One Megabyte

Alan and Patricia were always welcoming. As soon as he neared their forest cabin, Bobby began feeling happy and relaxed. His weekly trips there were a tonic.

There were things going on at the farm that he didn’t understand, and that worried him somewhat. Tomatoes grew better when exposed to advertising jingles, mushrooms were affected by satellite TV channels, and he was encouraged to drink a “healthy natural beverage” that somehow unsettled him.

Alan’s workshop was full of technology. Bobby wasn’t sure if this was the right word though. It was state of the art technology once upon a time, but these days of smaller, better, faster may now cause it to be labelled junk. There were many metal boxes with buttons, wires, levers and cogs.

“Do you still use all these” – Bobby didn’t know what to call them – “machines?”

“Sure I do! They still work. Why shouldn’t I?”

Bobby pulled out his smartphone. It never received a signal on the farm but here it worked beautifully. “This phone has more power than everything in this workshop. I’m not trying to show off; anybody with twenty dollars a month to spare can have one. I just mean that your machines seem outdated.”

“So you think I should donate them to the museum?”

“Not necessarily,” said Bobby. “But maybe. Wouldn’t you be better off with a small, simple gadget with multiple functions? And when technology advances, you can upgrade.”

Alan looked at him with seriousness. “What is the data limit on your smartphone? Ten megabytes? A day? So three hundred megabytes a month. Well, I transfer one megabyte a month.”

Bobby was about to be impressed, but then thought, hang on! He said, “Do you mean one gigabyte? So you transfer three times more than me?”

“No I meant one megabyte. That’s plenty. I do use some compression technology, but that’s it!”

Bobby was confused and stood blinking.

Alan pushed a few buttons and lights appeared on metal boxes. “In the early days there were radio transmissions for only two hours a day. When TV came along, we had only one hour a day. Telephone calls were very expensive; you’d watch your minutes carefully. With computers there was limited bandwidth, it was precious and you preserved it. A photo took half an hour to download, and a movie took all day.

“We appreciated those things. Our family would gather around the radio. We would watch TV together. Receiving a call would be a special thing.

“Now everything is always available. It’s too much. People receive endless news, data and popular culture. It is making them sick. They flick through these things as if they are empty boxes, always looking for the next one, hoping it will be full.

“Patricia and I pick one thing a day and focus on it, whether it is a message, a photo, or scene from a film. We enjoy that thing only. It is like a meditation. And we’ve found that after one hundred years, we’ve never been bored yet. Do you want to see today’s special selection?”

Bobby nodded.

Alan showed him a picture of the Lucerne Valley one hundred years ago, before the time of roads, factories and malls. There was just land and light. Its beauty made him weep.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: