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Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Apparently I'm big in the US and Alaska: even bigger over there than in dear old Blighty. What is it they say about a prophet and his homeland?

I've been thinking things Web- wise over the last couple of days. Cogitating on the www and the Internettie. I've told you all this before but you're looking at a pioneer in all things electronic and HTTP. From my Compaq Presario, bought on two credit cards, because the £1,700 for the computer and 3 year service contract (I was naive) broke the individual limit on each card. To signing up for Compuserve and getting the beta version of Windows 95 sent to me on, I swear, 20 floppy discs. It took almost a day to load.

The bit rate was something under 10k/sec when I first logged on. Except there wasn't the net. There was Compuserve and little else. Happy days. The Internet was an ocean of nothingness populated by a few islands of data. Web crawler helped out and the along came Alta vista and the horizons exploded. Happy days.

In the Treasury we had a scanner. It had a room of its own and a dedicated user. He was a senior OR scientist and you had to phone him if you wanted to view it let alone use it. I used to talk to a colleague about software - he provided me with my piece of anti - virus software circa 1995. Our accountant gave me a copy of Quicken, on floppies of course, and I had numerous phone calls from Californian companies (these guys were working thro' the night) selling me (I invariably bought) software for this or that computer enhancement. Happy days.

Going into Dixons and buying my first additional RAM - 32 Mbits at some £60 , or my HP PDA costing around £300, no connectivity other than plugging it into the computers and spending hours synchronising my home and work computer with the little device. Renting a computer from Radio Rentals! In 1997 we were burgled and the rented PC was stolen to be replaced by the insurer with a much more powerful model. It was then I realised the folly of renting. Radio Rentals went bust soon after I cancelled my contract.

Buying computer mags and drooling over the latest upgrade. Signing up to AoL, Microsoft and a couple of other Internet services and paying for them before Freeserve showed the way. Signing up to ntl broadband, when it became available and not realising that when that arrived so did digital TV and a price hike. Happy days.

Days of innocence. Computing was a hobby; it was something to spend hours chatting over, getting excited about. Visiting Vodaphone and hearing the trouble they were having trying to make mobile phones pay. Seeing the future in an office in Shepherds Bush  in 1999 when we were treated to on demand TV and films streamed from a large server farm (it migrated to the clouds many years later) somewhere in deepest Cotswolds.

Now the net, computing, broadband, it's a consumer good. I expect it to work like the lights, water and the sewers. I'm full of consumer angst - best value, best speed, best comparisons. I check my e-mails, my phone, my website constantly. If someone doesn't reply instantly to a text, e-mail or comment on Facebook they're dead meat. In the early days, you might check your e-mail once a day if you were neurotic.

The Internet is no longer that wide open plain - the great wild west of inter connectivity, where excitement was on the other side of every hill. Now, it's threatening, full of gangs of marauding bandits ready to ambush you . Once it felt like the Main Street in Big Bone Lick or The Last Picture Show, now it is the seedy down town of some hollowed out US metropolis, tacky, cheap and extremely samey.

What do I do most of the time  when thinking about the web?....how the fuck can I remember the billions of passwords I need to function on line. Oh, for innocence.      

8 comments:

Steve said...

I miss my old Olivetti.

Marginalia said...

Dear Steve, such a lovely gal, such a shame she was analogue.

Anonymous said...

Your glowing accounts of life in swinging Walthamstow will give a misleading impression to your US readers. In Cameron's austerity Britain most of us are living on third world wages, eating out of food banks and borrowing from loan sharks. The reverse of us thinking all Yanks drive Cadillacs and live in lovely white houses.

Bojo said...

Don't think the photo flatters you. Sorry...

Len the Luddite said...

Who needs computers anyway? Just a racket run by big US IT companies. And don't get me started on the internet. Big effing brother can stick his nose in anyone's affairs.
Buying online? Don't make me laugh. You can get chepaer stuff down the market.

John Gray said...

Love the " dressing gown" btw

Uncle Sam said...

Never heard of you. Have I missed something?

Marginalia said...

Dear Anon, Walthamstow is the Chelsea of the 21st century.

Dear Bojo, it's a photo of our actor/playwright resident.

Dear Len, you're not by any chance a fully signed up member of the minutemen?

Dear John, Paul was delighted to be commissioned.

Dear Uncle Sam, I am shocked.