back before every dog park was a Wi-Fi hotspot, when google
meant you had bad eyes not iPads, when a Tumblr was a dyslexic
gymnast, when you could have movies like The Net?
If you donít remember The Net, it was a bit of pop
paranoia from 1995, in which Sandra Bullock plays a computer
programmer who has her identity not only stolen but replaced,
wholly, with another. Beware the Web! If you go in . . . you
may never be the same!
This was back before the most commonly encountered evil of
the Internet was trolls flaming your blog with insults in
acronyms you mostly donít get.
Even with an understanding that online privacy abuses can
have far worse consequences than can unregulated comments
sections, The Net doesnít age well. Today, the disparity
between the effectiveness of the ďInternetĒ evil and the dated
clunkiness of the tech is laughable. But itís a fun example
of the Fearful Technology conceit in film:
The threatening, neon, interior world of video games in 1982ís
Tron; the brain-damage-inducing, cable TV programming
of 1983ís Videodrome; the chilling ease of computer-assisted
mutually assured destruction in 1983ís War Games; the
specter of Austrian Republicans from the future in 1984ís
The Terminator, are all milestone examples from my
own youth. But itís a time-honored and durable theme that
began long before and will continue long after these cherry-picked
Because change is frightening. So, innovation, as change,
scares the pants off some people. The pantsóand probably,
once, the knee breeches.
A humble residence in Norwich, late 17th-century England.
Thomas Cooper is stage right, close to the door, pleading
emphatically with brother, William, who sits reading a pamphlet
Thomas: Would that thou leavest off thy study for the nonce,
brother. It leadest thou to melancholy.
William: Wither leadest thee, Thomas? No farther than the
Thomas: The ale-bush, indeed! Why contentest thyself with
mere scribbled leaf, when thou mayest suckle the very sap
William: Off, then to thy roaring boys, to cast thy barred
dice for bits. I wilt attend my pamphlet, for the dice of
movable type are never cheats!
Thomas: William, thou growest pale. Once werest thou a chopping
lad. Verily, I may chop a card or bar my dice for bits, but,
mark me, it is with thine own dice thou wilt be bitten!
INT. ALE HOUSE, SAME EVENING
Thomas sits with a crowd of young friends. Evidence of gambling
is scattered on the rough table, as are a great many tankards.
Charles: Still, doth he persist?
Thomas: Till ďpersistĒ itself be bending and be-moiled. He
wearies the very patience of patience.
George: This fellow, once fond, hath become pamphlet foolish.
Thomas: Caution, sirrah! Fig not my wayward kinsman or we
shall swap this deck for daggers!
George: Peace! Have thou not seen this pamphlet nigh arrived
from London? Subjected so to type, thus hast thy brother become
its subject in sooth!
Thomas: Its subject? Speak not in riddles but read yon tract!
George: Oh, cousin, I would speak neither riddles nor such
infamous characters as here contained!
Thomas: Read! My own scholarship is less nimble than thine.
George: In Norwich doth reside a discontent/An elf-skinned,
mewling varlot born of wench/and sired by haughty, flap-mouth,
artless, boor/whose hockey served best the tavern jakesí floor
. . .
Thomas: What vile personage is herein invoked?
George: A reader of pamphlets, to growing fame/more cooper
by gift, as cooper by name/lips bussing the type, in autumn
till spring/lips suited better to kiss copper ring . . .
Thomas: Cease, calumny!
Charles: Thy brother! I would not credit it, but for it appears
here, before us, in type!
Thomas: Nay! Not but a slanderous shade cast unto my brotherís
true character by Londonís pustulant presses so like an infernal
loom, weaving an unclean matrix enclosing in filth that which
once glowed! To London, I hie, to London, to puncture that
cloacinal falsity and to restore my brotherís name!
End Act I.
it seems silly, now. But the program typeface was awesome.