This morning I woke up in a hurry. I didn’t need to. I wasn’t late for anything (and, besides I work from home). But I had that edgy-sicky-adrenaline-y feeling that comes when we think we don’t have enough time to do something.
So it was great to come across a piece by Gavin Hughes in the Guardian celebrating the older, slower (and dumber) days of the web. We’re so used to expecting the internet to run at today’s ultra-high speeds*, tutting when iPlayer sutters for a moment in the middle of Taboo, that we forget that, for a long time, it functioned at 56kbps – one thousandth of the speed of a domestic cable broadband connection today. And that we were blown away by that.
Sound of a dial-up modem (www.freesound.org/people/Jlew)
Browsing the web in those days (and let’s remember we’re only talking 20 years ago) was a matter of patience. You clicked on a link and slowly a new page would reveal itself. (The website 56k Emulator does a good impression of what it was like.) And, during that time, you sat and thought about things. Any impatience you had with the slow loading of a page was offset by the wonder that you could “load a page” on this incredible “world wide web” in the first place.
It’s boring and too “kids these days” to go on about how our expectations about the speed of our digital life have changed – and I love watching video online. But I do think we should make some time for those pauses. Life doesn’t have to go at top speed all the time. Sometimes it’s a better use of our brains just to sit and stare out the window for a while.
* Of course “ultra-high” is a relative term. The Victorians felt 20mph was fast for a train. So if anyone’s reading this in 100 years’ time on their domestic 60ZBps connection, be reassured that 60Mbps feels pretty space-age right now.