A glimpse of the future.

Today I was standing in the door of my nephew's room when I had a revelation.

I was noticing that his room, while not unreasonably small, will be cramped when a desk it added for the computer he'll need once he gets into his high school years.

Then I checked myself, my internal monologue patiently tapping the backspace key and saying "no, he'll have a surreally thin laptop or some even more futuristic machine. There's no way he'll build a box himself."

Only the geekiest of your children's generation while have a desktop machine they built themselves, and his predilection for sports of all types means that regardless of his obvious intelligence (visible in both early development and parentage) it's unlikely he'll have the time to be such a creature.

I unpacked that thought for a few moments. The development of the modern 'home' computer has closely followed the adoption of the automobile, and this particular issue is no exception. In fifty years very few people will build their own computers, parts will be available only to repair the ones you bought from a major manufacturer. The few self-built machines will be largely similar to 'kit cars' You might build a 2005 era classic gaming rig, but most likely you'll do it by paying someone to ship you the Alienware kit and will painstakingly assemble the parts with the loving care of an enthusiast, not the breathless impatience of a gamer waiting to power up the latest monstrosity.

The past generation and my own--these will be the only generations that built our own machines, screwing them together and bringing them to life like personal Frankensteins on kitchen counters and dining room tables before eventually installing them in our bedrooms with the pride that only a creator can have for his creation. Carefully setting jumpers to accept the right type of CPU, updating the BIOS and collecting the drivers we'll need before pressing the power button for that fateful first boot will be an experience lost on our children's children.

In a sense, I can identify when any 60s era muscle car mechanic who saved a brooding hulk of Detroit steel from the junkyard and slowly and painstakingly reassembled it in his father's garage. The whir of system fan starting up, and the first fateful clicks of a hard drive will always equate to that engine rumble on first ignition. Loading up 3dMark will always be "let's take her down to the 1/4 mile by the train tracks and see how she runs." That might sound pathetically geeky, but let me put it in perspective for you: using their nerdy home built computers, Geeks conquered the world. Those Detroit muscle boys only had a little fun on the track.

I wonder what my nephew and his children will build? What brilliant amalgamation of scavenged and painstakingly purchased parts will make his eye gleam with the excitement of a builder?

Saturday, September 26, 2009