I suppose I could harken back to the dawn of culture. I could go all the way back to stories told around a tribal fire, but I will only travel as far back as my own TV obsessed childhood. We had nine channels, which is a lot because I was growing up in one of the largest cities in the country. There was no cable. We'll place this in my earlier childhood, so no VCRs either. Just nine channels. All full of riveting stuff, obsessively watched, widely reviled, nine channels.
Over the course of 40 years since then those nine channels exploded.
I'll be brief because you know this story too well for it to be
interesting or informative. The aforementioned cable came and widely
expanded the channels. VCRs created almost infinite possibility. You
could make your own TV, or you could watch anything anyone made, or, more likely, any
recorded movie or show. There were game systems to hook up, the refining
technology of harddrives and DVDs, HD and 3D, and, ultimately, the last
thing that brought it all together, that took those nine channels and
exploded them into a firmament of infinitude. The Internet. Once upon a time our Science
Fiction dream was to travel the stars and open the universe to endless worlds, visions, stars, and beings. It didn't happen. The Internet was our unanticipated, distant
second best: an infinity of TV stations. We leaped on it greedily, with
unslakable hunger, and, mostly, ditched any other dreams, which were all so
So this is the Internet. Everything is here. And yet I feel oddly unfulfilled by it. When I compare my level of entertainment with the nine boring, riveting channels of 1975 to my level of entertainment stumbling across the Internet I am a bit surprised to find that I come up with something a lot like a draw. Nine channels against and infinity of channels and it's a tie? That can't be right!
And yet it is. And do you know why it is? It is because we can still only look at one thing at a time. On those ancient TVs we could click through the channels searching for something decent to watch. We had knobs! They had such a distinct, soft feeling as they slotted into place. And we would turn and turn, sometimes finding something, sometimes giving up and watching... whatever. But even though there were only nine channels, with every turn they were different, imbued with the tiniest of hope it would be better, good, somehow, finally, on this go around. Because it was narrative, moving pictures, it was never static, and the nine stations became their own infinity, changed with each 360 of the dial. And so likewise, as you click unceasingly through this infinitessimal wonder of the Internet, hungry for wisdom and contact and entertainment, it is only one thing at a time. The continuity may change. I rotate through more than nine channels. But it all runs one at a time. My odds rarely ring better that the TV. Sure, sometimes I land on something good, but what do I remember, how deep did anything go? It is and was rare to find the magic. Mostly you just get tired of clicking, of turning the knob, and you settle on the best of nothing. The glorious tools, the whole world right before us. We are Kings of nothing.