You'll pardon me if I wax a little philosophical. I am often tantalized by the above question. It seems to me that all too often the media and commentators start from an operating assumption that computers and the digital revolution have transformed the world in positive ways. There is no doubt that is so, in part. It is clear, for example, that the development of democracy throughout the world has been aided substantially by the digital revolution. It is so that the vastly expanded access to information has promoted democracy in this nation as well, and it is true that technology has made many changes in our lifestyle. But I want to report to you my view that many of those changes are in fact not positive. Let me tell you a few stories. When I was a boy growing up in the mid-section of the country, I could walk out of the back door of my house, cross the cornfield and go into the woods with my dog. During the summer I did that often, and I could stay in the woods all day and even spend the night, and my mother and father would not worry. I drank water from the creek and, to put a modern law office management aphorism into a realistic frame, I ate what I killed. Things were pretty simple and we lived pretty well. We had a TV set and a Channel Master antenna. My best friend Charlie Dickman lived just down the road. He didn't have indoor plumbing, but he had the very best hay barn in all of southern Ohio. I spent many an hour in that barn climbing up to the highest rafters to collect young squab that I took home and trained as show pigeons. I even won the Centerville Ox Roast Pet Show with one of my pigeons named Jerry, and I can tell you I was the happiest boy in the world. Charlie Dickman had a Farmall Cub with a road gear and that was the vehicle that we learned to drive on. I can't imagine ever having more fun than hurdling down a back country road at 30 miles an hour on the Farmall Cub--it was an experience I'll never forget.
I was pretty clearly not completely deprived of technology. I knew a bit about tractors and corn pickers and hay balers. And, there were lots of other mechanical things around that required attention including a wonderful 1920 Model T flatbed truck that came into my possession. I found out early on that I was pretty good at all that stuff. When I was twelve my father took me into Dayton and bought me a 1935 Harley Davidson 74 motorcycle. We put it in the back of the truck and took it home. My father took it out to the shed beside the house and I watched in horror while he took it apart, piece by piece and spread the pieces on the concrete. When he was done he stood up, washed his hands and turned around and said to me "Woody, when you get it back together you can ride it." It took me a few weeks and I can't ever remember being more focused on a task than I was on putting that motorcycle back together. And, when I got it running I was a king. I had a girlfriend who lived over in Spring Valley, about 10 miles away, and I hopped on the motorcycle and went and saw her. Nancy was impressed, and I was as happy as I had ever been. Technology has been a big part of my life ever since. We eventually moved from Centerville into the city--the city of Bloomington Indiana, population 10,000 plus Indiana University which added another 10,000. Bloomington, believe it or not, was filled with urban delights. The University Music School was world renowned. The Opera Company was second only to that of Julliard in the United States, and there were scores and scores of exotic people from countries all over the world. In the 1953-1954 season the Indiana University Basketball Team won the national championship and put Bloomington on the map. Bloomington billed itself as the world's smallest big city, and in many respects that was a perfect and apt description. I think I've said enough to let you know that I had a pretty idyllic childhood-at least I thought it was wonderful. I sometimes profoundly regret that I'm not able to give my children the same kind of experiences that I had as a youth. Growing up a country boy in the 40's and 50's was a truly wonderful experience that I wish they could have. In fact, though, all that is gone. The only thing I have left is the right to claim I really am a country lawyer.
How then does a country lawyer come to write this column? I wish I really knew. At bottom, though, I think that there is a link between fixing a tractor and fixing a hard drive. I am not sure yet just what that link is, but I will report to you soon about my thoughts! In the meantime, I would like to hear from you. What impact has the computer made on the quality of your professional life? Please let me know via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, via the Law Office Computing BBS at 621-4353 or by fax at 322-6688. I still accept snail mail at the Law College, Room 209.
More Internet and World Wide Web
The explosion of interest in the World Wide Web is beyond comprehension. There is a lot of useful information to be found by surfing, but the reality is that for the moment it is more recreational than foundational. That may change in the coming months and I am pretty sure it will. But in the meantime, we are seeing the worst and the best of the possibilities. At best we see the continued development of a world of competition, commerce, ideas and beliefs without governmental controls of any kind. It is very exciting. At worst, we see commercial exploitation of the world wide "Internet" network built without cost to the user. An example, unfortunately, is too close to home. The Arizona Daily Star has developed a World Wide Web home page that is really very useful and very well done. You do not need StarNet to access the expanded information--it all there for free on the World Wide Web. If, for example, you use Prodigy to access the WWW you need spend only $9.95 a month for 3 basic hours. If you really use the WWW a lot you will want to use a provider like PrimeNet, NetCom or StarNet because the cost is lower. Another advantage may be speed. I did a little test the other night and tried accessing the Courtroom of the Future home page at www.law.arizona.edu/~law/courtrm.html. Prodigy took 4 minutes flat and the new CompuServe service took more than twice that long. The winner was NetCom which took only 2.5 minutes to go from start to finish. I am interested in hearing from you about your experiences on the WWW. Please write at the above address.