February 19, 2004

1200 baud


I'm gonna say it loud, and say it clear: DIAL-UP INTERNET ACCESS BLOWS GREEN DONKEY CHUNKS. We are staying in the one place in Chapel Hill that has neither wireless, or an Ethernet plug, and it has untimely ripp'd my ass back to 1996, when downloading porn was an all-night affair. I have about fifty unread emails stacked up in my inbox, filled with delightful links, and pictures, and I have to SAVE them all, because it would take the better part of a weekend to view them now.

Seriously, how is dial-up still tolerated in this country? I feel like I'm using a cat-whisker quartz radio attached to a dipole, powered by hamsters. I know it can't be intellectually true, but this feels slower than the 14400 baud modem on my mom's Powerbook 165c. I think my brother Steve had one of those modems Matthew Broderick used in "War Games," you know, the one where you put your phone receiver down into two upright cups, and the two devices scream at each other – and somehow even that feels faster.

I wonder why we keep hitting ceilings in technology. Dial-up modems kept doubling speed until 56K and then stopped forever. Cable modems are fast, but nobody has offered anything over about 400K/second for years. CD-ROMS will stop recording at 60X speed. Miles per gallon, even the hybrids or the smart cars from Europe, top out in the 50s. Sometimes I think we're so blown away by the fastest technology that we can't fathom something thirty times better.

I believe we are on the cusp of some great new technology, something so simple, pure and unthinkably fast that it will render all of our current gear blitheringly useless. I don't know if it will be based in nanotechnology, or machines on the bio-cellular level, or even a new kind of fuel power. I do know this, however: the latter days of the twentieth century, and the beginning of the 21st, will be regarded as a Dark Age. It will be reviled in history the way the Plague Years of the 1300s and 1660s are now. The future will have no use for our dangerous cities, our belching cars, our brain-cancer inducing cell phones, our loose nukes, nor will it have use for homophobia, racism, and constant fearmongering in the name of power.

How we choose to step off the boat, and onto this brave new land, will define how cool we'll be viewed by history (in the big picture) and our grandchildren (in the personal). I, for one, can't wait. I hope to be just like my grandma was when she saw her first car, driving over the Colorado landscape in 1914: a cloud of dust followed by breathless excitement.

my grandma Klea Worsley, circa 1928

Posted by irw at February 19, 2004 11:13 PM
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