Monday, 8 November 2010

What did we do before the internet?

What did we do before the internet? Being computer-less for nearly five days was akin to temporarily joining a monastic order. “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” Joni Mitchell once sung. I never really appreciated just how dependent I’d become on having access to the internet until now.
When my laptop died last week - later to be resurrected courtesy of a new hard drive - I was instantly ostracised by the rest of the world.
It didn’t matter I was cut off from the latest news about President Obama’s mid-term reverse and the like - radio and television were more than adequate substitutes for online updates.
But I was denied email contact; weather reports; Tube line updates; cinema programme times; gossip both showbiz and political; and just the sheer pleasure/time-filling that can be had from random surfing.
I couldn’t settle to anything. So on a typical day last week I went shopping and took twice as long as usual trekking around supermarket aisles. On returning I read a bit; tidied up a bit; ate a bit; hit the TV remote and spent the rest of the evening channel hopping.
I’d scoffed at a review of a recent book in which the writer argued that the way we absorbed knowledge had already been profoundly altered by the internet. Is it really possible to see evolution at work in the space of a single generation?
I do find myself going around art galleries at a sprint; watching slow sections of DVDs at double speed; growing impatient with friends who repeat themselves. But, in truth I’ve always had a short attention span. Perhaps, like alcohol, the internet is becoming a useful scapegoat with which to blame our personal failings
I won’t bore you with the trials and tribulations of getting my computer fixed - you’ll know well enough what a pain in the backside these machines can be.
But there was one surreal moment when struggling to restore my broadband connection around 2am Sunday morning, there was something of an international incident in the ether between London and Mumbai or wherever the helpdesk was located.
The poor telephone line, my poorer hearing, and the accent of my increasingly exasperated helper made communication difficult.
“Now please write the symbol for add,” was what I heard - in other words ‘+’. What he was in fact saying was “the symbol for at” which is ‘@’. This little misunderstanding took about 30 minutes to resolve at a telephone charge I’m too nervous to investigate.


  1. The whole world was told to " Get a Life ". So they got the internet.

  2. glad you're back on line, gc, we've missed you


What do you think? GC