Redmund, Ronald. Welcome to the Internet: Just When You Thought There Were Too Many Books to Read in a Lifetime. Electropop Books, Ltd., 1992. 233 pp., £19.92 (Hardcover).
The newest book from Electropop Books, Ltd., Ronald Redmund’s 1992 Welcome to the Internet: Just When You Thought There Were Too Many Books to Read in a Lifetime, is a bit of a let-down for anyone who doesn’t live under a rock. If you do live under a rock, it can be used to prop up your rock, in case you need a little more structural support or an extra leveller at the corner. It contains a heap of old information, and when we picked it up, the dust jacket already looked a little dusty.
The book starts off by explaining what the so-called “internet” is, which is both boring and useless for anyone over the age of 6 in the First World.1 It even uses some outdated terminology, like the “galactic network,” the “world-wide web,” and “electronic mail.” The author seems to have no idea what Facebook and Google are, and has obviously never even read The Flying News, since it is not mentioned once in the entire book.
One redeeming quality is that he affectionately refers to his Apple Lisa computer as “she,” indicating that he really does love his computer (even if he disparages other interfaces like DOS on occasion). While he makes some references to Unix, he clearly has a crush on Lisa and doesn’t pay much attention to other models.
The really gripping part of the book starts on page 92, at which point he details the past, present, and future exponential growth of the number of pages on the internet, calling it “the fastest growing electronic organism in the history of the world.” While some see the exponential increase in computing power over a few decades as impressive beyond imagination, Redmund makes the case that the sheer size of the internet is much more impressive, even coupled with the fact that the content gets exponentially stupider at the same time. Significantly, he predicts that by the year 2015, Americans will spend so much time reading the by-then ubiquitous “internet content of idiocy” that about half of them will suffer from brain implosion while the other half begin imitating cartoon characters like Yosemite Sam (clearly a prophecy of the Apple OS version) in social interactions. While he may have been a few years late, you have to give him credit for nailing the Americans’ behaviour pretty well.
Redmund then goes on to explain how one should go about reading the internet so as to finish by the time one dies, and gives a host of tips for doing so. The list contains such morsels as:
- Never go outside.
- Cut back on sleep a half hour each night to acclimate yourself until you no longer need to sleep at all.
- If necessary, hire a cook, or just give up eating altogether.
- If you are young, consider your internet reading as part and parcel of your education, call it “homeschooling,” and you will never need to stop reading to go to class.
- Consider installing a toilet in the same room as the computer, or vice versa.
- Do away with friends and family; instead, use online social networks to simplify your life. (However, online dating is not recommended, as it may distract you from your reading.)
The one burning question Welcome to the Internet doesn’t answer for its reader(s) is how in the world a search engine can give you a web page in its results that doesn’t actually contain all of the search terms you gave it. This is clearly a bug, ploy, scam, or conspiracy on the part of the Search Engine Overlords to make you and me read lots of pages we have no desire to read. So much for the logical operator ‘AND’.
All in all, Welcome to the Internet is rather small compared to War and Peace, but it does have an Appendix2
SPOILER ALERT: STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT ME TO GIVE AWAY THE SURPRISE ENDING
with a physio-electronic hyperlink to a webpage that supposedly indexes the entire contents of the internet, updating every half-second and including such obscure page references as The Story of a Man who Left Town at 3.32 ante-meridian and Returned at 2.61 ante-meridian without Mishap and The Last Page of the Internet (not to be confused with the better-known The End of the Internet or the now-defunct The Very Last Page of the Internet).
Bottom line: if you want to read the book, go ahead. If you’d rather spend money on hairspray, it’s just as well.
George Gage with Two Men by Anthony van Dyck. Public domain.