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02.13.08

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Silicon Alleys - Gary Singh

Silicon Alleys

Retro Valley Kink

By Gary Singh


BATTEN DOWN the hatches my dear readers, because your local alternative weekly guttersnipe now has a blog to document his habitually seedy examination of the Silicon Valley experience.

Sure, "blog" is a household term in Silicon Valley these days, being one of those phenoms that define the computer-bred, journal-starved voyeur generation. Blogs are now as American as apple pie, especially porn blogs. I only now bring this up because San Jose City Concilmember Pete Constant—or whatever nutcase fanatic has his ear—thinks that the decline of Western Civilization is upon us solely because a few people are getting their rocks off in the library, as if that was anything remotely new in the world. Anybody who has ever made a career of working in a public library will tell you that lewd acts between the stacks are not exactly that apocalyptic of an occurrence. Not that such things are standard operating procedure—of course not—but they do occasionally occur. They always have.

That said, allow me to get Internet-nostalgic here. You see, it wasn't always this easy. Porn sites, as they are now, didn't always exist in techno-land and those of us who remember what the Internet was like before the World Wide Web emerged—when it was all text-based—love to wax nostalgic about those glory years. For example, in those days, you actually needed some UNIX chops to be able to view pornography. You had to work for your bang. These days, the populace crouched over the public machines in the Martin Luther King Jr. library, slobbering over fat, hirsute naked bodies, don't know how easy they've got it.

In the pre-web days, there was a UNIX utility called uuencode, which was short for UNIX-to-UNIX encoding. Basically, it was an old way to encode binary images as ASCII text. More often than not, it was used by overweight middle-aged white male computer engineers to encode naked shots of their Asian girlfriends circa 1992 and post 'em in the USENET groups. This was long before digital cameras were commonplace. As long as you were UNIX literate and you could physically get the image onto your hard drive with a hand scanner, you could convert the image into several different pieces of ASCII text and then post those pieces to the group where anyone else who knew the commands could then subsequently download the pieces and re-encode the image on their own machines. This often took a while if you were on a modem connection, as in the early-'90s modems weren't all that fast. Even if you were on the backbone of the Internet, more often than not, you would go through a lot of trouble downloading these pieces of ASCII text and then only to find out that image was just some stupid photo of a topless girl on a couch, or something similar.

It didn't matter that the people who regularly visited the USENET porn groups had issues. There was something inherently heroic about going through all that trouble and learning all those commands just to download nudie shots.

But the point here is that you had to know the technology and know specific commands in order to get your porn. This is why growing up right alongside the personal computer revolution here in Silicon Valley was so much fun. In that case, I'll be an elitist snob here and say that the net was just better before the web emerged. Now viewing porn is as easy as going to the library.


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