Something has been bugging me for years now. It’s a simple thought. What the fuck went wrong with the goddamn internet. But no really, when did the internet break bad. Could it have gone the other way?
I have waxed nostalgic or bitched incessantly about this, but I want to take a different path today. Lets focus into a small window of my journey through nerdom, see what happened and where it could have gone.
How did The Screen Savers enter my world?
As discussed at length, rural upbringing is isolating from the rest of the world. So, I was naturally inclined to anything that didn’t look like the world I knew. So, early internet and cable is where I spent my time (when I wasn’t doing other bullshit).
Enter TechTV. We got it right at the end of the ZDTV era, so much so I don’t remember any of the ZD Net era.
But, I remember The Screen Savers. It’s weird to think about it now, but it was the FLAGSHIP show for the network. A sort of nerd variety show. And holy shit it was nerdy. A lot of segments on basic computer repair, latest advancement in PC components, other nerdy guests (episodes have everything from Apollo astronauts to the Woz), and the latest in internet stuff (new websites, software, etc).
And I fucking loved it. It was the best education you could possibly get in the basics of tech. Its one thing to read how get a computer to post, its another thing to see it. And not having enough money to risk taking apart my PC and putting it back together, it was actually fucking great to see it.
Plus it was like a hang. Like a nerd hang. Just nerdy shit all the time. And it was…optimistic. Hyped up for new technologies even if they didn’t work. Always ready to try something fresh. There was no like 4chan hating…Something Awful was in its infancy, but they just ignored all that.
It really felt like that kind of garage tech club from the 70s and 80s that people write about in books. Just a giant positive hangout talking about nerd shit.
And I would join them in the nerd hang. Like I remember going to a friend of mine’s house, eating fucking poboys, and watching the full hour of The Screen Savers before we did anything else.
So what happened?
Well, combination of factors. I moved off to college. And I really threw myself in there. They didn’t have TechTV there, so I would only catch the Screen Savers went I went home. I remember turning it on one day and it had merged with G4 what felt like overnight.
I missed the whole merger drama completely… and The Screen Savers was not the same. It just wasn’t.
That whole crew moved on to bigger and better things. They tried to bring back The Screen Savers at one point, but it just…didn’t hit the same.
What could we have taken away from the show?
I think in a weird way The Screen Savers is probably the last document of what nerdom was before Social Media, before edgelord-ness, before people made the internet worse. And then in turn, the internet making everything awful.
Time makes its own rules, and certainly the more extreme voices seem to win out in this era. There was absolutely nothing about The Screen Savers that was extreme. If anything, it’s fucking shocking that the show made it almost 1,500 episodes, before finally dying the death.
And I think that’s it. Just an attitude where you don’t have to salt the earth to find happiness. You could just be happy being a nerd. The Screen Savers was the last of that era of the internet where all you needed to belong was an interest in the latest chipset. Not whatever extreme meme of the day is the most important.
I’m glad I could be there for that part of it. Cause it really doesn’t exist anymore.