I’ve started listening to my next audiobook, “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card. I first read this book about 10 years ago and loved it. Enough time has passed since then, that I remember that I loved the book, and I remember the basic story but most of the specifics were gone. So experiencing it again but in a different format, audio, is a real pleasure.
Obviously the whole “children playing video games become the soldiers of tomorrow” is the primary focus of the book and part that I remembered from years ago. I don’t know who first came up with this idea. There was a speech that Reagan made when he was president which had the same basic idea. I’m not sure when that speech was. Did one of Reagan’s speech-writers read the book and appropriate the idea? Did Mr. Card use that as a basis for his book? Or was it some kind of convergent evolution?
The part that has struck me this time—and I should mention that I have not finished the book yet—is the story of Peter and Valentine, Ender’s siblings. This book was written 20 years ago. The Macintosh was just released. Personal computers were gaining in popularity but many homes did not have one. Modems existed but they certainly were only owned by a fraction of the computer-owning population which in turn was a fraction of the whole population. ARPA net existed and even though it connected many universities together, it wasn’t in use by the general college population. Usenet had been around for about 5 years or so but it relied on ARPA which meant again that there weren’t that many people using it.
The point is that some of the ideas computer-based communication were in place but they weren’t in widespread use nor probably even known about it by the majority. And yet in this culture, Mr. Card came with the ideas of the Nets. A communal posting area where all people can talk about their ideas. Peter and Valentine use it for specifically political purposes. And it dawned on me that’s really only now, 20 years later, that something like this exists. Ten years ago the internet was just learning to walk as far as the general public was concerned. The first image-based web browsers were just beginning to show up. The first large web entities like Yahoo were still a year or two off. Five years ago everybody knew about the internet and a large percentage of people were on it. Today it’s nearly universal. With the advent of cheap computers everyone has a TV, a phone and a computer in their home.
And now weblog software is easy enough to use and public awareness is large enough in the media that many, many people are finding their own voice on the internet. Not just being consumers of information but also providers. We’ve now entered the era of Mr. Card’s Nets.