This article originally published in The Northern Daily Leader on 28 September 2013.
One of the most interesting birthday presents I ever received was for my eleventh birthday. My parents bought me a computer – a fancy, new-fangled thing that had just hit the shops. The computer was a ZX Spectrum, which was at the cutting edge of computer technology. It came with 16kb of memory, which is less than you might find in a paper brochure that they hand out today at the Telstra shop. Nonetheless, in its day it was a marvel of engineering. I remember spending three days figuring out how to program the computer to flash the word ‘HELLO!’ across the screen in big letters. I dragged my Dad into the study to show him my amazing achievement, but he was a little less than enthusiastic. He obviously couldn’t see how it was just a small step from that to the internet as we know it.
Fortunately, not long after my birthday, my cousins Clinton and Greg were also given the same computer by their parents. Clearly this was a clever ploy by our respective parents to try and keep us from pursuing more destructive pursuits, like lighting fires, smashing windows and hitting each other. It certainly worked as we spent countless hours playing every computer game we could get our hands on. We were so keen we decided to write and publish our own computer games review magazine. We took a school exercise book and diligently wrote pages and pages of our views on the few computer games we had managed to scrape together. We adopted a professional approach to our work. We had an editorial, a reader’s letters section and even threw in a couple of imaginary advertisements. We soon ran into an insurmountable problem however – printing and distribution. The magazine was handwritten, so we were going to struggle to increase our readership beyond immediate family.
Today however, thanks to advances in technology, publication and distribution is no problem. A website, blog, Facebook or Twitter account allows anyone potential access to billions of followers or viewers. In some ways, it has become too easy to disseminate information via the internet. Too hard to distinguish the ignorant from the informative. And as you may expect, the world of investing has attracted its fair share of crackpots, imbeciles and out-right crooks who seek to use the internet to separate you from your money. Get rich quick schemes, share market hot tips, proven systems to make a million in just six months – the internet brings all of these half-baked and downright dangerous schemes right into your living room. My advice is to act like my Dad – feign some interest if you need to, but move on to something more important as soon as you can.