Do you ever long for the good old days? Sure you do, it’s human nature. Now, I realize that, for some of you — who am I kidding, for most of you — going back to “the good old days” might mean going a-way-back to the days of the flip phone. But for me, many of the good old days were back when, you know, I had a job. It was writing for newspapers … if I remember correctly.
Now, please don’t be confused. Yes, you are seeing my column back in The Signal. So I AM writing for “newspapers” again, and so excited to be back with y’all. But you should know I am beaming these columns in from the Andromeda Galaxy. It’s part of a “cultural exchange” thing that is really too much to get into at this time.
I liked writing for PAPER newspapers, where the eyes of every reader had to at least pass over my ravings on the way to the horoscopes. In the digital world, members of an erstwhile captive audience can avoid every hint of my literary zirconia effortlessly because of my lack of efficient word optimization. More directly, they can employ the black hole of the “minus” search.
For example, if you type “anything” in the Google search, you get about 570 million results. Of course, your results will vary, depending on the time of day, weather, your device, previous searches — and whether the algorithm is hung over. But let’s don’t get lost in the deets, we’re ball-parking here.
To illustrate the ease of contemporary exclusion, just search for “anything -Jim Walker” (minus me) and you get only about 12.4 million results. That’s nearly a 98 percent reduction, and a significant harshing of my potential online income! (Although I am rather gratified by my own importance. Who knew?)
If you want to punish me further (and, of course, you will), you can search “anything -Jim Walker -writer -humor -morals -intelligence -money -success -soul -sentient being” and it’s way down to about 1.58 million results, which is another dramatic flogging, but getting ever-closer to the truth as you continue to deduct redeeming qualities.
However (and here I get to the point), this “minus” search, this holocaust of digital prejudice, can be turned to good. You see, it offers a portal to a wondrous new world — which is to say, the OLD world. And I call it My Google Time Machine.
Just as the current edition of relevant can weed me out with a simple minus sign, I can return the favor. And every layer of so-called progress or supposed enlightenment I strip off moves the timeline of the results backward, tightens my belly and puts color back into another hair or three on my head.
For instance: There has always been business in the world, right? More so now than ever, especially if you include fantasy currencies and the dark web.
So, if you type “business” in the Google search, you get about 2.2 billion results. Oddly, that’s way more results than searching for “anything,” which makes no sense, but does point out the limits of computer intelligence, or maybe the power of the Illuminati. Again, though, let’s not get stuck in the mud. Time travel is our goal. We will consider the results of our “business” search as being in the current moment, the present. And if you want to study all those results, you will know everything there is to know about business since any record exists of it outside of Sanskrit. You will be business-hip and germane to the conversation. Well, until an hour from now.
We go back in time from this point.
Now, punching out one of the most recent, yet already overused, offenders in business terms, you might type in “business -BLOCKCHAIN” (hooray) and get about 461 million results. That takes us back in time by, oh, a week or two, anyway.
That’s not enough to improve my coiffure, but still satisfying. Think of the gigabytes freed up online and in your twitching brain. Why, you might now have room inside your skull for another movie catchphrase, or be able to hold onto a slang term from 2010. You are beginning to feel the power of the minus. You are becoming all … woke and stuff. So let’s keep going.
Next, purging one of the most bilious swindles since the four-wheel drive chariot — we search “business -blockchain -BITCOIN” and get about 449 million results. At last we are getting somewhere. We have stripped away this con, as well as nine or so years, dear ones, alighting in the general vicinity of 2009! In 2009 I still have a job, a liver — and hope!
Let’s push harder and travel back to the previous century. You’d think taking the obvious route, eliminating the term “Y2K,” would get us just under the century line. Dumping the concept of it, at least, actually tosses us all the way back to 1985 — when the potential problem first clicked in someone’s head after an all-nighter of ecstasy and Super Mario Bros. The problem is, backing into 1985, we lose the ability to search online. We need an appetizer first, say a visit to early 1996. So let’s eliminate one of the most momentous business and cultural innovations that occurred in the 1990s (July 1996): We search “business -blockchain -bitcoin -TICKLE ME ELMO.”
With 2.29 million results, we are now in a kinder, gentler world. Ahhhh, it feels like a bed full of analog kittens. But we have a little further to go, mes amis.
Finally, having already let the air out of Y2K, let’s kick this tale through the uprights and try searching for “business -blockchain -bitcoin -Tickle Me Elmo -STARTUP” (you are welcome). The number of results is … oh, who cares, really?
The important thing is, incredibly, we have moved all the way back to 1976, when someone first re-labeled the obvious. And we haven’t even had to deliberately select against “smartphone,” “social media” or “rap.” They have just quietly melted away. And it feels so good. My head is blissfully empty of digital sludge and my mood ring is showing “happy” as I pet my pet rock. Even better, in 1976, I am in really good shape — and this time here I have the foreknowledge to invest in … you know … smartphones, social media and rap, when they come out. I mean, I may be a hater, but I’m not stoo-pid.
Too bad, though. I was really looking forward to the pleasure of spiking the gratuitous use of “boots on the ground,” “doubling down” and “literally” — though I wouldn’t be the first to cringe whenever the latter bombs a conversation.
Now, my keyboard is turning into a Smith Corona, and my screen into a “Rocky” poster … as these tools disappear with the words for things that haven’t reached the masses yet.
And … I am … content.
FYI, my lined-paper manuscript of this rant, written in cursive, will be in the mail as soon as I can get to the library and get the address for AARP Magazine. I do claim all rights to this concept in all media or apparatus, extant or ever-to-be-imagined, in perpetuity. Just sayin’.
Jim Walker is a former features writer for The Signal.