Digital Shabbat or how a month without computers changed me

    I sorted out all the mail and sent the last letter. He wrote to his relatives and handed over his projects to friends. After sending the last tweet, I turned off my laptop, phone and tablet. In 10 minutes, my “digital Shabbat” will begin, and within a month I will not be able to control any digital device.
    Since the days of the Butlerian Jihad, when “thinking machines” were wiped off the face of most of the universe, computers have been distrustful.
    - Messiah Dunes

    Digital and digital things
    To the left of my things from digital life - I carefully turned off the power, put them together and put them deep in my bag. For a new life, I took out the things that are in the photo on the right.


    It all started with the fact that I came across an entry on the blog of the Iranian ambassador, where the author spoke about the Muslim post of Ramadan . For a whole month you can eat and drink only at night “from the appearance of the first star” (can you imagine how hard it is to observe such a post in Norway during a polar day). The ambassador explained that believers refuse fasting from what is permitted in order to understand how much God permits. This thought gave birth to a technocratic state in my imagination, where people give up soy and GMOs for a year to understand how subsistence farming is expensive and how close hunger is to it.

    But can such a technological post come in handy in our society? Technologies have come to our world too rapidly, without giving time to realize and accept them. If we abandon modern technologies for a month, then we could “move into the past” and compare ourselves before and after their appearance.

    Of course, this will not be easy - I love IT too much and am used to constant information overloads. But then I stumbled upon the project of the journalist The Verge , who was tired of computers and wrote how well he lived without them. His report seemed somewhat biased to me and I decided to go on this journey to look at the digital world through the eyes of a programmer.


    I thought that just giving up a laptop would not be enough. Now smart chips are used in all areas of life, so you need to abandon any digital devices. After reading about the posts in other religions, I realized that you need to very accurately formulate the rules in order to be sure in every situation. As a result, I formulated my ban as follows: “You cannot control any device that stores the program in its memory,” that is, with  von Neumann architecture .

    With this criterion, I began to choose my own technique. Just like in the films about agent 007, just the opposite - instead of small, shiny and functional devices, I was looking for old, large and low-functional things at flea markets. The popularity of hipsters played into my hands - getting a vintage was pretty easy.

    My friends scared me of the story of the programmer Mozilla, who, after two months without the Internet, deleted his twitter account .

    To burn all the bridges, I told everyone in advance about plans for a digital Shabbat. It would not work anyway, so I took a vacation and left my girlfriend emergency contacts.

    Evil Martians ”, however, still planted a pig for me and arranged an internal contest with prizes for the best contribution to open source, just for the month of my Shabbat.

    But there was no turning back and on November 6, 2013 I started my post.

    A photo


    For a forced immersion in the world of film shooting, I chose Zenit-122 , which has a light meter. As a result, the camera told me everything - it only remained to twist the settings until it reports that everything is correct. Most cameras have a micro-raster to set focus, combining the two halves of the image. A light meter is a small photocell and 3 LEDs that are visible in the right edge of the viewfinders. The top one lights up when the frame is too dark, the bottom one when it is overexposed, and the center one lights up green when the settings are selected correctly.

    As a result, shooting was not very difficult, but still I realized that it was computers that made photography so simple and daily. Of course, our parents could already not know the chemistry and not show the pictures themselves. But film photography reminded me of driving a car - first you read the theory, then they show you what to do and how, and then you practice away from people. And only having received this skill, you go and begin to take pictures. With digital photography, everyone becomes a photographer as soon as they open the application on their phone. Even a child can take and press a button.

    The second discovery was the incredible power that modern digital cameras have received over a dozen years. Before the Sabbath, we were stuck on the Ukrainian border, where we saw an amazing tradition of putting many candles in cemeteries on All Saints Day. At night, without a tripod, we took a lot of wonderful shots, as our cameras have enormous light sensitivity and optical stabilizers. I just didn’t take a film camera in the evening - the film's photosensitivity is 30 times lower and you can only shoot something in the twilight with a tripod.

    If I saw some kind of quick event, I didn’t even reach for the camera - before each frame, I need to choose two parameters (focus and shutter speed), so I still wouldn’t have time to take a frame.

    But then I felt the unexpected advantage of the film. Modern cameras are too powerful - we can get any picture with the click of a button. But in the end, we stop thinking not only about how to shoot, but also about what we shoot. It’s difficult to shoot on film, sometimes you need to think up tricky ways, but it all “warms up” your brain and, having sorted out the technical parameters, you are already starting to think, but should I take it off from another point?

    Grain and warm colors of film images are in fashion today. But personally, I did not see any special objective magic in them. It was just such photographs in the days of the youth of our parents and our childhood - and we perceive them with nostalgia for that time. It’s like pixel art - it’s just the style of our childhood’s games, in itself it doesn’t make the game better. Probably, our children will also appreciate the effects of a bad matrix of the phone, because for them it will be a reminder of the warm past.

    As a result, after the Shabbat, I decided not to take a large digital camera with me on trips and shoot everything on the phone. I realized that I do not need great shooting opportunities.


    Watch Rocket

    For Shabbat in Lviv, I bought the Soviet mechanical watch “Rocket”. Sorry, I could not find a special version with a 24-hour dial for polar explorers and submariners.

    I believe that every era has a technology - a symbol of this time. And mechanical watches here will be the crown of the industrial era. I would say that exact time in pocket sizes was not possible for the technological level of this era. But people were able by cunning, diligence and the ability to pull out everything that their foundation allowed and still made the wristwatch on pure mechanics. For example, axes stand on small rubies to reduce friction. Therefore, the technology for growing artificial rubies greatly reduced watch prices and made them affordable for a wide class of people in the early 20th century.

    The mechanical clock seemed to me a small creature - I heard the heartbeat inside and realized that they were very fragile and require constant care. In order for the watch to work for a long time and show the exact time, it must be wound up every day at the same time. I thought it would be annoying, but it turned out the other way around - this duty was very sweet and made it possible to better feel the passage of time.

    But I was struck by the loss of a sense of the exact time. Modern quartz watches have an error per second per day. The clock on the computer and phone is synchronized via the Internet, so they don’t even accumulate an error. That is, we are used to the fact that our watch shows the minutes for sure. When we arrive at the station and see on the clock that there are 5 minutes left before the train leaves, we know for sure that we will have time to reach it.

    Mechanical watches have an error of up to a minute per day. So the train could already depart from the station, because hours in a week could accumulate an error of 5 minutes. On the road, such an error unnerved me. Therefore, I always looked for sources of accurate time to let the clock down.

    Electronic clock and alarm

    Unfortunately, one day the mechanical watch simply stopped - after all, it was very old. The small mechanical life at your fingertips is, of course, nice, but I went to the store and bought a quartz watch (by that time I had already found out that there were no computers there, only simple electronics and mechanics). I love the exact time too much.

    True, it was not so easy to buy ordinary quartz watches. Watches ceased to be an instrument and became a status thing. So on sale were mostly expensive sophisticated devices or fakes that look awful.

    But I liked to wear a watch on my hand. Since childhood, I already forgot what it is and was pleasantly surprised that you better control time with them. On the hand it is much faster and easier to see than taking out the phone from your pocket.

    As a result, after the Shabbat, I decided to buy a smart watch like Pebble.

    Map and compass

    Map and compass

    The technology of our era, I consider the global navigation GPS and GLONASS. On the one hand, they use the most advanced directions - rockets to deliver satellites into orbit, quantum physics for atomic clocks in satellites, Einstein's theory of relativity to compensate for time distortions due to speed and gravity, computers for complex calculations. On the other hand, unlike other smart things, every inhabitant of the earth needs convenient cards. And satellites give exact coordinates to all people, anywhere in the world for free, requiring only a cheap receiver.

    But during the Shabbat, when I came to the new city, I had to buy a map in the nearest stall and read the names of the streets.

    Before the post I bought a compass - more for the sake of a warm lamp style. But it turned out to be really useful - if you are sure at least in the direction of the street, then it is easier to read the map.

    A paper map without GPS did not cause much trouble. When traveling, without the Internet, I usually had more problems with a digital card. And it was very convenient just to draw and write on top of a paper card.


    Notebook and pen

    How I would have enjoyed a digital Shabbat if I hadn’t bought a small flipchart pad and worn it in my shirt pocket. And I really had no choice. After digital life, my memory was very degraded and I needed an external device for taking notes.

    True, I do not think that the poor memory of the modern generation is a big problem. Yes, we have to look for information every time again, but it’s even better. Now the information is constantly changing. What we heard yesterday today may already be mistaken. And bad memory makes us always re-find the latest and correct data.

    I liked to use a notebook. A pen is always at hand to twist it into minutes of boredom. Unlike the capacitive screens of most phones, in the notebook you can always make a quick sketch. I really liked that all notes are organized by time. In the computer, we must first understand the hierarchy that is alien to us and look for videos in one application, and records in another. In a notebook, absolutely everything goes in one stream of time.


    Cash was the most uncomfortable moment on the digital Shabbat. A bank card solves the problem of currency exchange, money storage and security. No need to run in search of the most profitable exchanger. Now there are banks that, with some restrictions, can withdraw money for free at any ATM.

    There are 2 problems with cash. On the one hand, a bag of money for the whole month needs to be hidden deeper in the bag. But on the other hand, you need to check every night if the money in your pocket has run out. A couple of times I almost went without lunch, because I forgot to take more cash from my bag last night.



    Most of all I was afraid of boredom, so I thoroughly prepared: I took a few thick books, made a busy schedule of travels, and came up with several daily rituals for the evening. But in reality it turned out that without the Internet is not so boring. You can easily find entertainment, it would seem, from scratch - at least ride and look for interesting shots.

    On the very first day of my post I went to bed early and got up early - there were no problems with the regime, it quickly synchronized with the sun.

    No need to worry about battery power. You can not be afraid of rain because of an expensive phone in your pocket. I always had time to think everything over, and I constantly lived in the pleasant feeling that I had time for everything and was definitely confident in the choice. My heart was filled with calm and confidence.

    And, of course, on the modern wave of hipsters, it’s really nice to be an analog guy.

    But I soon realized how IT differs from other technologies. For example, without electricity and running water we feel uncomfortable. Without the Internet, there is no particular discomfort - in the end, our grandparents are perfectly doing everything right now without computers. But without the Internet, there is such a nostalgic pain, as if you left your city, abandoned old friends, but sometimes you remember how good it was to you there.

    Digital technologies are not routine tools that we use without hesitation. The digital world over these ten years imperceptibly took root in our souls, created whole worlds for our imagination and creativity, introduced a bunch of people whom we could never meet in real life.

    Without any neural interfaces from cyberpunk books, the digital world has now become a part of us. The hardest thing on Shabbat for me was the pulling pain, as if you were deprived of something inside.

    I finally made sure that IT did not change the world around us, but they made another parallel world nearby. And we are constantly nervous and do not have time, because we live two lives at once in both worlds. Of course, this is difficult, but it is still interesting to live twice as much.

    In the middle of the month it became really hard - I really wanted to program. It seemed that you were wasting time when you could create something useful. In moments of my worst seizures, I reassured myself with history_why, a cult character in the rubies community. One day, he completely disappeared from the Internet, removing all his vast contribution to the open source world. In the end, he left a tweet: “Programming is an ungrateful affair. Your work will be replaced by the best during the year. A little more time will pass, and they cannot even be launched. ”

    Failure of activity on the github during shabbat
    Shabbat in November is clearly visible on the contribution chart on Github

    After a while, longing and desire faded into the background, but a new sensation appeared, as if your personality was disappearing. The Internet allows us to manifest our Ego much stronger and clearer. We listen to music that is interesting to us, even if only a couple of people in the world listen to it. We can get involved in rare, but very personal hobbies for us. We can communicate with people so close to us in spirit that we would never end up in the same city. Not to mention creativity - the most striking manifestation of the personality - with digital technologies it has become much easier. After some time without the Internet, I began to feel at the time of my school, when you could listen only to the music that you could get, and read only those books that are in the store next door. It seemed that the person begins to dissolve in society, popular opinions and pop music.

    The downside of calm was the loss of motivation. The Internet constantly encourages you to do something. You constantly see other people's successes and try to keep up with them. You value time much more, because you know that the extra 10 minutes is an opportunity to read an interesting article from your archives, which can be a little change for you.

    After the Sabbath, I revised my attitude to social networks. We all understand that likes and statuses are not real communication. But when you have gone far, real communication is impossible. And after a couple of weeks I began to miss my friends and relatives a lot. Suppose that in the modern world we cannot stop and seriously talk, but a bunch of small actions and scraps of information from Twitter and VKontakte still form at least some kind of connection. I don’t know all the details, but I follow the life of my school friends from another city. I know about the most important events of my former classmates.

    But most importantly, social networks have allowed a whole class of people to travel constantly. And before, people went to other countries, but this was a rare occurrence. Even if you just moved to another city, then the first year you will not have close friends - simply because time must pass so that new friends become close. To change cities every month would simply mean to stop having intimate communication. Now you can be away from home, but still feel some kind of thread connecting you with loved ones. Therefore, there are much more people who constantly travel and do not feel like citizens of a country. Now, in almost every country in Asia or Europe, I meet with one of my friends who temporarily lives there.

    The amazing thing is that computers are simply small devices that solve small routine tasks. But without them, I felt like a completely different person.

    the end

    Exactly one month later, on December 6, 2013, my digital Shabbat ended. From excitement, I did not sleep the day before. I was waiting for a hundred letters and a thousand news in RSS. From sleep and a lot of things, I slept for 4 hours the next 3 days, and my mode instantly switched to night. But I was very happy to be back.


    I did not feel any special spirituality of the “lamp world”. The Internet is like a new apartment that seems empty and soulless. But not because the old one was better. Just in the old many things reminded of pleasant memories. We need to give the digital world time, and soon it will also be filled with our feelings.

    Although I’m not going to repeat the month without computers, I still liked him. True, there were too many months; two weeks would have been enough. I reviewed my attitude to technology, and how it affects society. I stopped being afraid of boredom and now I can go on a cruise or other places without the Internet without any problems. I stopped worrying that I always did not keep up with something - it became logical, since I realized that with the Internet, I live two whole lives in parallel. I stopped chasing the quality of the camera and decided to shoot only on the phone. After the Sabbath, I bought myself a watch, albeit smart, not mechanical.

    I would not recommend digital Shabbat to everyone, but still I consider some kind of temporary refusal to be very correct. All religions have obligatory posts. Refusal of meat in Christianity, refusal of work on Saturdays in Judaism (by the way, see  eruv ). Most of all I like the vow of silence in Hinduism - for example, Mahatma Gandhi did not speak with anyone one day a week and devoted him to reading, thinking, writing out thoughts.

    We quickly adapt to our ordinary life and soon begin to do everything on the machine. Our brain loves to save, and it will quickly turn off a very gluttonous consciousness when it realizes that it is not necessary for routine. As a result, our mind becomes smaller, it is replaced by thoughtless habits. To avoid this, one must leave the comfort zone. To fall into a new world where you do not know how and are forced to learn again. You can start new hobbies every month. You can travel to new cities. And you can temporarily abandon something familiar, such as conversations or computers.

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