Do you remember life before broadband?
You might have been expecting a waffle about my targets which is usual as my first waffle of a new year. However, I’m afraid I am going to have to disappoint since I wanted to talk about a recent experience which got me thinking about how we use the broadband and 3/4G. Oh, by the way…I hope you all had a good Christmas and enjoyed the new year celebrations!
Just after the Christmas celebrations, York, where I live, suffered from some devastating flooding. Buildings and homes were evacuated and a large amount of property was, or has been, destroyed or ruined. To almost add insult to injury, some of the houses, which were evacuated, were burgled when they owners were away. Images of the floods circulated social media and the television channels as people looked on in shock at what was happening. York, being at the centre of two rivers, often floods, but nothing to this extend in recent times and I was truly concerned about the devastation. As the waters subsided, the community started to work together and supported each other to rebuild people’s lives. I wanted to be clear that before you continue reading this waffle, that I did not want to trivialise the flooding at all by the content of this post. I would like to take this opportunity to send my best wishes to all the people who were affected by the flooding and my thanks to all the people who provided support throughout the floods and the subsequent recovery period.
Do you remember Compuserve? My first ever experience of the internet was through dail up (remember the noises/sounds it used to make?) interacting with fellow surfers in a virtual space called Worlds Apart – well I think that was what it was called. Before the advent of broadband, dail up was the only method of connecting to the internet, paying for the connection not through a fixed monthly charge but for every minute you spent on the net. It was cheaper before 8am and after 6pm so you can imagine what my sleep pattern was like! With the advent of affordable broadband, things started to change and now I think we actually take it and 3/4G connection for granted. When the floods occurred, the local telephone exchange was flooded and the system went down. Across many areas of York, telephone and internet connection was lost and, as I sat in my local coffee shop, I started to realise what we actually use broadband for now and how dependent we actually are on it.
Cash and Cards – Luckily I wasn’t flooded and managed to get out to the local shops while the internet was down. Sainsburys (other supermarkets are available) was practically empty and I quickly grabbed some food stuff and headed to the tills. Although there was only a few tills open, there were queues. I was asked – ‘Are you paying by cash?’ – luckily I had cash on me and I got my own till opened and quickly got through. It was only after chatting with the till lady (not sure of the correct term there) that I realised that all card machines were down. It was not possible to pay by card using the modern machines due to the internet being down. In many of the shops cash was the only option to pay with, although some stores managed to resurrect the old card paying machines! Many of the younger store assistants had never seen these before – but I remembered them. They probably have a technical name, but this escapes me at the moment. I can only describe them as the machine that you put the card and a slip of paper into and then pulled/pushed or just physically man handled the ‘slider’ across. Some stores, in true community support style, were taking people’s names and telephone numbers and allowing them the goods without actually paying. Although I was missing playing online games without the internet, I never realised it would actually stop me using my cards to pay for items.
Synchronisation – I have quite a collection of DVDs at home, all stored alphabetically on my shelves in the front room. As online films have become more available through iTunes, Amazon Prime and NetFlix I have stopped buying DVDs and started to just download of rent films online. I had just rented Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol when the internet went down. As well as no films being available, unless I had downloaded them to my devices, iTunes music was in a similar position. When I clicked on a Kylie tune – nothing wrong with a bit of Kylie – iTunes asked me if I wanted to download this from the ‘cloud’. With my online games not accessible, I decided to get some work done, and hopped on to Google Drive to download the book proposals I had been busy working on before Christmas. Arrggghh! you guessed it – no internet connection. Even Evernote couldn’t synchronise my notes. I’ve always been in favour of ‘cloud storage’ but it is only when you lack an internet connection that you see one of the major flaws of this way of storing files. Apart from going for a walk, I was quickly running out of things to actually do.
Blog writing – I never let an opportunity go by that has the potential to be a waffle so, after paying for my drink with cash and not being able to get my rewards, I actually got my macbook out to write a waffle. Although this is actually the result of that time on my macbook, I did find that the lack of internet impacted on this as well. I am currently writing this on WordPress online, with the interface regularly saving the content. With the internet down, this wasn’t possible and I had to resort to using WORD. I did once have an offline application which I used (MarsEdit – not sure if it is around still?). This actually allowed you to create blog posts offline and then upload them when needed although I found this was somewhat unreliable at the time and moved more to using the actual WordPress site. I like to have an internet presence, but I hadn’t really considered how much I actually rely on the internet to create this presence. By this, I mean creating content – I even tried to put together a video to upload to Youtube, but PremierePro needed an update so wouldn’t start.
This has become a strange waffle since I’m not sure whether it actually has a focus. In order to bring it to some conclusion, I thought about what I have learnt from the experience. Well, first I have to acknowledge how dependent I am on the internet and wifi. I never realised how much I actually use it in my every day life and how much I take it for granted. My mum would say that this moment of realisation is a ‘sign’ to cut back on the amount of time I spend on the internet and start to engage with the ‘real world’. So will I change? – I doubt it very much – things like this hopefully will only happen ever so often and it’s a bit like a power cut, we get a brief glimpse into the life of before the internet and then gratefully we return to the present day. One thing I have learnt is how much I should appreciate the internet and the connection to it, since much of my current life actually not only involves it, but actually relies on it.
I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send them to me via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.
Remember keep up to date with my waffles by subscribing to;
and on iTunes!
Have fun and I’ll catch you later