Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Douglas Adams RIP

Douglas Adams was one of the funniest men who ever lived. The author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Dirk Gently and more died 10 years ago, at only 49. He was a reluctant writer, and enthusiastic consumer of Apple computers when everyone else thought they were rubbish, and a profound commentator on Englishness, cricket, the awfulness of English pubs, the mores of the bourgeoisie, and the utterly surreal nonsense that we pretend is reality.

He was - of course - a huge fan of the internet and the Guide itself is a prediction of the web-enabled smartphone.

So here's part 1 of his little-seen Hyperland, in which he and Tom Baker (yes, Dr. Who) explain the internet to everybody in 1990 - a year before Berners-Lee invented hyperlinking and therefore the Web.

Some Adams quotes:
"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
"For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons." 
"I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer" 
"The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be."

"The major problem—one of the major problems, for there are several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them. 
To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job." 

"You live and learn. At any rate, you live." 
"I'd take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day." 
"I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies: 
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. 
2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. 
3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things."  
 "We can't win against obsession. They care, we don't. They win." 
"This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy."
"Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so." 
"We notice things that don't work. We don't notice things that do. We notice computers, we don't notice pennies. We notice e-book readers, we don't notice books." 
"Life,” said Marvin dolefully, “loathe it or ignore it, you can’t like it." 
"Words used carelessly, as if they did not matter in any serious way, often allowed otherwise well-guarded truths to seep through."
"It all sounds rather naive and sentimental to be talking about children laughing and dancing and singing together when we all know perfectly well that what children do in real life is snarl and take drugs." 
"The trouble with most forms of transport, he thought, is basically that not one of them is worth all the bother. On Earth, the problem had been with cars. The disadvantages involved pulling lots of black sticky slime from out of the ground where it had been safely hidden out of harm’s way, turning it into tar to cover the land with, smoke to fill the air with and pouring the rest into the sea, all seemed to outweigh the advantages of being able to get more quickly from one place to the other - particularly when the place you arrived at had probably become, as a result of this, very similar to the place you had left, i.e., covered with tar, full of smoke, and short of fish."  
 And so on…

1 comment:

The Red Witch said...

"Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws."
I have played the Apple Hitchhiker game. They should re-issue it. It was fun.
I was able to see him when he did a book tour for the release of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. He was working on a new game that involved getting a bank to acknowledge a change of address card.