The dawn of the 21st century disappoints the part of me growing up reading works of science fiction. Here we are living in a much too glorified new century and there are still no flying cars crisscrossing the sky, no aliens from outer space walking our streets and no human bases across the solar system. We did send a roti canai to space but many things remain out of this world. Underneath this childish disappointment is another part of me who is impressed at humanity’s pace of technological progress.

The thought came to me last October when I was frantically downloading every single file I had stored on Geocities. Yahoo! shut Geocities down later that month after more than ten years of existence.

There was a time when the internet was effectively Geocities. Almost everything imaginable was available on Geocities alone. Cheats for Diablo? Latest news on Star Wars? History of the Malay Peninsula?

If the internet was the successor of the Great Library of Alexandria, then Geocities was its precious scrolls. This was back in the mid to the late 1990s. It was a time when surfing speed was incredibly slow that made today’s speed as served by TMNet god sent. It was a time when modems make noise much to the delight of a geeky kid.

It was on Geocities where I learned the hypertext markup language in effort to prove to my friends that I could do it too. With my mastery of HTML, I created my first website.

Updating it was a tough act. If I wanted to change certain details of the website, I had to go back to my text editor application and change it there. It was a big hassle but it was fun. The introduction of WYSIWYG kept me sane for some time.

The emergence of content management system as well as wide access to cheaper storage and greater bandwidth probably ended Geocities. Frustrated as the amount of time I needed to spend to update my website on Geocities, I became an early adopter of Blogger.

The generosity of my alma mater in Ann Arbor with respect to storage further reduced my need of Geocities. Since migrating to Blogger and ultimately WordPress several years later, never once I returned to Geocities, until last October. It was time to say the final goodbye. This is my requiem for it, and for everything that is beautifully obsolete.

My experience with Geocities and the internet by no mean affected me alone. Back in the late 1990s, the latest unsanctioned information was directly available only to the political fringe.

A decade later, the introduction of content management system that makes the proliferation of blogs possible democratised the internet. It is probably not too demanding to assert that this evolution brought political evolution — some would say revolution — in Malaysia. It took years, but it happened.

The return to Geocities was a walk down memory lane for me. Old photos stashed there brought me back to a more innocent age. A folder contained photos taken in Chicago. Another in New York. Another still contained countless of other places. These pictures were scanned from actual hardcopy photographs. Yes, there was a time when film was a crucial component of a camera. The film needed to be processed first before one could enjoy one’s effort. That typically took a week. Not anymore. All those processing are done with a snap of a finger. At a far, better a resolution too. Never mind all those snazzy features a digital SLR has.

I saved all of my life’s work, including my scanned photographs, in 3½-inch diskettes around the same period. One day after spending a summer away from classes, I found my spirit renewed. I was yet again prepared to take up relentless challenges thrown by a cruel Michigan. Before that however, I just needed to transfer some of my files on that 3½-inch diskette to a computer in a laboratory on campus. Amid 50-odd computers, not one of them had a diskette driver on them.

The same situation was true over all computer laboratories on campus. In its place was a weird thing called USB drive. Life was just too hard.

Just less than four months earlier, I would happily hop from computer to computer with my diskettes. On that particular day when I found out about the end of diskette drive, a child of the information revolution felt obsolete.

The world suddenly leapt by me, catching me off-guard. I adapted — I had too — but that taste of obsoleteness still lingers with me, forever a reminder that nothing lasts forever. The only thing one can do is to prepare oneself for the eventuality.

These continuous creative destructions ensure that. It also says that it is likely that tomorrow is going to be a better day. I am willing to bet on that because all these small changes, and more, have more than compensates my childish disappointment. Under its belt is a reputation enough to earn confidence from a mere mortal.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved

First published in The Malaysian Insider on December 17 2009.

3 Responses to “[2140] Of dude, where’s my diskette drive?”

  1. on 30 Dec 2009 at 13:59 Bobby

    Not sure if you know, but apparently, the pioneer for the USB drive is a Malaysian residing in Taiwan.
    He has stated that he will not start a plant in Malaysia for obvious reasons.
    The main one being lack of competitive advantage to be in Malaysia.

  2. […] I still want to see my flying cars. […]

  3. on 28 Feb 2013 at 11:24 Zulhilmi

    I love reading this =)

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