Thursday, September 10, 2015

Decline of Civilization

I used to work for a small mail order company that sold ancient coins and artifacts.

We specialized in coins from the ancient Roman Empire. I worked there for a few years before moving on to realize my destiny as the world famous nail artist that I eventually became.

Any way... history is a lot cooler when you're holding it in your hand and I learned a lot about the eras we dealt with and a lot about modern treasure hunting-- which makes reading Dirk Pitt novels more interesting, really.

One favorite subject in that business was the constant rehashing of speculation on what ultimately led to the loss of the Roman Empire and its civilization.

Why is Latin a dead language?

How did a massive civilization that was so far-reaching just sort of fizzle out?

Man! Have I heard a lot of theories. From lead poisoning from the plumbing, to toxic shock syndrome, to alien overlords.

Recently I purchased a new computer. It's just your average PC, nothing fancy. Except for the 23 inch touch screen, which is a pretty nifty novelty for me.

New giant monitor-- old laptop.

It runs Windows 8.1.

Yeah yeah... Microsoft is pushing pretty hard to get me to snatch up its offer to upgrade to Windows 10. Not just on this computer, but also on the desktop that runs Windows 7 Professional and the laptop that runs Windows 7.

Why doesn't the laptop that "runs" Windows Vista offer me a free upgrade? I'd be willing to take that risk! But no.

Anyway-- point is that between the BF and I, we now each own a Windows 8.1 machine. When he bought his HP Stream I immediately realized the advantage of actually having the touch screen that Windows 8 is "optimized" for use with. So, when I upgraded my salon machine, I made sure to opt into the touchscreen.

I really just wanted the big monitor. Oooooh I can have SO many windows open and have room to see ALL of them!

This is awesome because I tend to be doing several things at once on the computer between clients-- which I think was what helped Windows conquer the world to begin with.

What does Windows 8.1, a 23 inch monitor, and the decline of the Roman Empire have in common?

Well, one theory I've heard about the fall of Rome and the death of Latin goes something along the lines of what essentially boils down to class disparity.

The upper classes were educated. They kept getting more educated. They knew how to read and write-- in Latin.

While lower classes-- including the working public (you know, folks like me)-- didn't have time for extensive education. Or couldn't afford it.

They got by just fine. They just had to worry about working for a living, keeping food on the table, a roof over their heads-- all that boring nonsense that kept them from being counted as part of what we know remember as one of the world's greatest civilizations.

So while the Caesars were busy inbreeding and creating a legacy that defines "bat shit crazy" and the Roman Catholic Church was busy convincing the country folk that Jesus beat becoming human shish kabob, the regular folks were busy increasing the dividing line between literate and illiterate.

So, to paraphrase this theory (because up till now I've been SO meticulous about explaining it--NOT) the elite got more educated while the rest of the people never learned to read until eventually, no one could communicate with each other any more.

The people who couldn't read, also didn't learn proper grammar and such and so pretty much everyone just talked slang and understood each other just fine, while the upper classes had a keen understanding of the written language and its "proper" usage-- but they ended up not being able to understand the guy they bought bread from.

OK... So I got this new computer, right?

The other day I was reading some thing online and decided to double check the numbers. So I opened the "calculator" function on the nifty new PC.

WHOA! WTF?!

Who needs 23 inches of calculator?

It took me some looking around to find out why I had a full screen calculator and what to do about it.

Today, I needed to open a PDF:

that's right-- the WHOLE screen.
 


SO.

It turns out that thanks to Windows 8's attempt to "optimize" for touch screens-- it comes all preloaded with "apps."

All my default applications for these mundane little tasks open up these ginormous full screen apps. These are not windows. I can't just grab the corner and resize them to my needs. They are either open or closed.

It took some re-combobulating to figure out how to "fix" it and get things back the way I want them-- they way most people want them when using a desk top computer and not their phone/tablet.

Which led me to think about what it might have been like back for the "smart" people of Rome.

I know the geeks who make Windows (and other software) know what they're doing. I know they have ideas and theories and lots and lots and lots of data to spur them on in their efforts to create the next best thing.

I just can't help but feel like they're locked up somewhere where they only talk to other geeks though. They obviously aren't the people who have to help teach their mother how her new smart phone works.

If they were-- they might realize that the simple option to CHOOSE to optimize default programs for desktop or mobile usage might have been very handy for people with brand new 23" computer monitors.

Or any number of other ways that could be implemented to make using this version of their fancy operating system more user friendly-- regardless of what it's being used for and by whom.

I worry the over educated elite is destined for extinction because they lost the ability to communicate effectively with the masses.

It just reminded me of Rome. That's all.

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