Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Understanding the fundamentals of the internet is for an old fogey like me no mean task. When I first began to hear about the internet many years ago (was it back in the 1980s?) it surfaced in the context of “internet servers” which still means very little to me. If, for example, I were asked to explain the concept to a ten year-old child I would be taxed. All I knew at that time was that there was money in being an internet server and there were a number of parties competing to be the one to do so. My involvement was through young entrepreneurs (since labeled as “geeks” or “nerds”) who were intelligent but obsessive enthusiasts having special knowledge in this rapidly developing world and who apparently had proprietary interests which they were willing to sell to others. It was not uncommon to hear in the early days that the internet was the up and coming thing, that eventually everything would be done on the internet, even though people like me really hadn’t a clue what it was or how you would do it. Descriptions such as “cyber highway” did little to improve my intelligence on the subject.
Flash forward two decades. Today I received an email from a chap who described himself as a senior account manager for a company which was the “upstream provider” for hosting my little website. Interestingly, this chap (whom of course I did not know from Adam) took the liberty of addressing me by my first name (at least he didn’t use my two initials and full Christian name), and he made it very clear he wanted me to make “payment arrangement” for monthly or annual charges. When I telephoned this senior account manager to discuss the subject, he kindly and patiently explained that his company provided me with the ability to have a web site presence on the internet, similar to the way Bell Canada enables my telephone to work. He did of course throw in expressions like “html” and other such terminology until I told him I could say “post hoc propter ergo hoc” to him, then it would be certain that neither of us had a clue what the other was saying.

I suppose the argument can be made that the internet is like an automobile or any other useful device in that one needn’t understand how it works, just that one can make it work. There is no doubt that I am as fond as the next person of on-line banking, Google maps, on-line research and web-based software, even though I haven’t the foggiest idea how it all works. What likely disturbed me when I received the email today from the senior account manager was that it reminded me there is yet another “utility” which wants my credit card number for monthly deductions. When I consider the size of my “utility” file it is quite astounding and withering. I am paying monthly bills for telephone (office and home), Hi-Speed internet connection (office and home), cellular telephone, cable television, heat (office and home), hydro (office and home) and water (office and home). Yikes! I had better hope I never have to live in the wilderness. Come to think of it, that might not be such a bad idea!

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