Chatter preserved

One more good thing about computers: they make archiving small hilarities much easier.

In the days gone by, a joke, once told in normal human discussion, was gone and lost forever unless someone recalled it; and that was uncertain and imperfect. Words could only survive if written down: but the vast majority of interpersonal discussion and pontification of various quality was not written down in letters, books or diaries; indeed so dark and dire were the days once upon time that some people frowned on humor as a frivolous and needless thing.

Then, enter LPs, videotape and ARPANET. All of a sudden archiving something was a push of a button away, and as years passed such archival-work got cheaper, and the methods of communication used got more archive-friendly; eventually preserving the words was an integral part of the communication method (say a forum) rather than a weird intrusion (“Now, engage in your traditional amusing Scots banter while Osgood holds the recording-horn to your nose. And what a nosy business this all is! Ah, ah, did you get that, Osgood? No? Jolly well, I shall repeat myself into the horn then… Honeywell, we need a third device of horny nature here!”).

And as a result, though (I think, though come to think of it I don’t really have a clue) most of all the Usenet talk and IRC discussions, though public, are not archived anywhere, snipping out and saving the best bits has become a trivially cheap and easy thing; and as a result (and by now you start to wonder, “wait, is the fool again trying to set up a link?”) you can go to sites like UGBox Quotes and QDB and see the quips that in a lesser age would have been irretrievably lost. (And, by the way, this is how you make giggling over penis jokes respectable. Except you don’t leave parenthetical remarks like this in.)

In a way it makes me sad to think that centuries and centuries of no doubt hilarious horse-and-plow-related quips, goofs and japes are lost forever, to say nothing of the little jokes of monasteries, plague doctors and stench-maddened rat-catchers; but there’s something very amusing in that thought, too. And it makes me happy to think that we may be the first generation to engage in serious chatter-preservation. (There have been diarists and letter-writers for thousands of years, but an IRC or a forum is more like a discussion than a sequence of formally formatted missive exchange; and some kinds of spontaneous humor don’t work without the immediacy.)

2 Responses to “Chatter preserved”

  1. Bob O'H Says:

    So, does this mean we’re developing or regressing as a culture?

  2. masksoferis Says:

    Going around in circles; but entertaining circles, mind you. :)

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