Wednesday, February 16, 2005


I know quite well that some of our classmates were very young in 1984. I recall the year before I wrote a simple computer program in basic that had a sheep slide across the screen to "Mary Had a Little Lamb." That was amazing to those of us that just two years previously had dialed into a mainframe downtown that allowed us to play 'Star Trek' on a timeshare terminal. No graphics, just a keyboard and a dot matrix printer.

I chuckled at the statistic that many of the people used their computers for 'learning how to use them' back then. Can you imagine still 'learning to use' a vacuum six months after purchase?

My other major exposure to computers around that time was my brother's Apple IIe. He left it at my parents after he had moved out in the mid 80's. I used to play Olympic Decathalon on it...shattered Bruce Jenner's record. As an engineer, he used computers at work. I recall he was writing some sort of multidisk program, but I never learned what he hoped it could do.

My early exposure to computers had almost nothing to do with market forces. It had everything to do with the fact that I had a brother who was very well educated. Madison schools had everything to do with it. Instead of the forces of competition, what fueled my limited exposure to the technology was a significant investment by the state to provide resources for my school's math department and my brother's degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Nor was the Internet a product of the 'market'.

Government does not stand in the way of solving digital disparity. It can and must be part of a solution to address what one of the readings called a new 'civil right'.

1 comment:

  1. If information is a key resource for social good, then governments will differ in how they promote information access. Today governments can be charted by how open their information flows are, e.g. China vs North Korea. So then to follow your comments that governments must be involved, I guess the next question is: to what extent? If information is a "human right", then what standard? In the future, might we sanction other governments who deny information to citizens?