as being against the natural order of things. Kids these days are being raised thinking that talking to Alexa and having it bring back accurate results is completely normal and natural.

Are there young people out there who think modern pocket computing is just plain wrong? Do they have any second thoughts about putting their entire life online under the control of 3rd parties?


I'm 24, have never had a phone. But I'm more weary of being able to be interrupted at any time. I'm a big fan of pull communication rather than push communication


Oh, yes yes yes, absolutely, there's a lot of that too. The idea that we have to be online at all times, no interruptions in connectivity. Email can come in at any time. Status updates, likes, upvotes; constant barrage of information. Yuck.

Y'know, our science fiction mostly didn't anticipate this. In William Gibson's fiction, you jacked into the matrix and you jacked out when you were done. Now we never jack out.

Whenever I walk around while my laptop is turned off and all I have is an offline Sansa Clip Zip running Rockbox for some music, I feel like I'm rocking out in Zion, unplugged and free.


> I'm 24, have never had a phone.

How do you even?

More seriously: not even a old Nokia 3310 or some other dumbphone to use in case of, I don't know, emergency, or calling someone to pick you up, etc?

My only phone is a beaten up Android thing with pretty much nothing installed on it but WhatsApp just for quick stuff like "ok, let's meet at $place" or "I'll be late". I'm not sure how I could do without.


This is such a common response.

You are aware that only very recently is not having a phone as weird as refusing to wear shoes, right? This is the one thing that bugs me the most about modern western society. People just think it's unthinkable to not have a phone and come up with all sorts of anxieties and emergencies that can come up without one.

Like I've said before, it really isn't that big a deal. Life is not as full of emergencies as phones have made us feel it is.


It's different when society and people expect you to have a mobile phone. It's not weird to not have one in 1975 because no one else did.


What other people expect me to do is way down the list on the reasons I do things.

I have a phone for emergencies, it's never off silent, I don't answer the phone I ring people back when it's convenient for me or preferably I text.

People almost get offended with the "You never answer your phone!"..well yes that's because I'm busy and the automatic assumption that I should drop everything to answer your call is a little arrogant no?.

Family and close friends know that if it's important/urgent they can text "ring me" and I'll ring them back straightaway everyone else rings out (I don't have voicemail either) as I found that if people can't leave a voicemail they'll email me whatever it was they wanted..which they should have done anyway.

This constant push for everyone to be always available at the beck and call of other people is insane and I refuse to go a long with it, I grew up without a mobile phone (didn't get my first one til I was 20 in 2000 and I miss those days).


I need to adopt this. My phone is a source of anxiety and I have no idea why. When my phone rings I literally get a pang of angst, like "oh shit what now". Maybe there is some other underlying issue, but I also hardly answer the phone. I absolutely do not have voice mail, and I have been considering making a messaging app that only notifies you of new messages on the hour each hour or some custom setting.

Perhaps a more customizable phone where only approved numbers can call and the rest are forced to a message saying something like "your number is not approved for this action, please leave an SMS and the person will get back to you when appropriate." I would love that.


> Perhaps a more customizable phone where only approved numbers can call and the rest are forced to a message saying something like "your number is not approved for this action, please leave an SMS and the person will get back to you when appropriate." I would love that.

You can do this already on Android, if you star them in your contacts and then put the phone into "Priority Only" silent mode, it'll ring for them and everyone else it mutes.

I found that just putting the phone into silent and ignoring it until I'm ready to deal with the calls was the better approach though, it took a week or so before I realized I was checking it less and less (I'd been trained like a skinnerbox) until now I look at it 2-3 times a day.

I should add that we don't value aloneness enough in our current society, the ability to spend an entire day undisturbed by anyone else is a valuable and prescious thing, been alone with your own thoughts is a refreshing experience, it gives you chance to stop and take stock and think about what is going on with your life, for some reason we prize "busyness" at the expense of just about everything else, I don't see any virtue in been "busy", I see purpose in getting done the things that are important to me.


While people are free to do as they please, allowing push notifications is more a courtesy to others than a service to one's self.


It's a courtesy to others at the expense of oneself and sometimes that expense is simply too high.


I'm around a decade behind you, I do have a smartphone but I dislike it and am (in my own lazy, passive fashion) seeking ways to minimize its use (I do find it very useful).

Agree regarding the more general points raised, etc. - but to be particular and technical for a second, it boggles my mind that I carry around an always-online computer with multiple location tracking mechanisms, a general purpose buggy virtual machine filled with buggy applications, and a radio chip which has direct memory access to system RAM.

The latter means that even if one had a way to run a formally secure system on the phone dry laugh, there could still be vulnerabilities / "streamlined mobile network operator access channels" down below - in the firmware (even fully FOSS androids have to deal with proprietary binary blobs on the radio chip) and/or hardware. Stock Lenovo/Windows etc. rootkits in BIOS are bad enough - but at least I don't carry those PCs around 24/7 with constant network access. Like, seriously.


>Are there young people out there who think modern pocket computing is just plain wrong?

In high school I was the only cell phone holdout.[0] I finally got one at the very very tail end of my senior year. (Like, a week away from graduation.) What ultimately changed my mind was:

1. I was tired of not being able to keep track of friends or access the (frankly really friggen cool) telepathic communication network we call SMS.

2. Realistically, yes the NSA is tracking you and they know wherever you are. On the other hand, so do emergency medical professionals and your parents and anybody else you might want who is now just a convenient phone call away. This has saved me from a night of being homeless in a large city more than once. Mundane emergencies turn out to be a way bigger deal than passive government surveillance.

3. Having the web wherever you go really is like magic. Yes yes I know you've gotten used to google and being able to look things up but it takes on a whole new dimension once you can do it anywhere at any time.

That having been said, I'm still not on Facebook. I have no plans to ever be on Facebook. I'm still not on any of the 'big' social media services like snapchat or instagram. I only really use SMS, I don't play mobile games, and I think the addictive little helper most people seem to have created in their pocket is really disturbing and implies a really painful social backlash that's going to come against the people who put this stuff in the environment.

It's increasingly clear to me that smartphones are comparable in their addiction risk to pharmaceuticals, and we're going to see a huge PR hit against tech companies when this becomes the consensus view:

http://nymag.com/selectall/2016/09/andrew-sullivan-technolog...

[0]: I'm currently 20, FWIW.


In my limited experience the people around my age (22) who hate modern computing are usually social outcasts that hang around in 4chan's technology board or similar forums.


IMHO the feeling the OP is describing is nothing specific or exclusive to computers or the internet.

If you listen/read closely to people that work in all sorts of fields, this feeling is quite common.

You made a career out of a hobby you really enjoyed. And after a few years it became your work and you no longer enjoy it. You now find joy in some other activity. That new thing? That's your hobby now.

I got this impression after years of thinking of throwing myself into video-game journalism or bicycle mechanics as a profession (2 of my favorite hobbies). When I started speaking to actual video-game journalists and bicycle mechanics I immediately noticed that I couldn't find a singe one that still enjoyed his respective activity anymore.

I'm not going to try to play "psychology expert" here, but for me the reason seems to be pretty simple: Those people could no longer spend their time playing the video games they liked or riding and fixing their own bikes. They now had to play all the games they were "told" to play and on top of it take notes and write meticulously about them, the bicycle guy now had work on a bunch of strangers bikes he didn't care about and keep up with a bunch of new bike tech he actually thought was needless bullshit, and he had to sell bullshit Lycra shorts and stuff like that.

To this day (37yo) its one of the decisions I think I got "the most right" in my life. Not turning one of my hobbies into my job. (curiously this runs right against the common advice "Take what you are passionate about and make that your life's work.")


While you are completely right, in that this is very common: losing passion for your hobby when it becomes a job.

The problem is that your hobby has now become too structured and rigid, not giving you enough freedom to allow for the play and creativity you were used to. Hence, it feels like you actually lost passion for, say, computers. You actually just dislike the "rules" imposed on you, by your job.

Not all jobs will be like this, but many will. Going from a hobby programmer/hacker to a Java enterprise programmer will definitely, most often, end up being like this. Whether you are working on BI, ERP, or video games. This is probably why so many are attracted to startups and startup culture, as there is less rigidity, also, why many like to just "play startup" (like a HN post called it out), and stay a "startup" for years.

It is the same thing that happens to kids who enjoy a sport, but once it becomes too serious it's no longer fun.


Punishment by Rewards by Alfie Kohn speaks to this ... being rewarded for any activity destroys intrinsic motivations -- rewards make you forget reasons you may have originally had for enjoying or benefiting from that activity. Once you see yourself as doing it to get rewarded, it sort of cheapens the whole experience.

i.e. Kids given a prize for participating in a library summer reading program will read <i>less</i> after the program ends than kids who never participated.

It's a totally worthwhile read for parents and managers.


Thanks for the book recommendation =)


This article was very touching. I'm 28 and I feel exactly the same way. I have spent quite some time thinking about the topic. I have even used the same words in conversations with friends.

There is a generation of people that got into computers because they were a tool for empowerement and creativity. When I was a child, my younger sister would create movies editing frame by frame in MS Paint while I would learn Pascal to make a sequencer to play "melodies" using the PC speaker bell commands. Her friend would learn HTML to create a manually updated blog where she would post fantasy short stories. In the Internet, we all hang around with nicknames in chat rooms and learn to make flashy websites and get through the chain emails from relatives. We needed no Netflix or Facebook to share stuff, we had P2P and email and IRC. Then we learnt about GNU/Linux: the ultimate tool to get control of our machines. It was all organized chaos, instant communication that no one could control, limitless creativity, the ultimate dream of a post-capitalist anarchist society...

At some point, some got to believe that if only these tools would become mainstream, the mainstream would adopt these values. A techo-revolution!

This overestimated the transformative power of technology. What happened was otherwise: technology is now mainstream and has become a tool for social control and the ultimate frontier of consumerism. Tech didn't change society, society changed tech...

I still want to believe in these utopic values. But I understand that it is a long way traveled in little steps whose significance is hard to see while at it. In the meantime it's often tiring and lonely to live in the computing underground. One has to explain people why you don't have a smartphone (and it gets harder to reach people without having Wassapp and so on), one has to explain relatives why you don't want to work for BigTechCorp, while tryin to stay "up to date" one has to go through the angry rants of Apple users on HN [1] or the celebration of the new Micro$oft facelift, and the collective systemic submission in the startup world in this new gold rush...

The hardest part for me is to find stuff that I can do well and that I find valuable to the world... and still get paid for it. And I am an Software Engineer, the profession of the future! How can I be so obnoxious to have plenty of well paid jobs around me and not be interested in them? This makes me very sad and makes me feel deeply alienated...

---

[1] You are not angry because of the design of a computer, you are angry at the realization that you are so personally invested in a technology that you have no control of, but has control over you!


Your story reminds me of this Alan Kay quote:

>Computing spread out much, much faster than educating unsophisticated people can happen. In the last 25 years or so, we actually got something like a pop culture, similar to what happened when television came on the scene and some of its inventors thought it would be a way of getting Shakespeare to the masses. But they forgot that you have to be more sophisticated and have more perspective to understand Shakespeare. What television was able to do was to capture people as they were.


Great write-up. I share your disappointment. I too though technology could be the answer but it looks like tech has simply transformed to suit the needs of this centralized, capitalist, consumerist slave society. As a software engineer myself, i'm also at a loss what to do. Disillusioned with the direction tech is taking, yet refusing to give up my values I've considered trying my hands at politics or writing. But often I feel like the doctrines are so deeply entrenched that some huge catastrophe is the only thing that could turn society around.


Why not get involved with any of the thriving, vivid, fascinating projects that work in ways that are decentralized, noncapitalist, and nonconsumerist?

The picture of the world as a "slave society" is polarized, exaggerated, and paralyzing. We aren't slaves just because most of your friends use Facebook.


> Why not get involved with any of the thriving, vivid, fascinating projects that work in ways that are decentralized, noncapitalist, and nonconsumerist?

There are indeed some great projects and I also have some ideas myself and I do try to work on them every now and then but like I said, I've come to believe that the root of the problem is not the lack of "better" technology. I think no amount of coding will fix the problems I perceive. It's the other way around; once the issues are fixed, society will make better use of technology.

> The picture of the world as a "slave society" is polarized, exaggerated, and paralyzing. We aren't slaves just because most of your friends use Facebook.

It's not just facebook. Our technological landscape is simply a reflection of the misguided values our society holds. It's the lack of critical thinking, the drive for individual gain as opposed to cooperation, unjustified social hierarchies, the daily struggle of survival through wage labour, the concentration of power, etc AND the heavy propaganda fueling it all. You can't just code a way out of this, people have tried and failed.


Yes, that sums it up very well... Doing "good technology" can helps up feel better about our profession (and this is fine) but adding more tech to the problem is not going to help.

On the other hand, while doing tech we are building organizations and interactions between people. We can explore new forms of cooperative non hierarchical organization. Building coops and companies that enable people to survive without having to choose to eat or be eaten, and setting up examples that can inspire new forms of organizing other parts of society. This is something that motivates me lately.

I recently read Reinventing Organizations by Laloux, and although the book is very flawed philosofically, I like how it talks about alienation without even mentioning the word, with lots of examples that people without a political activist background can relate to. It also reminds me of the Anarchist Moral by Kropotkin, which more than a century before tried to show optimism by looking at all the emerging cooperative structures in our society that too often go ignored.


Yes, interesting initiatives do exist! Still, "making a living" contributing to them is hard. But there are also coops exploring how to build non-alienating organizations... (I can thing of Igalia, I don't work for them but I keep it as inspiration for when/if I want to start a coop: http://igalia.com/)

There are some sparks of hope. And I am very thankful to all those that light them up.

But when most people do the other way around and it is sometimes hard not to indulge into a bit of self-doubt and think: am I maybe the crazy one?


I've been dreaming of a job where I work outdoors and maintain a bunch of simple IOT type devices end to end. Deploy hardware, script, and analyze data as needed. I would love to just cut through all the noise.


Like Tom Cruise in Oblivion, without the ensuing events.


ditto


I love computers. I hate the BS: I don't care about that new sillicon valley project. But I do care about that new project that's going to change how we think about computing. I care about the programming language that will show me a radically different way to program. I care about the tool that's so elegantly designed that it takes 5 minutes to explain how it works, and does its job amazingly well.

I care about things that remind me why I got into computing in the first place: For the sheer joy of it.


Could you translate that in a percentage of HN posts that you care about?


About half: The half that's about cool tech, not SV culture, not boring startup news, and not polical BS surrounding a project (I don't care what they said, I do care about the software they wrote).

I do care about that which impacts actual systems, like the incresing movement towards systemd (which is an awful idea).


It would be interesting to write a browser plugin that allowed you to subscribe to users on HN to see what they liked/upvoted, your interests and mine apparently align quite closely and there is a lot on the HN frontpage I just don't care about.


OTOH, it's good to see what the hivemind is excited about. I mostly go to HN for news, posting my thoughts, and having a discussion if one arises.

But HN isn't a great place for discussion. If I really want discussion, I'll go to lainchan.

Speaking of lainchan, if you enjoy cyberpunk at all, you should go read lainzine (https://lainzine.neocities.org) right now: if you're anything like me, you'll gaze with a mixture of fascination and horror upon one of the strangest things I've seen on the internet.


I've never liked the term "hivemind", it implies an us/them divide where none exists and it's frequently used as a pejorative, "I'm different/better than the hivemind" (note: I'm not saying this what you are doing just that the hivemind thing is over used).

We are all part of the same zeitgeist, just in different parts of it at different times.

I've never heard of lainchan but I'll have a look and I love cyberpunk so I'll take a look at that as well, thank you :).

On a slightly un-related note this tendency to self-organise into tribes/cliques and then hurl shit at the other side drives me crazy, There is far more that binds us than divides us and yet I frequently hear "I hate liberals, I hate republicans, I hate Appletards, I hate Linux users, I hate Javascript users, I hate PHP users, I hate <insert anything where they picked a different path/choice>".

I'm not even sure why we do it possibly an evolutionary reason of "My tribe good, that tribe bad", it's easy to rationalize a world where anyone who agrees with you is inherently good and everyone else is at best wrong and worst malevolent.

As I get older I realised that someone holding a different view/choice to mine means I should look more critically at my view/choice often I'll realise that the other person made a valid/good choice for them and possibly for me, dogmatism is rarely a good thing.


I can sympathize, and there are areas of computing that are tiresome and never seem to get better, but there are just way too many things on my bucket list: unbiased rendering, physics, AI, mathematics education, visualization, theory of computation...

Heck, there are so many research projects out there completely changing what it means to compute (i.e. Bret Victor), let alone rediscovery of what the founding scientists (i.e. Turing) had for their original vision (did you know Turing generated music from his computer? Decades before the first synthesizer?! or Bell Labs, or PARC.

There is so much to know and so very little time to even scratch the surface. Maybe I'll get bored later, but right now there are things to do!


I'm 35 and in good balance and desire for life. I want to share that you too should:

- read your Marcus Aurelius

- listen to some Alan Watts

- you are not alone, or the first person to get existential, many before you did and many after you will. Detach from anything technology from time to time, and spend some serious time reading about who people think they are, and what all this is about.


I suspect I am a similar generation, and I still love to tinker and make things happen on my computer.

But Twitter, Facebook, Netflix, Spotify, Snapchat, or Uber, have nothing to do with tinkering or creating something.

I also don't want to surround myself with the internet of things because I know how insecure and broken everything is. I'd rather be buying appliances that I can leave for my children when I am gone, rather than buy new ones every two years.

I'm still perfectly happy with the 5 year old MBP. I hope it will last another 5 years - even more with luck.


I felt that way years ago.

I liked video games. I wanted to make video games. To do that requires programming a computer. Ok, how do you do that? Let's go down that rabbit hole. 30 years later and I'm still going down the rabbit hole. I've haven't made a video game yet, only bits and pieces and some mods, but at this point, I don't really like video games much anymore. So now what?

I've been doing a lot of hardware, electronics, arduino and general maker stuff. I still like making stuff, but it doesn't have to all be on the computer, and it doesn't have to be a game. I'm more interested in how a HAM radio transmitter works than the latest js framework these days.


I got my ham radio license (N9NAY) a couple months ago for very similar reasons. The allure of simple analog communications via essentially 100 year old technology is something that has pulled at me for 30 years or more since I first failed to get my ham license in Boy Scouts. I am planning to learn CW because my interest lies in the simple basics. Narrow bandwidth. Low throughput. Low power.


How long does it generally take to study for the ham exam?


Depends on what level of general electronics knowledge you already have. If you are an EE, you could take the exam after only an hour or two of reviewing the test questions. If you don't have any pre-knowledge, then a week or two with one of the study guides should be enough. You can take practice exams at qrz.com and many other sites.


If you are a general stuff maker you might appreciate this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwH6B7aJYDU&index=38&list=LL...


My main problem with computers is how they have infected global society such that human social behavior now revolves around how computers work.

Other advancements, like the automobile, also changed society, but at least once you leave your car and are having a real conversation with someone, your car won't suddenly take your attention away.


Someone wise once quipped that "the problem is not computers thinking like people, it's people thinking like computers".


This hits the nail on the head of a feeling I've been having for years now.

Computers used to be fun and exciting. Learning how to program was a hobby for me. Opening up that Gateway 486DX to tinker with the insides of it and swap parts out was fascinating. Yes they were big bulky and prone to failure but it was still fun.

Nowadays everything is integrated, soldered on and you need a laundry list of tools to even open the casing. Used to be you could just get a star head screw driver out of the kitchen and be done.

All of the whining about the new Macbook made me sigh. Get over yourselves.

The internet was a fascinating place before. I remember frequenting forums like http://www.hack3r.com/ and reading a python tutorial, finding a mistake in it and chatting on IRC with the writer who treated me as an equal, not just some 13 year old kid. On other forums there was debate and deep conversation. Trolls and extremism was not welcome.

Now we have twitter and Facebook where it's all "me me me" and no one is having real conversations anymore. Just short bursts of it.

Now when I start a project and someone asks me "Why are you using <INSERT NEW TECH HERE>?" I roll my eyes and groan. It's a single page website with a form on it. I'll code it up in Notepad++, capture the form data and save it to a database thank you very much. I'll get it done quickly and commit it to source. No need for me to spin up Node, grunt, yeoman and whatever other shiny thing you're talking about. I'll be dammed if I even use jQuery.

I've been day dreaming about going into another field where I can still maintain my standard of living, but then program again just as a hobby at home. Anyone know of a good field outside of the tech industry that a developer mindset would thrive in?


It was a shock talking to a colleague and realizing I used to have his enthusiasm, now I want own a night club like jwz.


Farming is another one that seems to have a pull for a certain subset of hackers. Myself included, to some extent.


It's hard to have a more concrete, and real activity than farming. There's an immediacy and a sense of consequence to it that you just don't get when you are spinning castles made of air and bits as a programmer.

I play with Legos as my therapy, or when I start getting really burned out, take a weekend and go visit my parents in Maine. A weekend splitting firewood or tinkering on tractors or digging potatoes or deer hunting or the million and one other things that have to be done to keep up with a rural almost-farm are calming and help keep me grounded.


"What do you do?"

"I work on an API middleware layer for targeted advertising analytics service based on big data. What do you do?"

"I grow food in the ground that people eat to stay alive."


Yep, that's my dream. Siphon cash out of the internet to fund our small self-sustaining mini farm, where we grow or raise everything we eat.


Neither do I. Well, I do like my main computer, I enjoy having lots of ram, cpu power, large monitor. Because I spend a lot of time with it.

But.

I have an iPad for 2 years that I haven't used, almost ever (got it as a present). I don't want a smart fridge. I run without monitoring myself all the time. I don't play on my (otherwise high-end) smartphone, I only use 6-7 apps.

The reason: I realized that these stuff are not _that_ smart yet. When I use their 'smartness', they consume more time than the non-smart things. We use a simple post-it for grocery lists with my wife because opening Trello is much more complicated than just picking up the pen when I realize that we don't have more garlic in the fridge.

I still enjoy hacking things for the sake of hacking, but that activity is not 'sold' as something smart that will save me time. It doesn't save any time, just makes me feel good.


I also dont like computers anymore. Its from being on them all the time. I want life apart from the screen. Then I get bored.


Real life is slow I'd say. This digital world just provides endless stimulus, it's pure addiction. I'd love to go out in the woods and just enjoy nature for a week. No music, no fancy camping gear, and just appreciate life 1.0.


Leave your job, become a welder, a package delivery guy, or pick up fixing cars.

It seems like you have one real hobby but no one should have one real hobby.

Welding is really rewarding. You're working with a really dangerous machine to turn 2 piece of metal into 1.

Working in the world of the 1st class currier is great to. A lot of time driving or traveling around where you live.

I didn't realize how fun working with motors is until I tried fixing something in my car. I'm trying to get my hand on a motorcycle that's broke so I can rebuild the engine to further learn how they work.

Also if you're fed up with the internet and still want to communicate with people become a HAM and learn all about RF propagation and other important things. Really fun, one of my favorite hobbies


I appreciate where this guy is at.

After work you should do what you want to do. If that includes sports, going out and eating nice food etc, good for him. That is a balanced lifestyle, and worthy an effort to make.

I am kind of the opposite though when it comes to computers & IT and wanting to retreat a little. I started my coding career at 43 years old. I have worked in tech all my life, so the industry is nothing new to me, but I was never in engineering / software development. I was more of a Linux / network admin / systems integration engineer or run of the mill network architect (lots of time in powerpoint, visio (yuck!)). I kind of always had a healthy envy of developers, as I knew they were working within the real guts of computers and creating things. I was always the one trying to mop up the mess of a less bright developer who managed to get something dire into production. All this made me even more curious to get into that area myself.

With the advent of cloud, namely OpenStack and all the other devops'y type applications in the eco-system such as kvm, containers, vagrant, ansible, puppet etc etc, I found my nix skills could be reinvented and started learning python, brushing up my shell scripting, learning about serialising data, restful API's, messaging, models, views, controllers yada, yada, and then in turn learning lots of new tools including, git, gerrit, travis etc.

I am now loving what I do and I am super keen to learn more and more, so I do spend lots of spare time now absorbed in writing code and getting up to speed on different tooling available to developers.

Right now my spare time is spent learning rust as I would really like to get into systems programming and work with the kernel space for networking based apps.

Its weird, in that now is the time when I should be just specialising and not being so absorbed (a lot of senior guys do this at my firm, they are happy just to sit looking at some spreadsheet or project plan until 5pm and then go home), but instead I really want to develop a new career as a programmer over the next 10 - 20 years, and I love the idea of that.

I now have a laptop covered in stickers, have grown a big beard and I go all goey at the sight of some new snazzy framework. My wife jokes about it being a mid-life crisis.

I don't seem to be slowing down either, but in fact going quicker then ever before.

I am with him on instagram though, and I have no idea what alexa is.


While I'm somewhat in this camp: I don't do twitter (or instagram, or snapchat, or whatsapp...) I don't have Sonos I only lurk on Facebook to find out what's up in other's lives I still really like working with computers full time. But, you can take the following from my cold, dead hands:

podcasts (listen to radio in the car? what year is this?) mp3/itunes/amazon music/pandora/google play music/spotify phone with fingerprint scanner

What I am over is being a sysadmin on any of these devices.

Upgrade to android 7 breaks my phone to car radio connection? Ugh. Spare me the lost Saturday afternoon researching, tinkering, worrying that I'm going to brick the radio. Forget it and learn to live with only a bluetooth connection.

Swapping out the drive on my laptop with an SSD. I suppose, but I'm unenthusiatic. Do the same for my wife's laptop? Nah. She's not that sensitive to disk lag and the disruption and subsequent "It never did this before..." aren't worth it.

Perhaps I'm just getting old...


"I use computers for...well, I use them for reading stuff. That is, actually reading it. Text. Pictures if I have to."

The other day I starting thinking of a way to filter the internet down to text/plain content only. I couldn't find a way to make Google filter on Content-Type, you can filter on filetype:txt but not all urls to text/plain content will have that extension. I also looked for a aggregate site that only allowed users to submit links to text/plain content but didn't find one, thinking about making one. Multimedia, markup, JavaScript and hypertext are all really useful, but they are abused so much that I think it would be better to start with the assumption that it's useless until proven otherwise. I'd rather have to copy and paste a URL to get a picture of a diagram relevant to an article than open the flood gates for in-line media, styling and scripting just because it looks a little nicer and saves few keystrokes.


Why not use w3m or lynx?


I am 37 years old, I am coding since I was 9 but this is not my full time job , I make graphics and sound with the computer since day one.

The one thing I hated more than I hate Windows and C++ is the Green monitor of my first computer, a Amstrad CPC 6128. I was drooling over a Amiga 500 but my father apparently did not want to "spoil" me. But I was lucky enough to own a computer back then it was luxury.

I have to say I am in love with the Internet , is just an amazing tool. When I was kid my go to knowledge base was a 20 tome encyclopaedia.

Even learning coding was a huge struggle, as a 9 year old kid I could not afford expensive programming books, fortunately Amstrad came with a Basic manual, not the best written book but better than nothing.

I laugh when people claim that coding is hard, because I immediately remember my struggle those days. Internet would have been a miracle to have.

Its not hard to filter noise, I have made Twitter my news site with subscriptions to people that offer tutorials and links to useful websites. I watch youtube tutorials and very rarely cat videos. I dont care about facebook and most other popular sites.

The things I do not like, is mainly that sofware has become very complex, that is difficult to keep up with technology , though that is also an advantage. I also hate internet trolls and people being rude.

My iMac is the revenge of not owning an Amiga 500 and now I can have powerful software without even spending money.

I know people take a look at the technology and say "whatever" or as a comedian once said people fly with an aeroplane and complain that they had to wait on the runway for 10 minutes instead of feeling the wonder of flight.

I am the kind of person that is amazed by the ability to fly.

I am also find extremely hard to fathom that my iMac is more than 6.000 times more powerful than my first computer.

Its crazy

just crazy


I second this, but don't think it's just a matter of getting older and less curious or being fed up with computers due to years of professional work on them. For me, a large part of the frustration comes from having moved previously simple tasks and habits to complicated, complex and unstable computer-based solutions. Not only have the tasks themselves become more difficult and in some ways less efficient (reading tiny text on small displays - no thanks!), but they come with a huge burden of having to maintain an OS, network infrastructure, software updates, security risk, privacy considerations, prevent data loss (make backups). Sure, there are many advantages with our new approaches, but the burden of complexity far outweighs them if you stop ignoring it.


I was born in 1977 and programming since i was 7. I am a software developer. Seven years ago i had to start freelancing to enjoy my work again. Now i now that work can take no more than 8 hours per day, 5 days per week, no more. This way, computers are still beautiful and interesting.


Any advice on how to reorient your career into this maybe? :)


Just start, it is not complicated business. Ask around for work, deliver results and repeat. If you are any good you should be fine. Start with doing side projects and then make jump if you like it.

On the other side, there is no certainty in freelancing, programming will be just some part of your job and most of your time will be spent on trivial projects (unless you are very lucky).

I am 12 years into freelancing and it is good way to make living.


I’ve been feeling this. Still not quite sure why. But I think a good reason is I’m starting to see newer technologies come out as veiled hypotheses on how to extract the most time or money out of the user, not so much as things that actually provide real, long-term value to people.

I’m not actively trying to be a luddite or think I need to stick it to “the man”. But I can’t shake the feeling that many technologies coming out simply don’t care enough about humans to warrant actually being used. That’s not to disregard side projects and such. Most of the time the creation out of those projects is out of pure intentions. A lot of those same intentions get thrown out the window when money and company survival and thrown in.


I was in the same mood. Now I 've stopped coding for a living (you can try management, presales,...) and at home I do what I like (exploring data structures and algorithms) with the tools (Emacs) and languages I like (Common Lisp)


I am the opposite. I used not to care much about computers (I liked math). But I have been blown away but what they enable us to do. And it keeps getting better. Yes computers allow us to Tweet or Facebook which may not seem like a great advance. But they allow us to send rockets in space and make them come back. They allow a majority of humans to access almost all knowledge instantly. They allow my company to develop new medicine much more efficiently. How amazing!

My advice to the OP: go work for a company that uses your computer skills to do something good, something meaningful to you. It will change your perspective.


Nice and constructive advice. I agree. I think what the author is looking for definitely still exists and probably is in arms reach but sometimes we feel overwhelmed and like the well has been poisoned because the barrage of meaningless shite that gets pumped through the Internet and down our throats eclipses everything else.

There is so much incredible and wonderful tech out there to sink our teeth into you just need to find an efficient way of wading through the shit storm of social media and the millions of boring startups pumping promotional PR for the next never seen before food delivery app.


The way i see it, once the UX "experts" moved in, the fun moved out. Because they keep adding layers upon layers of "drywall" to hide exactly how the computer operates. Because exposing those inner working may scare away dear old aunt Tillie.

DOS and early CLI Linux was straight forward, kernel booted, some text files were parses, and you could do your thing.

In contrast the number of background processes that is present to keep a modern DE upright is just nuts. And more are added with every minor release it seems.


I wonder how much of what we're discussing here is "future shock"; we've lived in a time of extremely rapid change and a high-speed cycle of hype and disillusionment.


I'm younger than the OP (going by the modem speed etc) but I've been experiencing the same apathy for a while (coupled with similar feelings about visual/interactive design), but I'm slightly more comfortable with it now.

Maybe I learned to deal with my own cynicism, but the turning point was probably when I started looking at my work (and computing) less as a goal/ultimate meaning and more as just another piece in peoples' lives; a way for them to accomplish non-tech goals.


This piece really resonated with me.

10 years ago I had a few ways I kept in touch with my family in a different country. And depending on the situation, it was usually 1 way. If I had my laptop (which was almost always the case) and had decent internet connection, we'd Skype. If either party lacked one of these, we'd call on cellphones. And if it was something formal that needed to be remembered, we used email. Or we used some form of IM but irrespective of which service I would use Adium.

Now? I cannot keep in touch with my family because my communications are split between WhatsApp, iMessage, Viber, Skype, FaceTime, email, Facebook, Facebook MEssenger, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. Nothing works with each other, and simply managing the variety of apps, and the mental calculations to figure out which app to use depending on the context, the people I am communicating with, the combinations of people I am communicating with, the formality of the communication, the stuff being communicated, is just mentally exhausting.

I am afraid to look at my phone when I receive a notification, because there is always a mental calculation that needs to be made about what I need to do next.

This obviously happened earlier, but there was less expectations of immediate responses, so it was easy to manage, as I would simply read and handle my notifications at regular selected times.

Maybe kids growing up in this environment will be (are) much better at managing this, because their brains get wired this way, but as a 30 year old, it's overwhelming, and destroys my productivity.


Just going to leave this here (from 49s): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZP6lIM3OAFY&feature=youtu.be...

"You know, I see the look on your faces. You're thinking, 'Hey Kenny, you're from America; you probably have a printer. You could have just gone on the internet and printed that bitch.' Yeah, you know what? I could have, 'cept for one fact: I don't own a printer. And, I fucking hate computers. All kinds. I come here today, not just to bash on fucking technology, but to offer you all a proposition. Let's face it, y'all fucking suck."

http://www.powerisms.com/i-know-a-lot-of-you-guys-have-119.h...


Not using/liking Netflix, Spotify, Snapchat, or Uber, has nothing to do with "I don't like computers'.


My interpretation was not to take the specific services so literally but instead to focus on how content has centralized to a few specific places that come with a lot of excess baggage to get at content instead of it being spread out across multiple forums, websites, chats, and so on. There's a lot of infrastructure that goes into powering these services and the advertising backbone for them that simply dominates all other attempts to get any publicity on the modern web. I mean, if you're on iOS, you have multiple integration items for services that you might not even use.

Social media may not be the only use for computers, but there's a lot of effort at all levels of infrastructure put in place to ensure that the devices we use are able to access these few core services really fast while everything else is secondary. Yes, the services are optional - you aren't required to sign up for them and use them, but their presence in modern computing and online just can't be ignored.


Of course they can be ignored, completely, especially on a personal basis, but, in a lot of scenarios on enterprise level this is possible as well. I do most of my paid computing work in a large private network.

Has there ever been more diversity in terms of a customized computing experience than today? No, is my answer. There is something for everyone.

Why should the centralization of some content be a bad thing? The majority of cat videos and other garbage is now on Youtube, good riddance I say, easier to avoid. I say it is easier for me, to get at the content I qualify as good and interesting to me, than ever before.

Man, I used to have to call up random BBSes to explore content... And to reach content beyond my small country, I had to hack business PBXes, so I did not have to pay for the long distance call, as I could not afford it.

I used internet from the beginning, and I do certainly not miss it, there were very little content.

If one is feeling nostalgic, one can revert completely to "neckbeard practices". Go back to newsgroups, use mailing lists and IRC. I am sure OP will feel right at home. But it is also possible to combine these things (modern services), like IRC and Slack. Just one example.

To end, even though we are talking about big services in terms of infrastructure, consumers, and bandwidth, they are a small part of the diversity of the internet and modern computing.

Modern computing is not about services that come and go, it is about what it has always been. R&D, innovation. Modern computing is going to take us to Mars. It's about CERN. Autonomous vehicles, etc.


The lines between software, hardware, and where your hardware is have blurred.



I still like computers, but dislike this decade's web.

I wish I could access all of the web's text, images and hyperlinks without running Firefox, Chrome or a similarly massive code base.

I am aware that my wish is impractical even if a philanthropist or a government were to spend 100s of millions of dollars on it.


I think there's multiple things there and I don't think taking any particular stance is wrong. I love technology, in the sense that if I get a problem to solve which makes me dig deeper into an area to figure out how things work under the hood, I really dig that. But I don't use Facebook, Netflix, Siri, Alexa or any of those things. I want nothing to do with the Internet of things. I suspect this is common among those of us who grew up with technology, as opposed to those who had technology by the time they grew up. They see technology as a service they should always have available in every facet of their lives, while we see it as something that used to be cool and mysterious, but now has been wrapped by so many commercial interests.


I loved this post, and so I wrote a small "reply post". http://valleybay.me/2016/11/05/death-of-the-internet/


Your last paragraph about the Internet as once-upon-a-time being a place to "hide" is spot-on for me, personally.


I agree, and I do wish that science fiction writers still had the social prominence that they had back in the mid 20th century. Because I think humanity needs a group that thinks about how things could be, and how things should be, and to what extent advances in science could make life more fun.

Part of the "This isn't fun anymore" feeling for me comes from the way the Web has consolidated to a handful of companies (Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft...) and what we are being given is what they find profitable.

The loudest voices in the room are those corporations. I'd like to live in a world where the loudest voices shaping our technologies are science fiction writers who are thinking hard about what might actually be useful or fun.


I still cultivate bookmarks and links from others, and avoid corporate (spoon)feeds like the plague.

I miss civil discourse on Internet forums.


It may be an age thing. I've been coding professionally for maybe 30 years and having been doing more or less the same thing, interacting with machines. I find that, while I too can get momentarily caught up in the chase for a programatic solution or hunt for a bug, if I am truly honest with myself, there is very little intellectual curiosity left that might drive me to learn new language or framework. And yet, I recall having this enthusiasm years ago....

I find too though that when I am left to pursue my own projects at home, on weekends, some of the magic comes back a bit. Perhaps it is just Corporate America that has sucked the life out of my soul when I am at the workplace.


Yes, yes.

The signal to noise ratio of the modern internet has changed for the worse, western/global culture has lost it's manners, and what signal there is left shows leaders have either lost their culture or their clothes..

none of these global trends are anything to do with you personally .. those trends are external!

thus even if you look after yourself, if you avoid burnout from todays overpaced pace, if your hardware is ready and able to be inspired ..

Then, to feel that inspiration again, you must really appreciate and nuture the inspirations you find amongst the noise

Personally I believe the next frontier is hacking and implementing political/social/power cultures and social mores inspired by Libre Values


"The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress."


I don't think the Internet has brought much of actual progress at all.


He is not hating change. He is advocating change.


OP here. Thanks for the interesting discussion, everyone! There's some really great posts in here. I really liked https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12879141 and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12884730 especially; that dilemma of not wanting to spend all your time sysadminning things (I've got a phone, four servers, a desktop, two laptops, a router, an HTPC and god knows how many little trinkets to take care of) yet also knowing too much to be OK with just telling Google or Apple to take care of it all (assuming a certain ideology) is a big part of this, I think. (Full disclosure: after getting that post out of my system I ordered a new laptop and spent half of this weekend planning a bunch of changes to my mail server...)

I also really liked the wider culture comments, especially https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12879035 , but I wanna emphasize something I wrote in the comments on my blog: this is a very personal post. It's just about how I feel, and I don't think how I feel is 'right'. I think there's actually an awful lot of really interesting stuff happening in all the spaces I don't personally care about - new video platforms and VR and all of that. I'm self-aware enough to realize that part of this is just me wanting the kids off of my lawn. But since it's my blog, I can wave my stick at them as much as I like ;) But I wouldn't want to claim that just because I'm okay with what I know, none of this stuff has value, as a lot of it does.

Finally, just to note that when I wrote that I still like my job, I meant it! The post wasn't meant as a cri du coeur, exactly. I'm actually perfectly fine with this stuff. It doesn't keep me awake at nights. I just do my job, and use the tech I actually want and find useful, and forget about the rest of it. I just wanted to write it down, I guess.

Oh, and since 'guess my age' seems to have become a popular game...I'm 34. :)


I think you shouldn't dislike computers for not enjoying what other people do with it. But a part of the magic of computers and the internet in the 90's is definitely gone, for ever, true. But hey, would you prefer to go back to connecting to a BBS with a 14k4 modem? I prefer my wireless 340Mbps broadband modem, really.

Fortunately I do enjoy every new day and can still become excited about new technology, which is emerging all the time. And I truly believe that computers and the internet have become much better and ever more interesting. You just have to be very selective in the vastness of things out there.


14.4kbps! When I first connected to the internet, 300bps was the order of the day. We loved it because it was a lightning fast upgrade from the poor sad folks that were still stuck with 110bps. Gosh, what we could have done in those days with UTF-8 and Unicode...


> Gosh, what we could have done in those days with UTF-8 and Unicode.

Make ASCII art way too easy? (like tennis with the net down ;-)


What I still like is creating valuable solutions through programming. That made me a computer maniac when I got my ZX Spectrum and this is the part what I still mostly enjoy - writing some core and watching how others use it


One should imagine the days without computers... waiting days for a letter to arrive... Even if you don't like computers many of the benefits that come with them you might like... so think of them as a necessary evil.


Reading this made me realize I have similar feelings. But I don't think it's technology's fault - I only really got into computers ~6 years ago, and to me then they were fascinating! I think it's just that we start to use them for work, and sooner or later stop caring about how everything works and start wishing it would all get out the way and let me browse the web or write my document. I think it's curable though. A few days ago I dug out my early code, and felt the old excitement welling up again - I'm going to spend some time trying to find that again.


Congrats you've reached the end of your programming career.

Sitting at a computer all day actually is quite uninteresting and boring. It's the light at the end of the tunnel or big ah-ha moment many programmers have.

It's simply more fun to socialize all day.

Many big projects say self driving cars or FB or whatever don't actually require that many antisocial, introverted engineers; only 10's of thousands so things like that will always get built anyway.

It pays well but its not good for your health to sit at a computer all day nor is it fun to socialize only through a chat screen all day.

Time to take a break.


>> Sitting at a computer all day actually is quite uninteresting and boring.

I work as a programmer and I found this to be true. Well, sometimes, though, not all the time.

I enjoy programming, but on the other hand I'm not interested in spending my whole career as a programmer.

Being a wedding/travel photographer, which often requires you to travel overseas sounds fun :D


Everything in moderation I guess. A good comedy podcast every now and then is quite therapeutic, but a lot of it can become like being possessed by an insatiable trivia-demon demanding to be fed 24/7.


One thing I have noticed about myself is how my browsing habits have become the complete opposite of what the Internet was supposed to offer.

My tab bar at the top mainly consists of the same websites I visit every day, HN, reddit, newsblur, facebook, google inbox, youtube. I can't remember if I was any different 10 years ago, but it just feels like I've carved my own bubble and rarely leave it.

Maybe that comes with age, I'm not sure.


I ended up feeling similarly, no longer hacking at home, no more linux installs on my home machines, etc.

Instead I started on other hobbies, I repair physical things (mechanical, electrical, electronic), I enjoy photography, I work on my car.

I used to make the joke that if ever computers were no longer a thing for me that maybe I'd move to New Zealand and make violins for a living... that time isn't here yet, but I can feel it.


when hobbyist computing went the way of the dodo, I hit this state, and I hit it hard.

I found that either inventing a small programming language or getting back into microcomputers worked as a cure. small, controllable, programmable systems that feature instant-on programming.

nothing between you and the machine. seems we've lost track of that idea somewhere between x86 and Javascript.


I ditched my smart phone for a flip phone. Apparently it's all the rage but I don't know how I know that since I don't use those social media platforms you mentioned either. Just developer forums (or fora) and such like. Good feels from helping people, getting help and not feeding trolls.


I watch videos on computers. Oh look, another new cute cat video on Youtube click

I occasionally read Twitter, usually for news.

I post images to Instagram almost daily. One picture per day is a good way to exercise photography.

I use Uber. Sometimes too lazy to drive

I still enjoy using computer, especially for coding. Well, to each his/her own.


I've got a #pocketchip, and I am learning again Pascal with fp-ide and X86 ASM with NASM and DosBOX. Retrocoding is fucking awesome, and doing emulators on Free Pascal in a DOS-klike IDE on the underground is cool and relaxing as fuck.


That's really interesting.


when something feels like work it usually is!


This is a modern manifesto. I'm almost there, just a bit less, for now.


Agreed. The graphics outside may be crap but the horizons seem a lot wider. My brain feels different away from computers.

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