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The ubiquity of the internet. It is part of our everyday lives, like it or not. Over the past quarter-century, the online explosion has radically altered the world and the way we move through it.

For many of you, that has always been the world. If you were born anytime after 1990 or so, you likely have no memories of a world without the internet. Sure, you might recall the frustrating early days of dial-up modems and slow-loading websites, a time when your entire afternoon might be spent downloading a single song. But the internet is and has always been omnipresent.

However, those of us who are older have clear and distinct memories of a different time and place. A time and place where the internet felt more like science fiction than simple reality. We’ve said good-bye to a lot of things from those bygone days – some of them minor, some incredibly significant – but the one factor they all have in common is that they don’t appear to be coming back.

Thus we get “100 Things We've Lost to the Internet” (Crown, $27). Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review, offers up a collection of snapshots from the before times, quick-hit glimpses at a vast array of items and experiences that are simply … gone. They exist only in old photographs (remember those?) or increasingly dusty memories. These habits and learned behaviors, these compulsions and desires – vanished, never to be experienced by those who came after.

These short essays explore the vast array of alterations wrought by the internet, all of them presented with a combination of wistfulness and self-effacing humor. Because here’s the thing – while we might miss a lot of this stuff, we also have to concede that in a lot of ways, we’re better off … even if we perhaps don’t want to admit it. And some of it? Well … some of it we sure would like to have back.

Published in Tekk
Wednesday, 22 January 2020 14:13

Tech-22 – ‘Zed’

Speculative fiction is at its best when it has something to say. From the very beginning, sci-fi has used its trappings to examine and explore the (sometimes harsh) realities of the real world. It reflects and refracts, commenting on where we are and where we might be going.

We live in a world where technology is ubiquitous and a handful of people sit in control of the vast majority of the resources behind that technology. Those people, perhaps more than any elected official, are the ones who hold our societal destiny in their hands. But as we grow ever more reliant on the various forms of tech to live our daily lives, as it infiltrates every aspect of our everyday existence, we must ask ourselves – what happens if those people lose control? What happens if this omnipresent technology stops working the way it is supposed to?

That’s where Joanna Kavenna’s “Zed” (Doubleday, $27.95) takes us. This darkly comic dystopian novel imagines a world not too different from our own, a near-future in which a single company has risen to the top of the food chain and extended its influence into every aspect of society. This company provides the technology on which seemingly the entire world runs. And something’s wrong…

With a biting wit and a discomfiting plausibility, “Zed” offers up a portrait of what might happen if everything – and I do mean EVERYTHING – was dictated by algorithmic whims … and what happens if those algorithms should start to crumble, leaving those at the top to make panicked choices aimed more at protecting themselves than the world around them.

Published in Tekk

There are plenty of books out there that aim to tell you how to do something. Whether its DIY home repair or computer programming or self-help or what have you, there’s probably a book that purports to tell you how to do it. These books bill themselves as offering straightforward instructions on doing whatever it is you seek to do.

But maybe you’re not looking for straightforward. Maybe the how-tos (hows-to?) you’re looking for are needlessly complicated, convoluted and/or flat-out absurd. And if they’re illustrated with goofy graphs and jokey stick-figure comic strips, so much the better.

If you fall into the latter category, then Randall Munroe’s “How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Real-World Problems” (Riverhead, $28) is the book you’ve been waiting for. The NASA-roboticist-turned-beloved-webcomic-artist aims his unique perspective and skill set at coming up with ridiculous and technically correct (the best kind of correct) advice for dealing with an assortment of everyday – and occasionally not-so-everyday – issues.

The blend of smart and simple that has marked Munroe’s work since the earliest days of online comic sensation xkcd is in full effect in this new book; he takes real joy in finding that weird intersection of scientific thought and anarchic absurdity … and that joy is evident on every page of this book. He wants you to laugh and to learn as you look at the workings of the world through his own peculiarly and particularly cracked lens.

Published in Tekk

Book explores the tech subculture waging war on death

Published in Tekk

Twenty-nine-year old entrepreneur Brendan Alper spent five years working at global investment banking firm Goldman Sachs - and hated it. It was only after quitting the finance trade to become a comedy writer that he says he stumbled upon an idea that has changed his life and, he hopes, the lives of countless others. Hater- Alper’s new dating app, launched on Feb. 8.

Published in Tekk
Wednesday, 28 September 2016 11:32

MIT's flea market specializes in rare electronics

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts Once a month in the summer, a small parking lot on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's campus transforms into a high-tech flea market known for its outlandish offerings. Tables overflow with antique radio equipment, some of it a century old. Visitors can buy a telescope that's the size of a cannon. One man has hauled in a NASA space capsule he owns.

Published in Tekk
Wednesday, 07 September 2016 08:19

Tech may help older drivers travel a safer road

SAN FRANCISCO Older drivers may soon be traveling a safer road thanks to smarter cars that can detect oncoming traffic, steer clear of trouble and even hit the brakes when a collision appears imminent.

Published in Tekk
Wednesday, 27 July 2016 10:44

Verizon buys Yahoo for $4.8 billion

SAN FRANCISCO Seeking a wider digital audience, Verizon is buying Yahoo for $4.83 billion in a deal that marks the end of an era for a company that defined much of the early internet but struggled to stay relevant in an online world dominated by Google and Facebook.

Published in Biz
Wednesday, 27 July 2016 10:40

Last VCR maker ending production

TOKYO Japanese electronics maker Funai Electric Co. says it's yanking the plug on the world's last video cassette recorder.

Published in Biz

SPRINGFIELD, N.H. Jessie Levine smiles and shakes her head when she hears the outgoing voicemail message on her iPhone.

Published in Tekk
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