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The Internet at home - a member of the family

By Valerie Yule - posted Wednesday, 5 August 2009

When computers became accessible in the 1960s, I soon worked out what I wanted them to do for me - and more and more, they could do them. Now they have reached the stage where they do more than I want, and I cannot always get them to do simple things that they used to. It’s like having a farm-horse that has turned into a racehorse.

The Internet is now a racehorse with bells on, and the computers that host them cannot stand still either. The IT brains must keep on thinking of new things in order to keep their jobs; the young keep wanting new things; and as with every invention of humanity, baddies use it for ill, and interfere with new ways to hack, cheat, lure and upset.

There must be millions of us who have only three simple wishes for the Internet - to be able to find anything in a moment; to be able to receive and send any sort of message in a moment, and for it never to break down or tangle up on our computers. Not so long ago these would have been Three Magic Wishes. Today only the last wish remains in the realm of the fairy tale. But fairy tale it still is. Goblins, boggles and efts inhabit cyberspace, as well as Nigerian scams and snake oils for men.


With the Internet, we have invented a virtual world. Many people now prefer to live in it, with avatars of themselves, friends with none of the complex realities of real friendships, games that need never stop, and buying and selling imaginary property.

Now we find, instantaneously, time-tables, phone numbers, houses we might like to buy, and weather-maps with radar to show rain coming across (in my case, Victoria and usually, it seems avoiding Melbourne!). You can read newspapers from all over the world. You can get transcripts and podcasts of radio programs. The doctor says you have something with a long Latin name, having looked it up on the Internet. You go home and find out all about it too. The baby cries. You go to the Internet.

See the world with Google maps taken from space - your own house. See the proof of what man does to the world: for example, in the Earth seen from space at night. Introduce anyone from age three to 100 to the natural sciences with a ten-minute video overview that starts with Space and moves in by factors of ten until it reaches a proton in a cell in a leaf on a tree in a forest in Florida.

I now have friends all over the world, sharing the same aims and interests. People from all over the world can use and copy my online literacy materials and half-hour literacy video. I can put up my ideas on just about anything on an ever-enlarging website, and track down others with their own realms of ideas.

I put my unpublishable manuscripts and out-of-print books up on Google Books and issuu; Lulu can print as many copies off to order as you like. Since millions of sites have the same keywords for search-engines to find, it may be unlikely that anyone can find these gems without being told - but perhaps a publisher may find one of the titles is worth bringing into the “ real world”.

Many things still have not changed that could change - in how stock exchanges and real estate and publishers’ readers operate for example. The spelling of English could be cut to one page of spelling rules, with no traps, for international communication, and popular usage determine how it is adopted.


All this is wonderful for everybody: but I wish it could stop becoming Too Much for Old People. And there are some features that make me worry for young people.

The Internet can require too much time in screen housekeeping. Emails can be a snare as they pile in - 987 messages in my email inbox, 198 unread. There are times when a computer break-down is almost a relief as a drastic way to clear up.

So many mailing lists. So many interesting places that require you to acquire IDs and passwords, and it needs more housekeeping to keep the passwords in order.

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About the Author

Valerie Yule is a writer and researcher on imagination, literacy and social issues.

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