Coastal Stuff, Innovation, Technology & Science

A day without ‘net

04.24.06 | Comment?

Saturday evening at 8:15pm, my network connection to the world was severed. For many of you this would be no big deal, and indeed, being Saturday, I wasn’t severely tweaked about it. I called my provider and learned of a general outage in my area that they were working to fix.

On Sunday morning I started to get a little more tweaked. Why? I didn’t have any news access – I was reduced to either watching TV news, listening to the radio, or even, gasp, reading a news paper (more about that later – news paper is high irony these days.)

Like most things in life, you don’t really realize how much you depend on something until it’s gone. About 10 years ago I canceled my newspaper subscription to the San Francisco Chronicle on the grounds that a) I didn’t read it and b) it was no longer “news” by the time I had the physical artifact in my hands. We do maintain a subscription to the local Half Moon Bay Review as it has information that is not easily accessible in other places. 7am and the network is still down, I take my daughter to the local supermarket to get a paper, that was 45 minutes of activity that wouldn’t have been necessary if the network link was up.

I’d planned to do some financial work over the weekend and procrastinated until Sunday to get it done. I found that I had to physically go to the bank! Aside from ATM visits and the odd trip to the safe deposit box, this is not something I’m accustomed to doing. Ah, how I long for the online banking experience – what should have taken 15 minutes to do from the comfort of my home turned into a 2 hour odyssey of hassle. 12pm and the network is still down. Another call to Comcast where a very clueless support engineer could only verify that the outage was still in progress (I knew that) and that there was no ETA for recovery. I express my dissatisfaction with this answer and the support rep offers to email me when service is restored. I make a somewhat sarcastic remark and decline his offer. (Side note: this morning at 4:30 am, I did see a note from them informing me my service was up – as I had already deduced from the fact I could retrieve email!)

Given that it’s planning season here at Sun, I thought I’d spend some time on the business plan for the Network Services unit. Working on a non-network accessible computer is something like trying to drive a car with no fuel, it’s not that useful. It really is a typewriter with a pretty interface. No access to dictionaries, no access to research materials, no access to images, it’s crippling. But, it also forced me to focus on the desired outcome. So, I churn out some content – but alas, there’s no way to distribute it to the people I wish to share it with. Rats! 6pm, network is STILL down.

About this time my daughter is reminding me that I promised pizza for dinner (I know, I’m a bad nutrional parent.) So I realize I need to phone the local pizza place for a pick-up (don’t ask, local places that deliver tend not to have very good pies.) Where’s the darned phone number? I normally look it up on the net – guess that’s not going to happen. What did we do before the internet? Oh yeah, the phone book. Hmm, phone book, where might it be? Fortunately, my spouse is not all that net dependent and keeps a phone book in the kitchen drawer. Pizza is ordered, retrieved, and consumed. Daughter happy. Father, not. 8pm and network is, unsurprisingly, still down. 24 hours and counting.

Setting aside my obvious dependence on the network for doing the simplest of tasks. One thing did occur to me during this outage: Most of the humans on this planet do not have access to this wondrous resource. Even as around 3M people per week are added to the amalgamated networks, by the end of 2007 there will still be 75% of the Earth’s population non-connected. One of the things I like about working for Sun is that we’ve made sharing our technology a top priority and we think it will contribute to bridging the digital divide. That’s a pretty cool thing and I’m proud to be a part of it. This much is for sure, not having access to the network can be more than simple inconvenience I experienced yesterday, it has profound impact upon the economic well being of individuals and countries. We all need to do more to bridge the divide. You can participate by donating some old equipment sitting in your garage or supporting the One Laptop per Child Project.

Comments are closed.