Originally Published: Monday, 10 January 2000 Author: Jerry Hatchett
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Sound The Horns!

I now have positive proof that the Internet has forever changed the world. The confidence level is 100%, and if you were a NORAD general it would be time to somberly push the big red button to launch the retaliatory strike. If a D.A. had this kind of proof in his stable, a defense team with Perry Mason and Ben Matlock as co-counsel couldn't keep you out of the electric chair. Take it to the bank; it's that strong....

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I now have positive proof that the Internet has forever changed the world. The confidence level is 100%, and if you were a NORAD general it would be time to somberly push the big red button to launch the retaliatory strike. If a D.A. had this kind of proof in his stable, a defense team with Perry Mason and Ben Matlock as co-counsel couldn't keep you out of the electric chair. Take it to the bank; it's that strong.

The evidence arrived via that century-old workhorse technology, the telephone, disguised as a normal call from my mother-in-law. She asked to speak to her daughter, as she usually does. They chit-chatted about household decorations and kids and all the other stuff of everyday life, as they usually do. I thought nothing of it -- until I saw an ashen look of astonishment wash over my wife's face. Knowing her as I do from twenty years of marriage, I knew something big was up and waited anxiously for the conversation to wind down so I could gather the scoop. Finally, the receiver hit the cradle, my wife turned to me and these words actually flowed forth from her mouth: "Mom wants you to help her get a computer so she can get on the Internet."

My heart stopped beating and the ashen look became my own as every drop of blood drained from my brain and fell to my toes within the space of a second in time. I shook my head, gathered my senses, and came to the obvious conclusion: I had simply misunderstood my lovely bride. With great composure, I said, "What?" And in response I got the same staggering "Mom wants you to help her get a computer so she can get on the Internet" utterance that I thought I had heard the first time. As those sixteen words sank in over the next minute or so, I felt the paradigm shift and I knew the world would never be the same.

So that you'll better understand the profundity of the situation, let me tell you just a little bit about my in-laws. They're great people. Intelligent. Successful. We get along great and they provided me with a great wife. They also care nothing about the realms of technology. Nice stuff? Sure. Gadgetry? Ha! DVD vs. VHS? Sorry, DVD, their VCRs aren't even HiFi, which means you're not even a close second to your cumbersome cousin. The bottom line is this: Cool pieces of technology are summarily unimportant in their household.

With the above firmly understood, it goes without saying that the whiz-bang of computers held zero appeal. That can mean only one thing. The allure of the Internet has totally transcended its "tech appeal" factor and is now being viewed as a household item. Now before you start screaming at me about how one household does not qualify as a representative sample, let me say this in my defense: You're wrong. When the allure of the Internet reached into this household, the game changed. The plethora of dot-com commercials has worked, and the Internet now appeals to the masses who care absolutely nothing about the technology behind it, period. I'd bet my bottom dollar on it.

If I'm right, what does it mean? What inferences can be drawn from the fact that the high-tech worldwide toy that used to be our exclusive domain (no pun intended) as tech-weenies is now being essentially viewed in the same light as cable TV and other common household items? I view it as victory -- and challenge. Victory because all the many thousands involved in building the Internet have crafted a project that surely exceeds the wildest expectations of those involved. And challenge because there's a ton of work left to do in all phases of the game if the Internet is to retain its appeal to us while becoming even more useful to my mother-in-law.

The work will, of course, never end. There will forever be room for improvement, but that shouldn't stop us from putting together a wish list for the immediate future of the game. Everyone can form their own list of things they'd love to see, but here are a few of my personal daydreams for things Internet:

Expand the capacity of the pipeline with broadband access everywhere. In my area, ISDN is as good as it gets, and it's not good enough. I want to see pure speed on my 20" LCD flat panel that I bought for $599.

Give me wireless toys with real Internet functionality. I want to check my e-mail and browse the web via the high-resolution color screen on my cell phone as I'm tooling through the countryside in the middle of nowhere.

Enact a permanent prohibition on Internet sales taxes. Any politicians who vote otherwise would be exiled to the space station Mir for the duration of their natural lives. Give new meaning to the Blue Screen of Death by putting Microsoft in charge of needed repairs to Mir life support systems.

Make it possible for me to live the rest of my natural life without having to set foot inside Wal-Mart.

There are other things I'd love to see, but you get the picture: now that the Internet has officially arrived as a part of our culture, I want a wide open Internet that pleases you, me, Joe, and my mother-in-law. Here's the kicker; I don't believe the full potential of the Internet will ever be realized unless open source is an integral part. I think the Microsoft model is approaching a dead end. Don't misunderstand; I don't think Microsoft is going away. They're just too big and too strong. But I also don't think the exponential growth of the computer world can continue with their current band-aid covered system leading the way. Between 3.11 and the very latest version, I honestly have seen no substantive improvement in the reliability and stability that the Windows platform affords me. Does Microsoft really not care? Or is the platform simply maxed out?

If the latter is true, it's a given that Microsoft won't go away quietly into the night. Will they develop something better from scratch? Or might we soon see something called MS-Linux? Good grief, what a thought.

Jerry Hatchett is a 40-year-old entrepreneur who loves the online world and the technology that drives it. He believes that Linux is a key component in the future of that world, and enjoys sharing his meandering thoughts in support of the community that made and makes Linux possible.





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