Tuesday, June 22, 2021

6. COMPUTER HISTORY MUSEUM

 








So how did all this computer-Internet-devil stuff all start?

For that, if you’re in Silicon Valley and nobody will see you at Google and FaceBook and they won’t because it’s about the data, not human connection or interaction, you can venture to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View—and view how the dehumanization of mankind began.




The first exhibit room seems innocuous enough with its mostly photos and graphs of 1 and 0, on which all data is rooted. 








It feels to me like mental sandpaper and grates me as such.  

Then onto the Babbage mechanical computer, conceived over a century ago by Charles Babbage, though it might as well be cabbage to me, along with proof that Al Gore really did invent The Internet—or why else would its calculations be called Al Gore rhythms?



Next, the prototype for Google’s street view car.

They’re coming to see you… and they’ll know where to find you when it’s time for others to pay you a visit—to confiscate your guns, your gold, your vegetable garden and maybe your un-vaccinated kids.


Let there be no doubt: Your loss of privacy is Google and FaceBook’s profit.




Next, onto the early computers… and this is where I contract a serious case of the heebie-jeebies, a feeling the late folk singer Tim Hardin explained when I asked him how it felt to be abruptly broke after being a millionaire:
  

Tim Hardin, Tricky Dick's, London, circa 1977


“It grabbed me by the nuts, put its thumb up my asshole and scratched my brains from inside.”


And just to let us know he’s present, the devil subtlety manifests itself on an old promotional button for a company called Ultrix.

Hell-o!






I lose track of Van Stein’s whereabouts, but I’ve had enough, mentally tortured by cables and wires and switches and transmitters and I flee to the gift shop for a fleeting regression to childhood with an assortment of toys.




When the artist reappears and mutters “Let’s get the f--- outta here,” I realize he is as discombobulated as I.  






We cannot escape fast enough, into the Jeep and onto Interstate-101, conveniently situated adjacent to the museum for a quick getaway.


“Good thing we saved the museum for last,” says Van Stein quietly as it grows smaller in my rearview mirror.  “If we’d started there first, we never would have gone further."

“Hell of a place,” I add.