What is it like to be exposed to new technology after 20+ years in prison?

Michael G. Santos spent 25 years in prison. On Quora, he wrote eloquently about what it was like to experience new forms of technology after so many years of incarceration, with no access to the internet, contemporary computers, or the smartphones we now take for granted. Gizmodo republished the piece here, and it has now gone viral. Santos has written a book, now works as a "life coach," and he's on Twitter. (ht: @joemfbrown)


  1. Spider Robinson wrote a short story about this called The Time Traveler. It’s in the first Callahan’s collection.

        1. Yes is was/is.  I came here to mention that show – it’s a hoot watching Charlie Crews trying to interact with automatic public washroom sinks.  There are so few Zen-themed shows around.

          I missed a few episodes the first time around.  I’m rewatching it on Netflix.

          /While I’m at it: A thumbs up for The Grey Fox. What a beautiful, civilized film.

  2. The “You must sign in to read past the first answer” thing is the kind of annoying that will probably lead me to avoid clicking any Quora link in the future.

    As for Santos, he kinda just sounds like a stereotypical parent. He can use the popular devices, but he doesn’t know what is going on when he does, and he doesn’t know how to correctly apply the vocabulary. I remember a survey about a year ago, where people were asked about ISPs, browsers, and search engines and had no idea about the distinctions. I know I’m no different a lot of the time.

  3. “Dear fellas, I can’t believe how fast things move on the outside. I saw an automobile once when I was a kid, but now they’re everywhere. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.” – Brooks Hatlen, Shawshank Redemption

    1. I haven’t clicked the link, but I assume there’s a part in there about how he bludgeoned a police dog to death or something like that to get the greater chunk of the 45 years tacked onto his sentences…right?

      1. Why, what do you consider to be an appropriate sentence for being a major coke dealer in the late 80’s?

          1. The past already happened. Nancy Reagan getting a prohibition boner happened. DARE happened. Why are people expecting a slap on the wrist to have happened in that environment?

        1. Unless there’s direct proof of negligent homicide relating to the drug dealing, less than the minimum amount of time that a convicted murderer gets sentenced for.

          1. In an environment of strident prohibition (which the late 80’s most certainly were) that is unlikely.

            Besides, without knowing the particulars of the case (and I don’t trust a guy pimping himself out this hard as a trustworthy primary source *about* himself) we don’t know if the sentence was particularly harsh or not. We do know that the DEA was involved, and he was convicted of a federal crime – so I think it’s safe to say he wasn’t standing on a corner handing out baggies.

        2. I dislike cocaine, but I dislike the drug war and the corrosion of our civil liberties more. I also dislike site where you have to register so you can be easily tracked as well.

  4. I’m not sure I completely buy his supposed ignorance of modern technology.

    Check out this story he wrote – which apparently was written around 2003 –  where he mentions helping “inmates learn to read, write, type, and understand such computer programs as Word Perfect, Page Maker, Lotus, Excel, and Dbase IV.” So he certainly had computer access while inside. He was even teaching it.

    Otherwise, it’s a fascinating read and I found myself agreeing with a lot of what he wrote.


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