It happened today - October 29, 2015

ARPANETIf you remember X, Y and Z protocols for Internet bulletin boards it’s best not to make too much noise about it. Even that pssht pssht boing boing noise those old phone modems make. It’s not a cool party act today. But you might make it quietly in honour of the first computer to computer link, on Oct. 29, 1969, via ARPANET.

Yeah, OK, it was probably about 0.4 k per second, text only. Sort of like my cottage Internet, now that I come to think of it. And there were no pictures of cats or ladies without garments, no bitter idiotic conversation threads and no texting. Kids today wouldn’t recognize it.

Nor would they recognize, I fear, a computer that just sat there computing. I actually do, and so I’m frequently struck by the fact that while I mostly do word processing, spread sheets, graphics, video editing and so on that are essentially self-contained, I find myself hemmed in badly if I’m not online. My software expects to be and sometimes complains sharply if it’s not, and I tend to want to email things as soon as they’re ready and fact-check online without annoying delays.

Annoying is a relative term, of course. The fact that I might have to wait an entire hour, if I’m on the road, before coming to a restaurant where free WiFi restores the miracle of connectivity suggests that luxury has made me soft. And the appalling gibberish or worse that takes up most bandwidth is a pretty good argument for going back to pen and paper, or possibly clay and stylus.

As somebody put it, people in the past would be astounded to hear that I carried in my pocket a computer more powerful than those that landed men on the moon and gave me access to all mankind’s knowledge, ideas and culture, and I used it to look at cats and get in arguments with strangers. But again, that’s not the fault of the incredibly clever and determined people who in 1969 actually had one computer TALK TO ANOTHER.

If today they mostly drivel, turn on the mirror app to find the problem.