Internet Dependency

If that sounds like a disease, then maybe it should be classified as one.

I didn’t even have a computer until 2002. I took the plunge, and bought a Dell laptop, with the best specification I could afford at the time. I paid more for an upgrade from a 10gb hard drive, to a 20gb, for 256kb of memory instead of 128kb, and for a Pentium processor, supposedly maximized for laptops. It had a CD drive, but no DVD, and no wireless card, as that would have pushed it past my budget. Even that package cost me an eye-watering £1,500 then, and today I could not even give it away free.

Once I had it set up, I connected it to the dial-up Internet in my flat. That offered the not exactly head-spinning speed of 56kb/s. No option then of broadband, or any faster connection, at prices I could reasonably contemplate; I had to stay wired up, to a very long cable connector. So much for the freedom of a laptop. I started sending e mails, and surfing the ‘net, and it worked fine. Then somebody sent me an e mail with a photo attachment, and I watched as it started to download. After a full fifteen minutes, only the top inch of the large picture was visible, and it was another ten minutes before I could see what it was. If anyone sent more photos, I didn’t even bother to open them. After looking up a hotel, or holiday destination, woe betide I would like to download the brochure, pictures of the resort, or even the price list. Not unless I had a lot of time to spare.

A few painful years passed, and mobile companies introduced the broadband dongle. This small device fitted into a USB port, and replaced the tortoise-like dial-up, with an amazingly fast 3mb/s speed, based on a mobile phone contract, that surprisingly, was reasonably priced. I could hardly believe the difference. E mails flew off in the blink of an eye, photos appeared almost immediately, and web surfing became a pleasurable experience. The laptop, once only used as a last resort, had become invaluable. And even better, with the mobile dongle, I could take it anywhere. Trouble was, the specification was not capable of keeping up with advances in computing. The hard drive wasn’t even full, as I didn’t download music or films, and had never stored that many photos. But the 1.8 MHz processor, and 256kb memory could no longer cut the mustard. No You Tube, forget games, though I didn’t really play them, and before too long, even basic e mail programmes were full of spinning graphics, films clips, and zany advertisements. It was taking so long to load my e mails, I stopped bothering to look at them. I resolved to change it; even though I had paid so much a few years earlier, better ones were selling for less than £500, one third of what it had set me back.

But I knew that I would be moving the following year, and retiring from work. Might as well wait, and get the best one I could afford, in 2012. Not long after the move, I was pleased to have enough room for a desktop system. I prefer a real keyboard, and the tower systems offer better value for money for the newer high-spec computers these days. I went with Windows 7, and got a 500gb hard drive, DVD drive, i3 processor, and 4gb of memory. With a monitor donated by a friend, the whole deal came in at under £475 from Hewlett Packard. This illustrated how much cheaper computing had become, in just ten years. I signed up with BT Broadband, which I connected to the PC by cable, with a wireless option for the mobile phone and for visitors to use; and it came in handy when I got Julie a tablet. Even in rural Norfolk, I get a regular speed of 6-7mb/s, and after two years, I still marvel at the lack of delay, and the ability to use different tabs. I can listen to a song on You Tube, while I am writing about it on my blog, and at the same time, my e mails are updating. To those of you brought up with computers, this all sounds like ‘So what’, but to me, it is as miraculous as the first moving pictures, or that original light bulb.

I started writing the blog, because the computer was so easy to use, and I buy things online for the same reason. I still have lots to learn. I can never seem to be able to ‘find’ files, and have trouble locating downloads. I have stored my photos on Dropbox, but don’t seem to be able to move them anywhere else. Attaching anything to an e mail is still a major undertaking, and familiarity with the equipment has not seemed to increase my knowledge of how to use it effectively. Nonetheless, I can now enjoy computing, at least at the level of my capabilities; blogging, sending reviews to other sites, retrieving information, and being basically computer literate. The Internet has become my friend, and no longer something to avoid, or to be fearful of.

This morning, I went to check my e mails, and have a look at my blog, as I do almost every day now. Firefox took forever to appear. I suspected ‘updates’, but none were notified. When it finally loaded, I typed in the search for my Yahoo mail, and the spinning began. After almost ten minutes, there was no sign of the login page. I asked Julie if her tablet was experiencing similar problems, and she told me that she had uploaded a photo to Facebook, but it had taken a long time. I shut the tab, and typed in my blog address. Another ten minutes, and the blog appeared, minus the header photo and graphics. The computer broadband information declared a ‘very strong’ signal, so I suspected hardware or software malfunction. I did what I always do, shut it down, and walked away. I was confident that it would all be fine when I went back later to check.

It wasn’t. It was the same as before. I had uncomfortable flashbacks to the bad old days of dial-up. I couldn’t check my e mails, because the page is so graphic-heavy, and the ads are all videos, it just would not load correctly. I tried using Microsoft Explorer, in case it was a Firefox fault. I scanned the computer with the anti-virus, worried that some malicious software was attacking. I de-fragged and cleaned up files, but nothing helped. I shut it down again, and gave it one more try, resolving that it would be three goes and out. When it didn’t work, I went into the kitchen and made a late breakfast. I got ready after that, and took Ollie for a very long walk, wondering how I was going to keep in touch with everyone, update my blog, and check my online orders. I had already decided that it couldn’t be my PC, as Julie’s tablet was having the same problem, and both our smartphones were not responding either. I reasoned that I would have to spend ages on the ‘phone to BT tomorrow, trying to get them to sort out my Internet.

Across by the plum orchards, the stumpy trees were full of delicate white blossom. From a distance, they looked like small clouds, hovering six feet above the ground. The fields across Holt Road were shimmering a fluorescent yellow, as far as the eye could see; rape seed in flower. In one prepared field near the pig farm, I spotted at least a dozen rabbits scampering around. Ollie spotted them too, and gave chase enthusiastically. Hearing some squealing, I turned and saw a group of tiny piglets rushing around, playing joyously in the mud, oblivious to their fate. Somehow, the computer problems didn’t seem so important anymore. Life would go on, and it would be like it was before we had laptops and tablets. The world was becoming Internet dependent, and I was not about to let that happen to me.

I didn’t get back until after 5pm. It had been a good walk, over three hours. Before starting dinner, I checked the computer again. It was back to normal. It just needed me to take that walk.

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11 thoughts on “Internet Dependency

  1. I seem to be excluding myself from the internet of late, the temptation of running water at the house outweighs the need for speed of the super highway, although I’m sure I’ll get it all in the same location one day soon.
    Nice post Pete, happy to hear that spring and it’s glory have arrived if your neck of the woods.

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  2. I hear you Pete. There have been times where the internet in our house is been used by all 3 of us doing our own thing – not to mention the 2 phones and laptop that are always hooked up and automatically refreshing or updating themselves. Anyway, now and then the internet just says “erm…no not today I can’t take it right now” and shuts us down, forcing us to turn off and step away…and I like it.
    But isn’t it funny how it always does that JUST as you remember all those important emails you NEED to send right now or that bill that HAS to be paid? Shutdowns give me back free time and family time, it takes away that option to procratinate and accomplish nothing and it reminds me to prioritise what needs doing over what can wait 🙂 xx

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  3. When my computer purchased in the late 1990’s could no longer handle the internet, I bought a Sony Vaio (2002–the same year you bought your first computer). That computer served me reasonably well for a while, but as the internet became more and more graphics-laden, and as the Sony’s hard disk neared 100% memory capacity, despite my efforts to delete anything and everything that I didn’t think was essential to basic operations, my computer slowed down–to the point that I used to watch lines run across the screen for 15 minutes or so while a web page downloaded. In November 2012, I finally pitched the Sony and bought a basic ASUS. It came with Microsoft Word Starter 2010, but not much else. Windows 7 handles the internet well. I still use the old Envision flat screen monitor that I purchased with the Sony in 2002, but the old hp Laserjet 1200 printer has refused to communicate with my ASUS for the past several months despite downloading new printer drivers.

    I still prefer a tower and traditional keyboard. If I were to ever buy a laptop, it would be out of sheer necessity (mobility). At home, if a PC were not available, I would connect the laptop to a real keyboard (USB), or perhaps get one of those wireless keyboards. I simply cannot type on a laptop keyboard. I think many young people hunt and peck. I learned the old-fashioned way, where certain keys are assigned to certain fingers. The old-fashioned typing technique doesn’t seem to work very well with laptops–at least not for me. I would also go with a mouse (USB or wireless), as I despise those finger pads (I don’t even know what they are actually called).

    I spend quite a bit of time in front of my small computer screen, and I feel somewhat addicted. But I do get out and about, whether it’s walking the Las Vegas Strip (today), hiking in The Wetlands (two days ago), or rock scrambling in Red Rock Canyon (last week). Even when I stay home, I’m likely to slip into the back yard, have a seat, and read a chapter in a French novel under the overhanging branches of the African sumac tree. I’ve never owned a SmartPhone, iPad, Blackberry, or anything similar. And they do not interest me in the least. As far as computer literacy, I know just enough to be dangerous.

    Pete, I enjoyed this post very much. After all the computer lingo, that last paragraph was a breath of fresh air!

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    1. Thanks David. I had originally intended to write two posts, one about computer frustrations, and a second about the head-clearing walk. I decided to deliberately add the latter to the former, to create that change of mood that you describe.
      I think it worked well, without boasting!
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  4. I feel your pain! Actually I think we are probably the lucky generation – we know life before technology, we understand how to use technology, but we’re not dependent on it as are the next generation. When you see toddlers playing with tablets it is time to worry!

    Spring has obviously come to your part of the country Pete – sounds idyllic 🙂
    Jude xx

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    1. Thanks Jude. It was nice enough yesterday, but just back from two hours dog-walking in heavy rain! Good days, bad days, I suppose.
      Thanks for the comment, always appreciated, as you know.
      Regards as always, Pete. x

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    1. Very true Gretchen. It was actually cloudy and windy, and the ground was muddy after rain during the night. Somehow, it didn’t seem to matter at all.
      Best wishes to you as always. Pete.

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