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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Computer Gaming Drives Progress

Children go berserk, parents prepare for bankruptcy: Sega is getting ready to unleash its "next generation" video game console, Dreamcast, on the market. This wouldn't be anything special (somewhere on this planet a new gaming console is born every second), but this time there's a difference: Dreamcast will have a 56K modem built into it for game playing on the Internet.

But, you ask, where's the keyboard? Well, there's no keyboard, but the Internet is there alright, which makes one wonder - is it Dreamcast that moves the wheels of progress? And is the mysterious reason making people want to create ever wider, deeper and faster net channels nothing more than the ancient and universal desire to play games?

But, you ask, what about e-mail? How else would I be able to keep in touch with my uncle in Minsk and my parents in Argentina? This is what the Internet's for, isn't it? No, not unless you send your uncle several volumes every time you write. Even the most detailed letter is hardly going to be more than three or four typed pages - 18 seconds worth of information for a prehistoric 2400 modem.

Of course, mail isn't everything, you reply. There's always pornography. Connoisseurs know that you can't do without a wide Internet channel if full color pictures of women, men and camels are your thing. Wrong again, it's not quite as simple as that. Research has shown that pornography occupies only 1.5 percent of the Internet. Texts along this line don't take up much space, and after all, such publications can be easily obtained from your local newsagent. No, it's not pornography that drives progress.

OK, maybe commerce is to blame. There's no end of companies out there who would love to put three-dimensional images of their goods and services on the web for you to prod with your mouse. But does normal marketing cost those zillions of dollars that get wasted in Silicon Valley on inventing new cyberjunk? Who needs this sort of speed? In France, for example, every self-respecting businessman has a small bedroom terminal that displays share values, buys his clothes and tells him who's most favored to win the Prix de Goncourt. All this and more without the Internet, and at only 9600 baud, not 2 MB per second.

So there you have it. When it comes to the crunch, only multiplayer games require a really powerful computer and a fast channel connection. Ever tried playing Quake 2 on a 14400 Modem? Don't - it's impossible, and as pointless as watching a film on a projector that shows one frame per second.

We really should have been prepared for this. Yes, it's more fun to play games on the net than against artificial intelligence. The computer's stupid, but your colleagues from the PR department can easily thrash you and the head accountant.

Work can wait. The Internet is there for us so that we can do our bit in the endless struggle against goblins, fascists and big bad dudes with flamethrowers.

Daniil Dougaev writes on computers for Kariera-Kapital, a Russian language newspaper published in St. Petersburg by Independent Media.