Homo Predigitalis

manualsAs the hammering rain locked us indoors in the awful night, the rumble of thunder became a continuous roar. Lightning flashes projected spooky shadows and homo sapiens cowered under its summer quilts, trying to recall forgotten gods.

But even the apocalypse passes. As birds woke tired men and women, I sleepwalked down to the fuse box to re-introduce modern society to my house. All was well.


No, there was something missing. Somewhere in subconscious I knew that a little green light was absent. OMG! The internet is down!

I’ll skip the domestic scene of teenagers freaking out over the loss of 9Gag, Whatsapp and Instagram, or the visiting mother in law over being cut off from the world as our phone was dead as well. In fact, I will skip the part where I couldn’t call the phone company for obvious reasons. Instead would I like to remind you briefly of that time when a single household phone was attached to the wall and you went to the library once a week to get something to read.

Back to Homo Predigitalis

My poor children have never known this species of man and although I have attempted to described him, they have long ago established that I am prehistoric myself and hardly a suitable source of information for modern life. But revenge is sweet.

Initially they reacted as usual: this is a temporary outage; let’s go back to bed. That couldn’t last, but the outage did. As did the outrage. My daughter turned to drawing and wasn’t too put out. My son however started roaming the house like a caged tiger. I could see that he was searching: is there a world out there?

Then the incredible happened. He went outside! Aside from the school commutes, he lives like a vampire in that he avoids daylight. He also dresses in black and although I haven’t had complaints from parents of young maidens about him sinking his teeth in their sweet necks, I wouldn’t put it past him. But in this moment of existential crisis, he emerged. Squinting in the glorious day light, he surveyed the garden and discovered a trampoline. Who on earth put THAT in our garden, he must have thought as he jumped higher and higher.

In the space of 24 hours my son became a Homo Predigitalis. I could have cried with joy and to make sure the moment lasted, I decided not to fix the internet breakdown for as long as I could get away with it.

Drying my eyes, I sat down behind my laptop and joyfully wrote a post.


Never mind, I will post it later. Time is a pretty good editor and it would do no harm. Let’s do some work. I had been working on a Powerpoint and realised that working from home, I couldn’t get the latest version from my colleague. Hmm. I’d better go to the office tomorrow.

Homo Predigitalis vs Telecommuting: 1 – nil.

I am also working on some new software. I love writing code and with joy I opened up the programming tool and began coding. But not for long. In the good old days of Predigitalis, I had a two meter tall metal book case that was filled with reference manuals. There would also be a few on my desk and as I wrote computer programs, I’d consult the manuals for details on that particular programming language. Since then, all these manuals have been discarded and they are available on the web in a beautiful searchable format. In fact, since the web has become a 24/7 mobile feature, we have lost all incentive to learn facts by hard. I can tell you the precise dates of the Battle of Hastings within 1 second. Except when the internet gives out. Homo Digitalis is a pretty dumb animal compared to Homo Predigitalis.

I did go to the office the next day and decided that Homo Predigitalis went the way of my hair a long time ago. And with a feeling of sadness I called the telephone company who promised to send a technician after the weekend. So we got a few days respite. The technician was of the same era as myself and we swapped Predigitalis war stories while he fixed the connection. As he switched the power on, the modern world came flooding back into my life. A mixed Β blessing, at best.

19 thoughts on “Homo Predigitalis

  1. Great story, Genetic Fractals! It made me wonder about disabling the internet from time to time, in the whole street, maybe. They should count themselves lucky that I have no talents as an engineer! πŸ˜‰
    Isn’t it amazing how creative human beings can be when they find themselves in unfamiliar dire straits (to use an old-fashioned expression).
    On the other hand, I read Plato on my I-Pad this morning and he made Socrates say that reading was soul-destroying…We should learn this stuff by heart and lie about and drink diluted wine and recite it… I guess he had a point!

    1. Thanks Pipteinpteron! You will remember the Icelandic Volvano that shut down airspace over Europe. All travellers got stuck and were forced to travel the old fashioned way: overland. I thought that was wonderful. I wonder if Socrates thought that books were new fangled technologies (like internet and air transport) and he remembered the good old days when we had time to talk. I’m sure he’s right though we are so far from this that I’d be delighted to see people lost in books!

  2. I love this… So well written. So true too. A few years ago a surge of power broke down the power grid on the north east part of US and parts of southern Ontario for about 3 days. Lucky my little town was spared, but people knew we were still on the grid and our shop shelves quickly became bare, line ups at the gas stations were long and many ran out and were forced to close until they could get a new shipment. People couldn’t get money or pay for things… Foods spoiled…. People lived in the dark and had to walk the stairs up many flights. Really showed us how reliant we are on power… Now with widespread twitter, blogs and iPhone this and that we would be lost even more!

  3. Loved this post and lol! Power shortages and internet black-out occur not infrquently in Italy (or at least my area) so every once in awhile the world sits back and reads. However, I must say, that it is a bother at times when you want to get that instant info…definitely mixed blessings either way!

  4. Interesting… I am still in the middle of my unplugging-myself-experiment – as I am a dinosaur from the pre-digital age, too: I have grown up with black and white TV and a phone whose connection was shared with 3 other families (an Austrian specialty of the 1970s – the “quarter connection”).
    What I really loathe is the level of distraction and multi-tasking that came with digital life – such as people expecting you to chat using various tools while you are “technically in a meeting” etc.
    I enjoy my Kindle reader, but probably only because the European version does not allow for any internet connection except buying books online.

    1. Thanks Elkement, I quite agree. In the predigitalis, businessmen (few women 😦 ) dictated letters and could expect a response at best a week later. With the multi-channel communications we have now, responses are often in minutes and seconds. The acceleration of the pace of communication can only lead to the dilution of our concentration and a serious degrading of the quality of our exchanges. That leads to confusion and increased comms. We haven’t gained across the board!

  5. So true…I laughed out loud recognizing my kids (sorry – youngsters, sorry – grown-up young men and women) – and myself…Luckily they are used to living with only colour TV or not even that a couple of weeks a year…Sadly enough I’m getting too addicted to my computer even if I don’t play games. as they do. Pull the plug out and we’ll see.

    1. From a very young age I “conditioned” my children that they could not watch TV or video before 17:00. Even though they are old enough to make up their own rules now, curiously they still abide by that one. I slipped up when I didn’t “enforce” that rule to any other device with a screen so ipods etc are doing 24/7 😦 except when daddy changes the WIFI password from time to time πŸ™‚

  6. I don’t know if this was your intention, but this post had me laughing literally out loud! Outside of playing sports, I find myself locked away in the comfort of my air conditioned home every day. When my electricity or Internet goes out, it’s so much more than just an inconvenience. It’s a disturbance in my way of life. It’s as if the animals inhabiting the dense woods just witnessed a forest fire and can no longer carry on. Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but I can at least sympathize with your wandering son!

    Great post!

    1. I’m glad you laughed, occasionally Genetic Fractal tries to be funny πŸ™‚

      I’m well aware that the e-society is a very different beast and although I poked fun at my “dependent” son, I’m also very curious to see how all this will pan out. Social interaction is changing a lot, but then, it did so in the 30’s when movies took young people away from their usual hang-outs. Then TV brought them back inside. It has been said before but we are living through a massive shift. It’s great!

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