One of the most distinct memories I have of using a computer takes place in my family’s office space. I can’t recall the exact name of the computer game I loved so dearly, but I do remember the excitement and novelty of it all. I can picture the ivory, clunky computer screen that displayed the bright colors, the friendly characters, and randomly enough, the ice cream machine maker.
I would pull up an extra kitchen chair next to my sister and eagerly wait for a chance to create my very own fantasy ice cream cone. The only thing missing from this 1998 dream scene were the sound effects. Being the computer newbies my family and I were at the time, we had no idea how to properly connect the speakers to the tower. After several attempts at what seemed like the right location, my dad finally called in back up in the form of a co-worker one night and voila! With a few minor adjustments, the once mute ice cream machine became the most entertaining post-school activity my sister and I experienced.
From this moment on, I took advantage of a computer’s ability to be ubiquitous, one of van Dijk’s characteristics of new media. I slowly realized that at any time of the day I could hop on my computer and launch my favorite games like Carmen Sandiego and Jump Start 1st Grade.
I guess I never realized it at the time, but our family computer’s ever-present quality might have been what caused one of the first sparks of rebellion during my childhood. As someone who’s always been a night owl, I knew that at any time I could sneak into our home office late at night and start my new masterpiece on Paint or, as my pre-teen years kicked in, chat my best friend on AIM.
The omnipresent quality of computers and the Internet shaped my ever-evolving response to it. At first, I couldn’t believe the convenience of it all. I could have sources of entertainment within arms reach from floppy disks to CD roms. It was so simple and instant.
However, not until recently did the ubiquity bother me. Everyday actions like walking down the street, waiting in the doctor’s office, or socializing with friends was never without some type of connection to the Internet. Like Paul Miller mentions in A Year Offline: What I Learned, I realized that ultimately it’s about finding a balance between sharing your life online and offline regardless of new media’s perpetual presence in our lives (which has definitely been one of my New Year’s resolutions several years in a row).