Moderator’s column: Yearning for a simpler life

Whilst living in the Middle East in 1980 I mail-ordered my first personal computer. That is, I ordered a kit to build a Sinclair ZX80 personal computer, along with a correspondence  course on BASIC programing (Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code). With my trusty soldering iron in hand I swiftly – and to my surprise successfully – assembled the  computer, plugged it into the TV aerial socket, powered it up and, armed with my correspondence course, entered the brave new world of personal computing.

To be fair it was all a bit of a let down. Apart from the exercises in the correspondence course, I didn’t have much use for this new personal computer. I suppose it was simply too basic. The computer had no printing facility and the only way to save the program to use another time was to a very unreliable cassette tape recorder. Every program had to be  designed, tested and debugged by the user and fit into its 4K (kilobyte) memory. That’s right, 4K!

The one real benefit of the ZX80 was that two years later when Viv and I arrived in Australia, it almost certainly helped me find my first job – sitting at a computer terminal, of  course. By 1990, I was attending a course with Sun Micro Systems with a dozen new Sun Mini Computers in a room at the Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA). I was  learning how to connect the computers together in what was called a ‘network’ and then to connect the network to other computers around the world. Although I didn’t know it at the  time, because no one had coined the phrase, I was ‘logging in’ to the beginning of internet.

It seems ironic that I am writing this article at 35,000 feet on a flight to Sydney using an iPad that is almost identical in size to that original Sinclair ZX80 that I built in 1980. I think  the iPad has 16 gigabytes of memory. I will also be able to email the article to Heather, our Revive editor, via the internet when I arrive in Sydney. Much to her relief I am guessing,  since today is the deadline.

All of this simply demonstrates how drastically different and frighteningly more complex life has become in less than one person’s working life. This complexity is apparent in almost every aspect of our life, individually and corporately. When and where will it end? In a lecture at the Common Dreams Conference in Canberra recently, Rev Bruce Sanguin talked about Evolution, not simply biological evolution but evolution as part of our every reality – social, cultural, relational, emotional – the universe, he said, is hard wired to evolve into ever more complex forms.

Complexity is the direction all of  reality is headed. If we take a close look back over our lives, whether we are 18 or 80, this truth is self-evident. So is there any wonder we yearn for a simpler life?

This Revive is centred around Simplicity. How will you find it?

Rev Ron Larkin, moderator of the Uniting Church in Western Australia

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