An ode to slow computing

The other day, a coworker asked me if I’d heard of “slow computing.”
“Is that like ‘slow food?'” I asked, assuming he was joking. However, despite my finding no evidence to support this via my semi-slow Internet connection (more on that in a moment), it appears my colleague was being sincere. “Yeah!” he said excitedly, “It’s exactly like that.” Apparently, some people deliberately use slower computers to mitigate the pace of their hectic lives.

dino parade

When I started to consider the idea, I could see its benefits; the immediacy of today’s interactive, multi-modal life means that we are not only receiving and processing information faster than ever, but we habitually multitask thanks to the temptation of having everything at our fingertips. For instance, say we’re waiting for Photoshop to open. It’s the perfect time to check Twitter, maybe compose an email or two, and peek at our smart phone.

Lately, this juggling approach has bled into other parts of my life; my morning ritual now consists of simultaneously boiling water for coffee, juicing an orange, and checking my email. It’s a beautiful breakfast ballet – until I’m distracted by an email that triggers a reminder to grab something from my room to bring to work, and then the kettle is whistling and I’ve got orange pulp on my iPad and…crap.

Maybe slow computing isn’t such a bad idea. In fact, I may be living the slow computing dream and not even realizing it. Partly out of financial necessity, and partly out of stubbornness, I’m composing this post on my five-year old Macbook, which I have painstakingly upgraded over time, so that it must be closer to, say, a three-year-old Macbook. Then there’s my iPhone 3G, already a classic, with its busted wi-fi antenna and a cell signal that really is only tolerable when I turn off the 3G.

So here I am, using AT&T’s “Edge” network, sitting with my five-year-old computer that’s picking up a signal from an equally old and temperamental wireless router. I sometimes spend minutes (!) waiting for Web pages to load. I instinctively fall back on that multitask crutch, but since so many of the more appealing time-wasters require an Internet connection, I sit and wait.

Is this making me more patient? Do I feel more relaxed? Not really. As soon as the connection revives, I’m Googling “iPhone 5 release date” and fixing another cup of coffee while I wait for the results to load.


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