A Load Off Our Minds

I often forget just how easy we have it these days compared to a few years ago. Our iPods contain thousands of songs, meaning that the days of needing to lug around CDs and vinyl are well and truly over (though I do miss decent sleevenotes, which even in physical releases are a shadow of what they used to be). We used to have to ring people at home and rely on them actually being there to talk to them – how on Earth did we ever arrange anything? What if plans changed? Mobile phones have put paid to such madness, and it seems bonkers that we ever survived without them. Can you imagine a world without social networking or debit cards or email or any one of the other gazillion technological innovations which have made organising our lives so much easier over the past decade or more? I know I can’t. How did we do it?

One thing that everyone used to put up with when I was young, was long loading times for videogames. Play a high pitched screech followed by angry static to anyone born in the late 70s or early 80s, and they’ll immediately know what it is: the unmistakable sounds of a Spectrum game loading. Likely for five/ten/fifteen minutes. Those with Commodore 64s (me included) had similar tales of woe, spending our lives waiting and praying that a game would run. Of typing in long program listings from computer magazines, only to find that the thing would bloody well crash at the end of it all. Compared to that, the average PS3 install seems like heaven.

Over ten minutes for a game to load? Why would anyone sit there waiting for so long, particularly considering the likely quality of the end product? We’d never do it these days. Our spangly videogame consoles load stuff up really quickly now. Er… usually, anyway. Occasionally a game doesn’t get optimised particularly well at the end of development, and features load times which make us 21st century types roll our eyes in frustration and stare metaphorically at our watches. This just shows the impatience of modern life compared to our childhoods – even the worst example would seem superfast to our eight year old selves. Why am I talking about this? Well, the PS3’s ModNation Racers was released last Friday, and has already picked up curious glances and gathering unfortunate Youtube celebrity for its baffling, put-the-kettle-on load times.

That a minute or two can cause such consternation makes me smile wryly when thinking about what we put up with in the past, but times move on, and I must admit that while watching the video above I felt like my life was ebbing away from me. All it lacks is a Spectrum noise.

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