Video: The Hero of Grandparent Wifi

A time capsule from the era of Compaq Presarios and the Geek Squad.
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Anyone can make a funny video, but it’s the mark of the master to create an artifact of the times with that funny video.

And that’s what we have here in the Ballad of the Wifi Hero, based on the McSweeney's story "IN WHICH I FIX MY GIRLFRIEND’S GRANDPARENTS’ WIFI AND AM HAILED AS A CONQUERING HERO" by Mike Lacher. 

The list of technological details that Lacher, and the video, incorporate is long. Allow me to list a few:

  • Hotmail
  • Usatoday dot com
  • Compaq Presario
  • Internet Explorer 6
  • The Google
  • The Yahoo
  • the Router (so capitalized)
  • Linksys
  • The Geek Squad
  • “telephone cords plugged into Ethernet jacks, AC adapters plugged into phone jacks, a lone VGA cable wrapped in a firm knot around an Ethernet cord.”
  • Windows XP
  • Norton AntiVirus
  • “the Yahoo toolbar, the MSN toolbar, the Ask.com toolbar, and the AOL toolbar”
  • “the TiVo was doing something weird with the VCR”

Nothing I've seen quite captures this mode of Internet usage quite as well as the story and video. While San Francisco's cafes may hiss with sleek, quiet MacBook Airs, and many older folks glory in their iPads, there are still millions of people plugging away on their Compaq Presarios, and this variety of experience is easily forgotten.

But make no mistake: This is a dying way of (digital) life, which will pass as surely as AOL and Compuserve. When it has been completely eradicated, when Grandma Glass is a thing, our descendants can return to this humorous time capsule and attempt to decode these lives and these times. 

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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