So farewell to the era when your connection to the internet was heralded by a cacophony of squawks and whistles as two computers shouted at each other down a phone line.

Farewell to a time when “going online” involved more than just turning on a computer and opening a web browser.

Farewell to an older slower age as British Telecom shuts-down the last remnant of dial-up internet access. Well, sort of, as a BT subsidiary will still offer it, as will doubtless several other companies.

But BT is stopping — and that’s what the headlines are all about.

When I say farewell to a slower age, I am not just talking about the speed of the internet connection, but a general issue where doing things used to involve preparation and today are instant.

To listen to music — carefully remove the record from the sleeve, dust it off, put on a record player and ever so gently lower the stylus on the spinning disc. A splutter and crackle, and music appeared.

Today, I just click shuffle on winamp and that’s that. Unthinking, almost unconscious, clicking.

To connect to the internet was an audio experience as well — as the compute dialed a phone number and you were regaled with the sounds of keypad tones being digitally tapped away, and then after a moment’s pause, the reassuringly familiar sound of computers connecting.

A moment later, and your Netscape browser slowly started to fill up with content. Cefax in colour!

What is missing today is that sense of anticipation. The moments you wait, not in frustrated silence as the internet doesn’t seem to work, but a blast of noise that says “wonderful things are about to happen”. The magic of connecting to computers all over the world was still quite amazing.

Today, we think nothing of flicking on a computer and watching a video.

A decade ago, it took me weeks of trying before I finally managed to fully download the 10mb file that contained the new Star Wars trailer. Had to do it on Christmas morning, as that was the only time there was enough capacity on the network to cope. What excitement when it finally worked!

And the awe in the office when I lugged the laptop into work and showed people.

Today no one would even care about watching a video online — and not just because the film was crap. Videos online? Mundane now, routine, boring.

Things being slow is frustrating, time wasting and in business, expensive. Who wants to spend 5 seconds waiting for a news page to render the first sentence?

Yet, I miss the start up bit — the anticipation. The moment waiting for a successful connection and the glorious announcement that came from the modem as it made that necessary link that tied my computer into a wider world. A web of connections all made possible by a series of squawks and whistles.

Later this week, silence will reign triumphant.

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One comment
  1. swirlythingy says:

    As someone who suffered a dial-up connection well into 2009, I do not miss it one bit.

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