I’ve been enjoying quite a lot of Stephen Fry on television lately. He’s been following in the footsteps of Douglas Adams in the recent series Last Chance To See, doing an autobiographical examination of a fascinating disorder in Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive and criss-crossing the USA in Stephen Fry in America. But the programme that I’ll draw your attention to is a very nice hour long documentary that aired on BBC Radio 4 a couple weeks back. I picked it up through RadioArchive.cc, and I recommend you do the same.
Fry brings quite a bit to the show, delving back into computer history, talking about Alan Turing (and how that connects to where the Apple company’s logo came from), sliding tangentially into Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Karel Čapek’s Rossum’s Universal Robots, E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops and plenty more besides. The “Y2K disaster” seems more and more relevant these days, not because of the disaster itsel (which didn’t happen) but rather because the fixity of poorly informed media opinion is more and more likely despite our increasing ability to digitally record and rehash our poor predictions. We just don’t do it – except with programmes like this!
Stephen Fry – In The Beginning Was The Nerd
By Stephen Fry
1 Broadcast – Approx. 56 Minutes [DOCUMENTARY]
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4
Broadcast: October 5, 2009
The Western world, with a few notable exceptions, poured billions of dollars into electronic pesticides to defeat the Y2K bug. Only to find that for the most part it could have been defeated by turning the systems off then on again. So, why the silence when the bug didn’t bite? The answer’s in the programme. Politicians, experts and businessmen all profited in status or cash from the threat. In the media – to paraphrase the crime reporters – it bled so it led. In the USA, government brazenly claimed victory for its defeat. In reality, the enemy was almost totally imaginary. But it’s useless blaming the great and the good. It was inevitable. We’d been told repeatedly that this brilliant new technology would change the world. Then we were told it could all stop on the stroke of one spookily special midnight. We were the newly addicted, suddenly faced with the prospect that our supply was fatally endangered. There was only one thing we could do. Panic. Then spend millions fixing it. Sorry, that’s two things.
Here’s a 15 minute selection from the doc:
You can pick up the rest, via torrent, from RadioArchive.cc.
Posted by Jesse Willis