Wierder by the minute – lame

Recently, hard to say exactly when since the online version of PC Magazine doesn’t put dates on their stories but recently, John Dvorak put out a piece called Our Modern World—Weirder by the Minute. In it he listed several things that he thought someone from 1920 might find "odd" if they were sucked into the here and now.


What has John been putting in his wheaties? Most of the things he thinks the person from 1920 would find odd would actually be incomprehensible. Most of the details would be "odd" to someone from 1980.

Cases in point:

Smokers outside

John thinks that the fairly common sight of smokers huddled outside a building is a wierd sight and that "we don’t think much about it." Like hell "we" don’t. Every time I pass one of those groups I think "damn that stinks, I wish they were somewhere else." In the case of my workplace I only need to be within sight of the smoking area to smell it. While getting the smoke out of the building is a good trend in America the stinking "smoking area" that can be found at most work places isn’t the greatest trade-off.

Someone from 1920 wouldn’t find the huddled people wierd John, he’d find it incomprehensible. He might even consider it criminal. During WWI smoking became a popular rage thanks to cigarettes being included in the military rations and it wasn’t until sometime in the 30’s that people started to consider that smoking might have long-term negative effects. Unfortunately those people were the Nazis so the end of WWII also ended any bans on smoking.

Digital camera arm stretch

Now John thinks that "the wierdest societal change has to do with digital cameras and the practice of framing shots in the preview window by holding the camera out in front of yourself." Since 1920? Are you nuts? The mere idea that a fully capable computer could fit in something so small would be more than "wierd." Where are the vacuum tubes? Are there little hollerith cards for programming it? You mean you have to look at your pictures on that thing? What’s a screen? Is that related to those moving pictures I’ve heard so much about? What do you mean you "print" them? In color?!

Come on John, this would freak out some people from 1920. It would be weird to someone from 1980.

The cell phone bent neck

What? Someone from 1920 wouldn’t find the cocked head odd. People have been doing that as long as there have been handset style phones. He’d be stunned by the idea that you can actually talk to someone on the other side of the world with that thing. Oh, and where’s the dial?

Someone from 1980 would be amazed at the quality of a trans-Atlantic call and the fact that the thing is so darn small. Weird in 1980, fall out of your chair amazing in 1920.

Blackberry thumb-puncher

You want me to believe you’re typing on that thing? Where’s the carriage? Oh, that’s a computer too? Do I strike you as a mental midget? Get out of my office!

You missed the mark by several decades again John. The thumb punching would be odd to someone from 1980, for the average person from 1920 the technology would be mind bending.

Email address on the business card

That’s your address? What city is it in? The "Internet?" I send you a letter using that? Excuse me sir, I am going to need the city, state and zip code or I am quite sure the letter will never reach you.

Before the person will find an email address on your business card "wierd" he’s going to have to get past palm-sized computers, cameras that have screens and print in color and so on.

There are other items that John mentions but they’d all be incomprehensible to someone from 1920. Even John finally comes out and says something close to that in the final paragraph with "These are all new phenomena that would make no sense to anyone from 1920." So why start the article with the premise that "I’ve often thought about the new commonplace practices in society that someone from 1920 might find odd.." and move on to minor details that someone from 1980 would find "odd" when the technology itself would be mind boggling to someone from 1920?

Come on John, you’re supposed to be a technology writer. It didn’t all begin in the last two decades.

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Michael Harrison

Husband, Programmer, Irish dancer, tinkerer, astronomer, layabout (as much as possible)

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