ArtSunday: the Tokyo telephone book

by Dan Ryan

I have owned or had the use of a personal computer since 1982, when my dad bought me an Osborne 1 to take to college. In some areas dad was a bit of a forward thinker. His experience as an upper mid-level executive for Electronic Data Systems (EDS), a now-defunct information services company, convinced him back then that by the end of the ‘80s there would be a PC on every desk in the workplace and that non-techie consumers would buy more of them for use in the home. And he was generally right about that.

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What he got totally wrong, however, was that me having the gigantic, chunky Osborne at school would inspire me to get good grades and to focus sharply on computer science, the subject dad decided would be my major. That was a dismal failure. I have always been horrible at math, and I lacked the particular creative DNA twist required to write anything resembling decent Pascal or Fortran code. So as a result I almost flunked out of Lehigh University. Fortunately, the Osborne PC proved to be a very sturdy and reliable word processor, and after I switched my major to journalism (my dad was accepting but not thrilled about this) it helped me crank out essays and news articles very nicely.

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But since then, through the long years and different jobs and moving from Lehigh to Tokyo (where I worked for EDS) to Maryland and then to California, I have been typing on and and screaming at personal computers. The damn things have changed so much in three decades. From the Osborne 1 to the Hewlett-Packard laptop I use today, I feel like I am watching the accelerated evolution of an inorganic species that is one day going to surpass us and force us to make it Turkish coffee with lemon zest for breakfast every morning.

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This was the context going through my mind a couple of nights ago when I decided I was minorly blown away to be using a telephone device to peruse a small book I created, a telephone device that is the size of a Hershey bar and has more computing power than probably 85% of the actual computers I have owned in the last 31 years. I don’t know how you feel about it. Perhaps you’re using your telephone to read this text, or “surfing” the web while waiting in line for a movie that’s based upon a book you originally read on your laptop.

The feeling I take from all of this is that as a writer, editor, creator, and publisher of words and pictures, I have “arrived” at a remarkable convergence where creative content fuels the development and deployment of new technology, and that new technology stimulates and inspires the creation and distribution of a wider variety of creative content than has ever been available.

Admittedly, if I weren’t talking about my own creative content, my own word and picture book on a telephone, I would probably be a bit more blasé. But I have never been on the digital cutting edge before, and it’s a hell of a thing, and I think my dad would finally be proud.


Dan Ryan is a journalist, photographer, and poet. His work has been published by Scholars & Roguestsuki MagazineGiant RobotKizuna and Jack Move. You can see more of his work at Dan Ryan’s SmallStories. Dan is also an editor and co-founder at Abiko Free Press. He lives in Brisbane, California.