why icq is the devil

Written by Morbus

I like new technology and new ideas. I like to be connected to people, not white screens with words on them. I like saying people's names so much that it makes them uncomfortable. I like to be able to think that I am not a computer screen, and rather just someone looking into a big TV. That's part of the reason we do Devil Shat: to be able to communicate our ideas and opinions to a bunch of other people, and to get their responses back.

As you might know, I test out a lot of new software. I was one of the first people to get the AOL Instant Messenger Software (of which my name, DevilShat, was recently revealed). And, I am now the proud tester of ICQ for the 68k Macintosh. How I got the software, and why I did is not the question, answer, or solution. But rather:

THE QUESTION: Why did you stay away from ICQ?

THE ANSWER: ICQ is the Devil.

THE SOLUTION: Explain why ICQ is the Devil, and then wholeheartedly embrace the technology.

Okay... you see, a long time ago, I read the Bible. It wasn't something I was forced to do, it was something I wanted to do. I never understood why people criticize anything without getting enough information about it. One of the things that I remember is that when Satan came to kick some ass, everyone was going to receive a mark on their forehead or their right hand, and without that mark, we would not be able to buy or sell. And the mark would be the name of the beast, and the name of the beast is the number six hundred sixty six.

Yada, yada, yada. For the longest time, I sat back in my great philosopher's chair, stroked my invisible goatee, and sucked on my bubble pipe and said that we were already in the Armageddon, simply because the barcode is a perfect representation of the mark. From there, I moved onto the idea of the "e-card", an electronic id that would hold all your money and all your transactions... replacing wealth with "credits".

But those aren't the true marks, merely harbingers. I would hesitate to say (but do I must) that ICQ is the mark of the beast.

ICQ, one of the most prolific Internet paging services, has finally jumped the platform from PC to Mac, and as such, has now accomplished almost complete integration with the computer world. The major difference between ICQ and most other online services (except Compuserve) is that you are represented by numbers. You are not a face, nor a name, but rather something evilly called a UIN. Your UIN is who you are... your name and info are second-best.

For example, my UIN is 2927491. Isn't that peaceful? Were I playing Seven Card, I would have a pretty good starting hand. But in ICQ, I am just one of millions. It seems innocent at first, but when I went to their website to get more information, I realized that it is a lot more than innocence. Your number can optionally be added to hundreds of different groups of other numbers, all sharing something in common. You like trading lighters at Verve Pipe concerts? There is a group for you.

And they proclaim wonderful availability. Why, you can even put your ICQ number on a business card, and people can contact you whenever you're online! Yet another vice of the devil: the loss of freedom. Much like a cellular phone on a vacation, anyone can intrude on you at any time. And like we are so prone to do, we can't just let a phone ring, or a pager vibrate... we have to do something about it. Otherwise, why do we bother paying for the service?

So, "Morbus," you ask, "if ICQ is so damn evil, why should we embrace it?" Ahk, I dunno. A couple of disjointed reasons. One: hell, everybody's doin it. Two: It transform the harshness of the internet into a more friendly, online service environment. One of the nice things I remember about AOL was the fact that when people I knew came online, I could have a nice chat with them. Three: Nice implementation. In the PC version, there is support for a number of different games or "extras" that allow you to extend it into much more than just a pager program.

Of course, as with any advice, there is always an equal number of vices. Everybody's doin it. Yeah, that's good, but the first day I used it, the network shut down for fifteen minutes at a time. Perhaps a mirror of an AOL denial of service. And sure, it makes the mean ol' internet user friendly, but it also intrudes into your work, and perhaps your "veg" time. And, yes, it may be pretty, and have a whole bunch of neat little add-ons, but those are only a few of the tricks to lull us into a false sense of security. Already on discussion groups do I see threads consisting of "intercepting ICQ messages" and so forth. It won't be long before the media starts using credit card scare tactics.

Should we embrace the devil? We have before.