I saw something shocking painted on the roof of a barn as I was driving through the heart of Yolo County’s farmland. It was an advertisement for the upcoming Dixon May Fair. What caught my attention was the last line of copy, painted in thin red letters, down by the edge of the roof: http://www.dixonmayfair.com.
It’s finally everywhere, I thought, as I continued down the deserted, dusty road. No place is safe. Not even the country. Over the last couple of years, those tiny, mysterious clusters of letters have snuck up on us, like a sneaky race of aliens preparing a world takeover. First they crawled from a computer and found their way onto the bottoms of billboards and magazine ads, cleverly hidden away from the casual glance, amidst the small print. Once you had to have sharp eyes to notice them. But the little things grew and multiplied and now you have to be blind to miss them. They’re on our books, our newspapers, our cereal boxes, our CDs, our clothing, our dairy products, our garden supplies, and our movies. It’s hard to go anywhere or do anything without bumping into our new friends “http” and “www.” But do they come in peace? Or do they have something else up their cyber-sleeves? Are they a blessing or a curse?
For anyone with a strong computer phobia, like my father, or even with a mild techno-aversion, like the one I’ve inherited from him, it’s easy to read conspiracies and invasion plots into every new computer advancement. It’s also easy to feel that we’re caught in a dangerous tug-of-war, and that the machines are winning. My father, Vernon, is the head of the chemistry department at West Virginia State College, and he refuses to use computers any more than the bare minimum his job requires. While the rest of his department (and the rest of the world) fire off quick e-mail notes and memos to one another, he still writes with pencil and paper and licks just as many stamps and envelopes as he ever did.
Except for the letters I send to my dad, most of my outgoing mail these days is electronic.