Wednesday, September 16, 2009

From Ireland, At The Speed Of Light

You sailed from Ireland to the New World in weeks, assuming a storm did not sink your boat, nor a whale swallow you alive. That was, of course, in the days when monsters ruled the waves and you could fall off the edge of the world. Maybe you were beyond that, but still it was a long and seasick trip.

If you needed to send a message back home, it was another three weeks (we’re up to six now) and yet another three for a reply (now it’s nine weeks).

Whatever you wanted to say had better not be vitally important. “Did I leave the water running in my sink?” Followed by the response, “I heard something; where did you leave the house key?” “Under the dog house.” There’s twelve weeks already and the house has long since floated out to sea. There’s got to be a better way.

There is, but it took a while to get it rolling. Better than the trans-Atlantic cable; better than an expensive international telephone call; better (or worse) than anything invented by God, people or the devil: the Internet and all that goes with it. E-mail, web pages and blogs – of which this is one of perhaps millions.

I just received a note from a friend in Ireland, arriving within seconds of leaving her fair country. She composes and hits the “send” key, waits a few seconds for me to receive it; I hit “reply” and send it back. But that’s too slow! Let’s do it on IM, in real-time typing. “Check my house.” “Where’s the key?” “Under the doghouse.” “Ok.”


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