#079: The Old Dirt Road

[F.U.C.K. is an e-zine that I started on January 24, 1993 and ended on January 24, 2000. One concept is that articles should be timeless if possible, so they were not released with dates. As such, the date on this blog is not exact but I will try to use a date as close as possible.]

It twisted in and out of small clearings and thick forest. Gnarled trees stood like guardians all around the old path in vain attempt to hide what lie ahead. The traveler was not worried though, he knew that somewhere up ahead was his goal. He had been searching for years it seemed, trying to find this one prize so that he could finally rest, and recuperate for the next journey. Misleading commoners had cost him hours of travel; even discouraged, he continued on, holding the one sacred thing in his mind. Soon, he would have it and be able to go on journey’s that until now he could only imagine. Continuing on, his patience payed off. He had finally found what he had been searching for all day. With a sigh of relief, he grabbed the ever sacred item.

$ get anonymous.ftp.list

If you have waded through internet recently, the above paragraph probably hit home with you. It used to be that getting on the net and surfing through all the unknown sites was a blast, always something new to you and your friends, always new files unseen in the BBS community. As time passed, things got worse. More and more of the cool FTP sites went down or no longer allowed anonymous FTP. Over the months, transfers got slower and slower until finally you found yourself up at three in the morning, transferring a file at a little over 9600 baud between two major college sites.

What happened? Why did things get so bad? Why are there more and more private sites, more lag, more confusion? Why is there so much hype surrounding the internet in the news? Why can you walk into computer stores or bookstores and see twenty books on Internet made for beginners. “Internet for Dummies” and “Idiot’s Guide to Internet”. Excuse me, but I thought the net was originally designed for the science community and colleges to trade information, and for research of any kind to be completed without leaving your home or local library.

From what I understood, the net was to remain commercial free and relatively free of large businesses. These days, every third site you hear or read about is a .com site though. Great, another commercial site. Why does NBC or MTV need to be on the net? There primary way of communications is through TV, not computer networks. Why is it I can mail Adam Curry or Billy Idol, but I can’t mail my senators or someone else of some slight importance? Of course, I can mail the president now, but he doesn’t read the mail. It is all screened for him no doubt, and I would imagine that 90% or more of it doesn’t ever get read by him.

Things are different now. For the low price of $22.50 you can establish an account, and receive 3 hours of access to internet! Each additional minute is .54 cents and each meg downloaded is $1.28 plus tax. Every commercial service like Prodigy, Delphi, Compuserve, etc offer internet access as a major feature. Since thousands and thousands of people sign up for that, is there any wonder where all the lag comes from? The people on those services are usually not very computer literate, and they are bogging down the net looking for the latest .gifs or whatnot.

The fact that you would have to pay for such a service is bullshit. Those companies are making money off giving people access to college computers and research labs’ computers, which they did not pay for. Seems that is abusing the privilege a little, and causing legitimate researches too much hassle.

With all the advertising you see regarding the net, and all the politicians promising ‘information superhighways’ in the future, more and more people are signing up for services. Fact is, the net is the furthest thing from a superhighway. A winding dirt road blocked by trees, pits, and guards seems more appropriate. With the current growth of people, and lack of growth of new computers hooking into the net, seems like that road will wear out sooner than repair itself and rebuild into a highway of any sort.

With phone companies limiting what they release in technology, they hinder the very basic thing the net needs to survive, repair, and grow. Pacific Bell sits on ISDN technology while the rest of the world tries to cram everything they can on existing technology in hopes of creating this so called ‘information superhighway’. Deregulation of the phone companies didn’t work like anyone thought though, and instead just created a virtual monopoly on certain phone services.

    As John C. Dvorak says in one mag "...has been a lot of confusion, a booming Internet, and an even more booming business in books about the Internet. If the Internet is the information superhighway, then we're all in trouble. By allowing every Tim, Dick, and Harry access, the Internet will become the central clearinghouse for hate groups, neo-Nazis, Communist wanna-bes, sick cults, spies, and kiddie-porn activists. It's not close to being out of control. It IS out of control. But golly, information should be free, so I guess it's okay, huh?"

Welp. That is about right. How many ‘alt.’ newsgroups are there? How many topics are covered? Do we really NEED a newsgroup for ‘alt.sex.masturbate.cheesegrater’? How ’bout all the mail lists? Enough to publish a whole book of how to get into contact with them and add yourself to various mail lists that are almost as pointless as the thousands of newsgroups.

Anyway, since we can’t get the technology we need for a better highway, and over 1,000,000 people sign up for internet services a month, I don’t think it will get much better. In fact, I think it will get much much worse…

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