Computer age (and time)

I’ve just finished Marshall McLuhan’s Book of Probes and among many fascinating points, there was this one which sticks very well to our internet times:

With the computer we all move out of the age of number and statistics into the age of the simultaneous awareness of structures.

As a proof, one needs only mention the fact that everyday I write code, and at the same time read technical blogs, reply to professional emails and participate in our company’s IRC. All at the same time. It’s this exact simultaneous awareness of structures.

Tim Berners-Lee wrote quite some time ago (sorry, I can’t find the reference and of course I didn’t bookmark it the time I stumbled upon it) that users should not be forced to know that an email is sent through an email application, that a website is viewed through a browser, etc. The technology should be transparent to them: if they want to communicate, they only need to say so to the ’integrated’ software. Likewise if they want to read a web page.

It’s funny that those concepts are embodied so well in Opera and in Mozilla, considering how early they were seen in McLuhan’s work, and how they were reshaped for the internet medium by Berners-Lee. Some people truly are visionaries.


  • I found Tim Berners-Lee’s article I was referring to: Cleaning up the User Interface.

    Another inconsistency is the current strange division between mail, browser, and news reader tools. Each have editors. The editors are in some cases plain text, and in some cases fancier things such as HTML. On the Internet, a mail agent allows you to use the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, a news agent allows you to use the Network News Transfer Protocol, and a web editor allows you to use the Hypertext Transfer Protocol. This is of course totally meaningless to a user.

    Reply to Stéphane

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