Sunday, August 07, 2005

Fighting Automation

Is automation evil?

I sit here facing myself. I'm blogged. This is me! Yes, many times I've formulated thoughts, theories, postulations, and wished I had an outlet to share them. Even to just get them in writing would have been nice.

Prior to a week ago, I was just nobody Christopher Hobbs. Now, in the midst of technological wizardry, I am a "dot" on the map of blogdom. Is this a good thing? Or have I succumbed to the evils of the system? Have I jumped on the wagon of the myriads of mental masturbators thinking they have something worth saying?

I can feel it right now, as I type this, the influence of narcissistic forces, giving me false illusions of grandeur. Would I be better off making my point with a chisel and stone? OK, that's stretching it, a pencil and paper, better yet a Hemingway-like typewriter? (I do have a Royal with fresh ribbon.)

Speaking of ancient means of communicating...

When I began using Morse code almost one year ago, I wanted to know what it was like for someone in the early days of radio communicating with a mode that was, at that time, the only means of communicating with others outside your local perimeter. I already had the vacuum tube radio (yes I know, I should have picked up a spark gap transmitter, but they didn't have any at the local hamfest) all I needed was a hand key.

Nowadays, the majority of Morse operators use fancy modern devices like bugs (weighted mechanical device driven by a fulcrum,) keyers (electronic dit and dah generators,) and even interfaces to the computer to control the length, separation and spacing required to make legible the single tone afforded you in the CW (Continuous Wave) mode.

The second reason I chose to use the "basic" tool of a hand-key was, I believed it would give me a greater appreciation of the skill of interpreting the dots and dashes that make up this primal means of communicating. Simple tasks require simple tools. Would I have suffered by learning CW with a keyer? I believe so. Now that I've been using a keyer for a few months, it is clear that relying on the machine does not guarantee accuracy as is the tendency to believe when it comes to this type of automation. The user is still a major part of the equation. I am the major part of the this

Before I descend into self-psychoanalyzation, as seems so easy to do with these evil forces pushing at the doors to my consciousness, let me talk about Fists.

Every CW operator develops a particular "fist" or style to his sending. So varied and identifiable that one can recognize another without the FCC required identification call-letters. There is some amount of personality to code sent with an automated keyer, but not to the degree of pushing two pieces of brass together at will. If I had learned on a keyer, my fist would have suffered in it's development.

Would Hemingway have been able to "pen" his great works with a computer, I'm sure I'm not the first to ask that question. It's already been settled that I will never rise to the level of a Hemingway, but is it silly for me to think that I will not achieve what greatness (or littleness) I have in me if I'm using this automated method of blogging?

(bloggers note: this not-so-stream-of consciousness work was just interrupted by a communique with a gentleman in Sacramento (WA7SPY) who had a very nice fist albeit he was using a keyer. I used both. I noticed that setting my brain against the digital excatitude of semiconductors sharpens my motor-sense of doing it myself.

I remember when I was first starting with the hand key, something in me feared the electro-mechanical devices used to "cheat" the code. Feared that my fist would suffer as I fear my writing will suffer from being *blogged.

I am in no way a neophyte when it comes to computer technology and the mounting menagerie of methods in which they are net-worked. I used to teach classes at the local University to the staff and faculty on how to use the BITNET, and have followed the net's development since then.

I remember my first fascination with what can happen when millions of people can simultaneously banter their ideas around the world over their computers. This came in the early 80's when I was reading a thread on a newsgroup listserv where the question was asked "do you piss in the shower." The content of responses was mundane but the pure numbers of people who wanted to share their philosophies of shower pissing was mind bloggeling. (I imagine they are still archived somewhere.)

Now I'm at that critical point of this venture where this technocratic influence has the potential to send me blogging my way to infamy or boredom.

I sit here in my shack surrounded by technology, this blogsite, computer, radio transmitters, an electronic keyer, digital camera, PDA (yes, I broke down and got one...picked up an ancient Palm m100 for $5 at a local yard sale yesterday...though I swear I will never break down so far to get a cell phone.) Hey, I just downloaded a Morse Code program to the Palm, and an abacus spreadsheet program...maybe this isn't modern. Is all this gagetry going to make my life easier? Or turn me into just one more long-haired automaton?

You tell me...(please, no pissing in the shower stories.)

*(blogger's note: The spell checker on this site suggests flogging as a replacement for blogging.)


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