2016-07-20 / Columns

Celebrating 20 years of CompuSchmoozing


It might be hard to believe, but CompuSchmooze turns 20 years old in August. It was August 1996 when Harriet Kessler, then Voice editor, named the new column and set me on this journey through what my first column called “Jewish Pit Stops on the Information Superhighway.”

It’s pretty funny now to look at the resources described in that first column and see where they are—and where we have travelled as technology has evolved over two decades.

“Jewish people have always been among the early adopters of new communications technology, ever since Moses embraced the use of stone tablet carving to get his message across,” I wrote in introducing this column. “So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to find that there is a bustling, vital Jewish community in cyberspace. As the World Wide Web portion of the Internet has become everyone’s hottest ‘new media’ for all sorts of commercial ventures, it is also the home of an amazing array of Jewish educational, philosophical, and research resources.”

The one thing we could never have foreseen back in 1996 would be just how rapidly things would change. I must have thought website addresses (you know, URLs?) would be somewhat permanent. The very first one I mentioned, a link to the Yahoo! page for Jewish resources, is now broken. Of course, Google wasn’t even on the radar yet.

Two other resources mentioned in that first column are also gone: The A-Z of Jewish & Israel Resources, a web page maintained by Matthew Album, that used to be housed at ort.org, was succeeded by the MavenSearch Jewish Web directory at http://www.mavensearch.com/. And A. Engler’s Jewish News Links, a collection of links to Jewish news media, is no longer being curated locally.

Back in 1996, many organizations still hadn’t figured out how they should manage this confusing and revolutionary new tool, the Internet, and didn’t have the resources in place to manage their own websites. Their presence in cyberspace was through the Shamash.org Jewish Network website, which today seems a combination of old HTML pages and links out to newer resources like MyJewishLearning.com.

Today, I doubt anyone starts a search for Jewish resources anywhere except Google, branching out from the search results generated there. If you do, let me know how you search for Jewish stuff and we’ll share it with the readers.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve tried to look at computers, software, and other technology from the user’s perspective. Sometimes loyal readers have said to me, “I always read your column, but I don’t always understand what you’re writing about.”

My response is, “Thank you for reading, but if you don’t understand, then I’m not doing my job.” My goal is to demystify technology, not make it sound more complicated, like the guys at Best Buy tend to do. So keep letting me know if I make it too hard to understand, OK?

Through 20 years of columns about websites, computer conferences, viruses and cyberspace hoaxes, I have tried to relate this rapidly changing world of amazing and helpful digital tools to the real things we do every day. It’s clear that just like our Jewish traditions, cyberspace is not going away any time soon.

As I wrote to close out that first column, “It’s light years away from stone tablets, but the vitality and resilience of our Jewish faith and culture is leaving its indelible marks in the electronic ether.”

I’m looking forward to seeing what’s out there in the coming decades. I hope you are too, and I’m glad that you’ve been along for the ride so far.

Have a question about technology? Email me at steve@compuschmooze.com and we’ll try to get you an answer. 

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