This term was used in many science fiction stories, especially the classic science fiction movies of the sixties. It was also the name of a good song. Adding the phrase “as we know it” to the term gives it a different meaning. The world itself hasn’t ended but the world as we know it has ended many times. Our personal worlds end many times in our lifetime. They are ended and started anew by events like graduation, marriage, moving to a new area, and divorce. In this context I am thinking about your world ending because of an external force; something that you were not involved in and had no control over.
There were three major world ending moments in my personal life. The first was when I was five years old, that’s when we got our first television. Suddenly the entire world was in front of me, talking to me, and entertaining me, and all I had to do was watch. I sat and watched the Lone Ranger, and the Mickey Mouse Club, Hatchi Malatchi, and many other shows of the time. I got my bug for science fiction at that young age. I used to watch Jet Jackson and his sidekick Ichabod Mudd. He would say, “That’s Mudd with two d’s.”
The second world ending event was the computer. The computer gave me my career. I saw my first one when I took a little computer programming class up in east Willkes-Barre, I don’t remember the name of the school that held the classes but it was in 1970. The first computer I saw was an IBM 1620. It was a second generation computer. It didn’t have vacuum tubes but it did have transistors. It was about four feet tall, four feet wide and about a foot deep. The back was open to keep it cool and it had a large coil of cable sticking out of it. It had one kilobyte of memory and no disk. It had a card reader for input and an electric typewriter for output. I thought it was amazing. We programmed it using machine language. I still remember the operation code for an add operation, it was 49.
The third world ending event was when I first hooked up to the Internet. This didn’t happen until the early nineties and it was amazing. My focus shifted from hours in front of the television to creating and chatting online. I used to chat in a writer’s chat room and I had the pleasure to chat with the great mystery writer Harlan Coben several times. I also chatted with Eddie Money in another chat room. My writing really fired up for me when I was able to get little stories published in the new e-zines of the time.
Other things can end your world quite suddenly. The two that ended my world in this manner were Hurricane Agnes and the great of flood of 1972, and 911. I won’t go into great detail about Hurricane Agnes and the flood; I am planning to do a post dedicated to that event. I will say, in my opinion, the flood forever changed Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Some great old buildings were gone and replaced. Old businesses were replaced by new names and life in general took a turn. Many left the city. I had actually left Wilkes-Barre the previous November and moved to the Washington, DC area to start my career as a computer programmer. I returned to help with the cleanup. I’ll tell what I know and I hope others will fill in more detail.
I believe 911 ended the world for all Americans. We haven’t felt entirely safe since that day. We have accepted more and more surveillance and now there are very few minutes of the day that we aren’t being watched by one camera or another. I fully believe that every word you ever typed on the Internet is retrievable, no matter how strict you believe your privacy settings are. We have accepted this to feel safe. But we must remember the words of our founding fathers, “When you trade safety for liberty, you will have neither and you will lose both.” I think Snowden should have his butt drug back to the U.S.A. and he should be tried for treason, but I also think that we can’t give our government a blank check to run our lives.
So that’s how the world ended for me and was remade anew. I’m sure you can think of many world ending events in your life.