Originally written for eVent! [ep] magazine on 08/02/06.
I am currently without access to the internet. This is ironic since just last week I wrote about ways that the internet might die within the next few years, and now that I have to write this article for me at least it's gone. Oh there's still an internet, right now a wi-fi signal is buzzing invisibly over my head as I sit in my parents' spare bedroom and write this. The trouble is my mother does not know the WEP password for me to access that wi-fi signal and so I sit here working without the net.
I have become dependant on it, as we all do to the advanced of technology in our lives. Do you think you could live without your cell phone in these days with very few public telephone booths? How about email, do you think you could manage going back to the old snail mail? I haven't mailed a letter in years, and the other week when I had to mail away a rebate coupon for the new Macbook that I had bought the simple act of going to the store and buying stamps and an envelope seemed like an egregiously inconvenient task.
Typically when I write an article I tend to start it and then stop it a few times. I sit and stare not into space, but into cyberspace as I try to tap into the zeitgeist of the day and come up with something that's bound to be both up to date and relevant to you the reader. Once I get a topic I use Wikipedia to do any fact checking I might need, and if Wikipedia is non-conclusive there's other sites. I then bounce around IMDB for some pop culture references to something hip like Karate Kid or I find something on Encyclopedia Brown and mention his exploits as a boy detective. It's like being without a good friend, a friend who keeps notes on the world for you and lets you cheat off of his paper.
I remember the days before everyone had the internet. I moved to France for four months as an exchange student, and back then only about a third of people I knew had net access and they did not have publicly available internet access in Amiens, the city I was living in. There was some suggestion that the university in town might have access to the internet but I never really had anyone to email, so my connection to Kelowna was though letters typed on a Powerbook 150 and placed in the mail to brave the trans-Atlantic trip in mere envelopes. My first week there I had plugged the Powerbook's printer into the wall with no power converter and it had briefly started to smoke as though it was about to burst into flame. From that point forward all my correspondence smelled like a camp fire, which was probably not noticed by many of my friends since that's the grade they started going to bush parties and pretty much everything smelled like fire to them. Well fire and beer anyway.
I still have the letters that I got from them, they're in a bag that I cart around and have to remember to take every time I move. The oldest email I currently have is just over a year old, and the idea that I would have an email three, five or ten years seems unlikely to the point of near impossible.
Email, like the internet is transient. Unless you're using regular backups you're not going to be saving messages for years. It's unlikely that our grandchildren will go up into our attics, power on our old laptops and read through our correspondence. Even if our old laptops work, they'll need to know our passwords.