Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Big Bang

I seem to recall that "The Big Bang" was a term used back in the Thatcherite 80s for the Stock Exchange switchover to electronic trading. Preparations took ages and then the day of the big change came and a new age of digital trading was launched, leading to a world of stakeholder capitalism and endless joy (and recession and bank failings etc).
My Big Bang moment came last Wednesday. By then the new computer had been sat on my desk for a couple of weeks: waiting. The main sticking point was getting on-line and getting Vista to work with my Virgin Cable modem. At first those nice people at Virgin suggested that I might need a new installation disk and then they thought I might need a new Ethernet cable. And then they thought that I might need a new modem. Just before ordering one I decided to try the good, old-fashioned gravity test (i.e. dropping the modem from a moderate height onto a hard surface) and this resulted in all the necessary lights flashing and an internet connection being established. It was all a little too easy, a trifle too unsophisticated. 
It didn't used to be like this. I remember the first on-line connection I ever made, long before the days of the Web. It used a system called Prestel which was operated by the GPO. Back in those days you had to pay a fee for every page viewed which resulted in you being somewhat more circumspect in your surfing. Some years later saw the beginnings of e-mails and downloading and setting-up e-mail client programmes from all over the place. And then came the web and the gradual growth in sophistication. But even with their plug-and-play sophistication I expected some set-up routine, some requirement for passwords, usernames, applets and gadgets.
But no, all I needed to do was to drop the modem onto a hard surface and off we went. My Google sidebar came to life telling me that it was cloudy in California. The Big Bang had banged.

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