Articles tagged with "videogames"


As a software developer I constantly have to fight the urge to say "this is nonsense" whenever something new comes up. Or, to be more precise, as a software developer who would like to still find a job 10 years from now. I may still prefer virtual machines over clouds, but I also realize that keeping up to date with bad ideas is part of my job.

I've given around turns around the Sun by now to see the rise of technologies that we take for granted. Today's article is a short compilation of a couple of them.

Seat belts

When I was a child, 2-point seat belts were present in all cars but mostly as decoration. In fact, wearing your seat belt was seen as disrespectful because it signaled that you didn't trust the driver, or even worse, that you disapproved of their current driving. And they were not wrong: since most people didn't use their seat belts in general, the only reason anyone would reach out to use theirs was when they were actively worried about their safety. Drivers would typically respond with a half-joke about how they weren't that bad of a driver.

It took a lot of time and public safety campaigns to instill the idea that accidents are not always the driver's fault and that you should always use your seat belt. Note that plenty of taxi drivers in Argentina refuse to this day to use theirs, arguing that wearing a seat belt all day makes them feel strangled. Whenever they get close to the city center (where police checks are) they pull their seat belt across their chest but, crucially, they do not buckle it in. That way it looks as if they are wearing one, sparing them a fine.

Typewriters and printers

My dad decided to buy our first computer after visiting a lawyer's office. The lawyer showed my dad this new machine and explained how he no longer had to re-type every contract from scratch on a typewriter: he could now type it once, keep a copy of it (unheard of), modify two or three things, run a spell checker (even more unheard of!), and send it to the printer. No carbon paper and no corrections needed.

A couple years later my older brother went to high school at an institution oriented towards economics which included a class on shorthand and touch typing on a typewriter. Homework for the later consisted on typing five to ten lines of the same sentence over and over. As expected, the printer investment paid off.

... until one day my brother came home with bad news: he was no longer allowed to use the computer for his homework. As it turns out, schools were not super keen on the fact that you could correct your mistakes instantaneously, but electric typewriters could do that too so they let it slide. But once they found out that you could copy/paste text (something none of us knew at the time) and reduce those ten lines of exercise to a single one, that was the last straw. As a result printed pages were no longer accepted and, as reward for being early adopters, my parents had to go out and buy a typewriter for my brother to do his homework.

About two years later we changed schools, and the typewriter has been kept as a museum piece ever since.


My parents used to drink mate every day on our front yard, while my friends and I would do the same with a sweeter version (tereré). My neighbors used to do the same, meaning that we would all see each other in the afternoon. At that point kids would play with each other, adults would talk, and everyone got to know each other.

This is one of those things that got killed by modern life. In order to dedicate the evening to drink mate you need to come back from work early, something that's not a given. You also need free time meaning, on a way, that you needed a stay-at-home parent (this being the 90s that would disproportionately mean the mom). The streets were not also expected to be safe but also perceived to be safe, a feeling that went away with the advent of 24hs news cycles. Smartphones didn't help either, but this tradition was long extinct in my life by the time cellphones started playing anything more complex than snake.

Unlike other items in this list, I harbor hope that these traditions still live in smaller towns. But if you wonder why modern life is so isolated, I suggest you to make yourself a tea and go sit outside for a while.


Since this could be a book by itself, I'll limit myself to a couple anecdotes.

When Windows 3.11 came up, those who were using the command line had to learn how to use the new interface. Computer courses at the time would dedicate its first class to playing Solitaire, seeing as it was a good exercise to get your hand-eye coordination rolling. Every time I think about it I realize what a brilliant idea this was.

My first computer course consisted on me visiting a place full of computers, picking one of the floppy disks, and figure out how to run whatever that disk had. If it was a game (and I really hoped it would be a game) I then had to figure out how to run it, what the keys did, and what the purpose of the game was. There were only two I couldn't conquer at the time: a submarine game that was immune to every key I tried (it could have been 688 Attack Sub) and the first Monkey Island in English (which I didn't speak at the time). I had trouble with Maniac Mansion too until my teacher got me a copy of the codes for the locked door.

This course was the most educational experience of my life, and I've struggled to find a way to replicate it. Letting me explore at my own pace, do whatever I wanted and asking for help whenever I got stuck got me in an exploration path that I follow to this day. The hardest part is that this strategy only works with highly motivated students, which is not an easy requirement to fulfill.