The roots of the Modem – 7 Takeaways No. 133


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1. “Tending to your relationships is a form of self-care”

Good genes are nice, but joy is better – Liz Mineo – (The Harvard Gazette)

This Harvard study, begun in the 1930s, comes up in my reading from time to time. This article is a nice overview of both the method and results.

“When we gathered together everything we knew about them about at age 50, it wasn’t their middle-age cholesterol levels that predicted how they were going to grow old,” said Waldinger in a popular TED Talk. “It was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.”

To me, this also drives home the serious impact of the last few years of COVID induced isolation.

Do this: Tend to your relationships.

2. “And then the artistry began”

The Truck Whisperer – John P. Weiss – (Blog)

A rookie truck driver gets himself in a pickle, and it’s “the truck whisperer” that saves the day. As someone who occasionally tries to teach similar skills, I can appreciate both the pickle and the artistry leading to its resolution.

But it’s about more than manipulating a truck and trailer.

Society and the media mostly focus on movie stars, politicians, sports heroes, and celebrity figures, but it’s often the unsung heroes and salts of the earth that make a huge difference in our lives.

Indeed, our lives would not be possible as they are, without them. They are, arguably, the folks most important to the very way of life and things we take for granted every day.

Do this: Notice, and acknowledge, the unsung heros.

3. “This is how the Information Age ends”

30 Signs You Are Living in an Information Crap-pocalypse – Ted Gioia – (The Honest Broker substack)

The article is structured as a facetious thought exercise listing 30 things to do if you wanted to subvert society by destroying the value of information. Of course, all 30 things are well underway.

… there’s so much money made from dumping this garbage into our information flows. Truth wears rags while deception travels on a private jet.

It’s worth reviewing the list because while many are obvious, many are subtle and very, very easy to miss in our day-to-day lives.

Do this: “… nothing prevents you from taking prudent steps on your own. Find those trusted voices—nurture them, support them, and spread the word.”

4. “Creating the sort of change you seek”

The seduction of grad school – Seth Godin – (Blog)

Another take questioning the wisdom of incurring massive debt when there are important, necessary, and well-paying jobs available right now with a significantly lower barrier to entry, and with significantly less after-training baggage.

If you want to sit with someone and help them, a career as an occupational or physical therapist is certainly more hands on and direct. If you want to make a difference by writing or arguing, three years of law school and a bar exam aren’t the most leveraged ways to do that. And entrepreneurs need to know a lot, but not what they teach in a typical MBA program.

He’s not arguing that you necessarily avoid chasing your dreams of higher education, if in fact those are your dreams. Instead, perhaps, evaluate whether those dreams are real, or just seduction and assumption.

Do this: “Creating the sort of change you seek to make, in small steps, right now.”

5. “The roots of the modem can be found in the telegraph”

The Squeal of Data – Ernie Smith – (Tedium)

Nostalgia for some, but a history lesson for all, traces the roots of the modern (?) modem all the way back to the telegraph. The lineage flows from telegraph to telex to the at one time ubiquitous RS-232 connector, “dumb” terminals and TTYs, to the eventual conflict with AT&T that led to the widespread use of the acoustic coupler.

While it would be a stretch to call a telegraph or a teletype the direct inspiration for a world that gave us the smartphone or augmented reality, the truth is that modern computers share more lineage with pre-computing technology than we give them credit for.

While I was there throughout most of this, I learned some interesting tidbits I wasn’t previously aware of.

Do this: Appreciate the past as a trajectory for the future.

6. “Are you a good person?”

The Apple Game: How Good a Person Are You? – Tim Urban – (Wait But Why)

It’s an oversimplification, of course, but it’s an interesting framework to view ourselves and those around us.

Treat a person like an apple, with three layers of depth:

  • Skin: How you come off to people at first
  • Flesh: How you are once people get to know you
  • Core: How you are deep down

The concept is to label each as either good or bad, and then think about the implications. The essay dives into the combinatorics of the various arrangements of good and bad in each of those three aspects.

Do this: Be good, but be honest.

7. “Here is how platforms die”

Tiktok’s enshittification – Cory Doctorow – (Pluralistic blog)

This isn’t about TikTok as much as it is about the concept. I’ve seen Doctorow’s coined term “enshittification” pop up more and more of late. Platforms like Twitter, Reddit, and others seem to inevitably transition from new, to incredibly valuable, to “meh”, to … well … shit. That transition often completes with a final state: “gone”.

This is enshittification: surpluses are first directed to users; then, once they’re locked in, surpluses go to suppliers; then once they’re locked in, the surplus is handed to shareholders and the platform becomes a useless pile of shit.

It’s a lengthy essay, but worth the time if you’re at all interested in the motivations and lifecycle of services like Facebook, Google Search, and so many others that started out great and are now simply tolerated.

Do this: Beware of shit.

More random links & thoughts


Tedium, by Ernie Smith, “An offbeat digital newsletter”, is an eclectic blog/publication covering a wide range of topics and interests, ranging from history to current events, mostly centered on technology and its impact. It was the source for this week’s “The roots of the modem can be found in the telegraph” takeaway.

I’m building and keeping a list on the sources page.

What I’m Reading

In progress:


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