Issue 190, Fall 2009
Say a boy is born in a middle-class suburb of the large Midwestern metropolis of C.
Say he is born in the year 1989.
This is the last of years. This is the first of years.
This is the year the walls come down and the webs come up.
The boy learns to point and click right around the time he learns to talk.
From the earliest age he is already able to cut, paste, and undo.
By eight, the boy will type with two thumbs much better than he can write with a pencil.
Card catalogs become obsolete by the time he reads his first book.
The first graphical Web browser is outmoded before he starts second grade.
By the age of eleven, the boy has difficulty doing fewer than four things at once.
His favorite childhood pet is a virtual Jack Russell terrier that he breeds and trains and romps around with online. The dog dies when the boy goes on a summer vacation with his family and is away from the Web for two weeks.
The boy builds an online mausoleum for the deceased digital dog, which he forgets all about and never dismantles. The site ends up drawing condolences, tearful empathy, and mocking abuse from all over the world, even after the boy himself dies, nine decades later.
In junior high, the boy discovers music. He grows obsessed with acquiring copies of the world’s fifty million musical titles. In time, he comes to carry with him access to enough music that he could listen to one thousand pieces a day for a century without a repetition.
After puberty, the boy falls hard for information science. Between the end of high school and his graduation from college, the world’s information doubles. It will double again several times before he dies, until just the indexes themselves outstrip the total data of his childhood.
In high school, the boy joins a club for everyone on earth who shares his name and birthday. The club has hundreds of members and adds dozens more a year. Soon, new members are located and added to the mailing list immediately upon their births.
While in college, the boy makes a nice income by adding helpful tags to other people’s travel photos. His tags make it possible for anyone to spend Sunny Afternoons/By Large Bodies of Water/With Friendly People/Cooking Chicken/On the Grill/For/People/Playing/Volleyball, any time the desire strikes.
After graduation, the boy makes a living training software how to tag pictures automatically.
Later, the boy makes a living helping create a system that can match any person’s browsing history with exactly the product they don’t yet know they need.