What Computer Nerds Should Be Thankful For

November 22nd, 2006 by Benj Edwards

Things That Nerds Should Be Thankful ForTomorrow is Thanksgiving in the United States, which means we cook a lot, eat a lot, sleep a lot, feel uncomfortable around somewhat estranged relatives a lot, prepare to spend a lot, officially start Christmas a lot, and generally take it all for granted, despite the title of the holiday. In order to break with American tradition, I thought I’d offer a personal list of things that I think we — vintage computer and video game enthusiasts — should be thankful for. After all, these things let us enjoy our hobbies. Without them, we’d be collecting dirt and not even know what it’s called. Pay attention, my friends, as we start off serious-ish and degrade into something resembling silliness — but it’s all in the name of holiday fun.

The Fundamentals

1. Agriculture

AgricultureIf our ancient ancestors hadn’t developed agriculture, we’d still be too busy hunting and gathering for our food all day long to have time to play video games. Agriculture gave us the luxury of having spare time, in which humans developed art, education, philosophy, and science. All of this wonderful progress has brought us to a point where, instead of actually hunting and gathering, we just play simulated hunting / gathering games all day long. Sounds like somebody needs to invent agriculture in Gears of War so I can actually get some work done.

2. Freedom

FreedomWithout the freedom to pursue new ideas without punishment, we’d still be living in the Dark Ages, fearful of thunder, wrathful gods, ghosts, and dragons. Well, ok — in some areas we haven’t made as much progress as others. But still, whether people realize it or not, we’re doing pretty well. Some unfortunate folks in the world don’t enjoy the same freedoms we do (heck, a lot of people right here don’t enjoy them either, but that’s another story altogether), and you’ll find that such people typically neither play video games, nor collect obsolete hunks of plastic and metal. But then there’s China, that strange enigma of a place where MMORPG games border on some sort of state-sponsored mind control exercise. All jokes aside, China — although many of you would doubt it — is fast approaching a new freedom of its own, and I suspect that video games and other forms of Western mind pollution are encouraging the trend. The United States’ best freedom-spreading exports so far? Slovenliness, of course, and that bastion of all-things-free, the Internet. But we’ll get to that later.

3. Capitalism

CapitalismWithout capitalism, none of what you’re sitting on, eating, doing, thinking about, or that which is keeping you alive and healthy would have happened. Your life, as you know it, would not exist. That’s because capitalism takes a fundamental property of human nature (greed) and turns it into something that can benefit all of us — namely, inventions, technology, and improvements to our collective standard of living. It’s all about competition, baby, and without it and the free market, we’d live pretty horrible lives. Honestly. Just ask the Soviets.

4. Money

MoneyMoney is great. It affords us a common medium in which to exchange value in disparate goods and services. It also allows you to read this website without a) raising and killing the livestock and grain you ate for breakfast, b) preparing the food you ate for breakfast, c) finding the trees to cut down for shelter, d) building the structure you’re sitting in, e) harvesting the gas that likely heats the structure you’re living in, f) acquiring and purifying the water that keeps you clean and hydrated, g) building and running the power plant that gives you electricity, h) mining the silicon inside your computer chips, i) manufacturing the computer you’re reading this on, f) putting the infrastructure in place for making this wonderful information get to your location, and so on.

See, you worked for all that yourself. But instead of putting your labor into it directly, you (presumably) put your labor into doing a specialized task in which you’re knowledgeable and got money in exchange. This allowed you to exchange your labor, in the form of money, for other people’s labor in the fields in which they specialize! Whew.

Anyway, money’s awesome. Unless you don’t have any — and I can’t help you with that.

The Peripherals

5. Turkey

TurkeyI would like to be thankful for turkey this holiday season, as it is so sweet, juicy, and delicious. If evolution / God / Han Solo hadn’t developed turkey technology, we’d all be eating something decidedly non-tasty this Thanksgiving (like bricks), and what a shame that would be. Which brings me to this point: I am thankful that God invented bricks as well, so that I may smasheth them upon the surface of unpleasant things, like glass.

6. The Internet

The InternetIf the Pilgrims / DARPA / Al Gore hadn’t invented the Internet, I don’t know what I would do with my time. I’d probably spend all day counting sand. We should all be very thankful for it this holiday season, especially when we receive our shiny, new presents directly from Amazon.com! And of course, thanks to the ‘Net, you can read what I write on this website, which would not exist without…

7. Tim Berners-Lee

Tim Berners-LeeWhat a spiffy guy. I mean, really. Does anybody realize that he created perhaps the greatest invention of all time (after bricks, of course)? And does anybody else realize that, as a result, he is the single most underrated person (besides Han Solo) on the face of the planet at the moment? Someone should build a 300-foot tall statue of his left foot. That would accurately reflect how much the world owes him for his monumental contribution to our modern lives.

The Eh, Kinda, Well…Yeah’s

8. Steve Jobs

Steve JobsWithout Steve Jobs’ invention of the rocket-propelled jet pack, we wouldn’t be able to fly about the skies with such joyful abandon. That means that I’d still be walking to the grocery store to buy my turkey, bricks, and glass. And I’d really hate that. That’s why I’ll be saying a special toast for Steve Jobs at tomorrow evening’s festivities.

9. Paul Allen

Paul AllenIf Paul Allen hadn’t accidentally locked himself inside a closet that time, I wouldn’t have this lackluster operating system to type this into. It’s Windows 2000, for the record, and while it’s wonderfully stable, it paradoxically lacks the je ne sais quoi it would have had if Allen were running Microsoft all those years instead of my esteemed and cranky grandfather, William Henry Gates III.

10. Video Hockey

Video HockeyVideo Hockey is kinda exactly like Pong, except that you pretend you’re somehow playing hockey instead of playing Pong. You can also pretend you’re playing Billiards, Poker, Bowling, or Lawn Darts while playing Pong, but it’s not quite as realistic. That’s why Video Hockey thrived while the others failed.

11. IBM

IBMIn closing, we have to be thankful for IBM for creating this awesome Model M keyboard (101-key extended AT, manufactured August 13th, 1986) that I’m typing this on right now. Without their invention of this keyboard — which is, undoubtedly, the greatest keyboard ever created — I would probably be typing this on an upside-down, backwards, inverted key-mouse contraption that Microsoft’s janitors pooped out while everyone else was busy counting their money. If that were the case, then I probably wouldn’t be able to type at all, because I’d have to wait five minutes for it to reboot between each keystroke. So most likely, I wouldn’t have even written this article.

And that’s something you might have been quite thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving from Vintage Computing and Gaming.

10 Responses to “What Computer Nerds Should Be Thankful For”

  1. Daniel Kinney Says:

    Regarding #11: I dunno. The Dvorak keyboard is pretty nice. Heck of a lot more efficient, anyway. 😉

  2. Gabriel Says:

    If you’re thankful for Tim Berners-Lee, the least you can do is spell his name right…

  3. RedWolf Says:

    Yeah, you’re right, Gabriel! Thanks, I fixed it.

  4. Booker Says:

    Not to sound completely out of touch…BUT….what did Tim Berners-Lee invent?

  5. RedWolf Says:

    Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. Pretty great invention, eh? 🙂

  6. Booker Says:

    AH yes….that guy! Thx RedWolf….almost forgot about that guy.

  7. Michael Horton Says:

    Lee did not invent the internet. He just took credit for it. The military was using a privatetized version of the world wide web, well before the general public had access to such.

  8. RedWolf Says:

    Michael, there’s one big problem with what you just said:

    The Internet and the World Wide Web are two different things. The World Wide Web, which was invented by Berners-Lee, runs over the Internet. The Internet itself existed long before the World Wide Web and will continue to do so regardless of WWW’s existence. So no, Berners-Lee did not take credit for inventing the Internet. For further reading on the Web vs. Internet thing, check this out.

    The honor of inventing the Internet goes to the Pilgrims.

  9. dreggy Says:

    what about the apple][ where would we be without that.

  10. RedWolf Says:

    Excellent point, my friend! I think we could add cool things to the list all day long. In fact, everyone should feel free to do so if they like.

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