Monday, December 10, 2012

My, How Things Have Changed ...


Google's Gmail went down for a few minutes this morning. It may have been more than just Gmail -- my browser crashed several times in the space of pretty much the same few minutes or a little longer. I wouldn't normally connect the two, except that I run ChromeOS and pretty much everything I do is therefore routed through "the cloud" via Google in one way or another.

So anyway, yeah, I noticed. But in addition to noticing, I couldn't help notice something else ...

Apparently it is newsworthy when a popular Internet service goes down for ten minutes these days. But it wasn't always that way.

When I first "got on the Internet from home," the only option available in my area was America On Line. And it sort of went from "never heard of it" to "most popular thing since sliced bread" over a period of maybe 30 days at the time AOL introduced its "$19.95 unlimited plan" (before that, as an early adopter I paid something like $8.95 a month for 3 hours and an hourly fee thereafter -- my first monthly AOL bill came to about $80).

Since this was the dialup era, the introduction of "unlimited" meant strained modem pools and sometimes an hour of dialing to catch an open modem and actually get online. If I recall correctly, they also limited sessions to an hour during that period, until they could get loads of new modems and phone lines into action.

When the first local ISP debuted, I promptly abandoned AOL for it. And for about six months there, it wasn't terribly unusual for that ISP to suddenly go down for two or three hours, two or three times a week, with no explanation.

It wasn't until the early 2000s that I started seeing advertising language along the lines of "99% up-time guaranteed" and so forth. Stuff broke down now and then, and it was no big deal. Or at least not a big enough deal that a 10-minute period of not being able to check email got "newsworthy."

It's really only been a few years since we hit the era of "24/7 connection, everything must work all the time" expectations. Even if we call it a decade, that means the transition from "Internet ... whazzat?" to "can't live without it, even for a minute" was also only a decade or so.

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