31 December 2006

End of Another Year

When I first lived overseas, computers were very large items that lived in very large rooms, and things like laptops and cell phones were gadgets of science fiction. Telephone service was available, but overseas calls were not always easy and exorbitantly expensive. Correspondence was by mail. I would write a letter that could take anywhere from 7 days to three weeks to get to it’s desired location. The recipient usually kept said letter for several weeks before replying. Then it was another three to four weeks to get the reply, providing it wasn’t sent to the wrong country first. In other words, several months usually went by before someone said, “I’m fine”, to my question of, “How are you?”

But that has all changed. Less than ten years ago I swore I would never use email. Now you couldn’t pay me to write a letter. I can instantly know what is going on in the world and keep in contact with family and friends on a daily basis. In fact it is hard to imagine that I actually once lived a life without the internet.
So just think about what it was like the other day to try and get internet access, and to be denied.

They had an earthquake in Taiwan which severed several underwater fiber optic cables. Most of us in the Asian area were affected. My ADSL was totally down, so I tried a dial-up connection. It also didn’t work, but came operable sooner than the ADSL, but with limited access. I could get Google, and CNN, but not Hotmail. I started to feel panicky when it had been about twelve hours of no email. I started to check the connections every thirty minutes, if not sooner, before I realized I was being a little insane.

I tried to get news coverage about the whole situation, but really couldn’t find anything. Then I searched blogs and came up with a few irate bloggers who were ranting and raving about not being able to get into their accounts. I certainly didn’t like “being cut off”, but hey, cables under the ocean are not a quick fix and for most of us, it wasn’t exactly life threatening.

Eventually, things started to work. More than 24 hours without email and guess what? I hadn’t missed anything of importance. It took about a day or two more to get back to more or less normal, although at times things seem a little sluggish. Not that I really care considering the original estimates were saying that if might take three weeks to repair.

And in a few hours it will be 2007. I will stay home and look out over Ho Chi Minh City to see the fireworks, or I might just go to sleep before midnight. Or maybe I can even get a live firework broadcast over the internet from some other place in the world.

With wishes that the New Year be filled with Peace,