Old and new technology

16 11 2009

So today is a landmark of sorts: I got rid of my landline, after having had it for nearly nine years at this location. I hardly ever use the phone, and I was spending $47 per month (including tax) on my landline and a nearly equivalent amount on my cellphone, which I decided was a waste of money. Since I can take my cellphone with me wherever I go, I went with it.

When I called the Bell service centre to cancel my phone, I was expecting their representative to try to talk me out of it, and I was not disappointed. The tactic he used was this: if you call 911 from a landline, your location is automatically detected. From a cellphone (apparently), this doesn’t happen – so what would I do if an emergency happened, I was choking and unable to speak, and I needed emergency services? I worried for a second, but realized: if I couldn’t speak and therefore wasn’t able to breathe, even if they could figure out where I was, I’d likely be dead by the time the emergency response team made it to my apartment building, waited for an elevator to arrive, and then waited still further for the elevator to travel up to my floor. I decided that I wasn’t living life too far out on the edge if I took the risk of doing without that service.

I think I have mentioned this before, but I am constantly amazed by how cheap disk space is these days. I wanted a new external hard drive, and found one for a little over $200, including tax, that offered 1.8 terabytes of space. (A terabyte is 1000 gigabytes or a million megabytes, if you’re having trouble keeping track of metric prefixes.) That is a mind-boggling amount of space: all of my photos, music and videos, put together, take up just over half of it.

When I was in grad school – a little over twenty years ago now – I needed six milk crates to store my music collection, and my computer – an Atari 1040ST – had no hard drive at all. All of its software was stored on external 1.44 MB floppy disks, which were loaded into disk drives as needed. I recall feeling like I was living a luxurious life because my computer had two floppy drives. Now, all my music fits on a piece of plastic that is smaller than a deck of cards, and all of everything digital fits in a box that is smaller than a large textbook. I like this, but I’m still not quite used to it.

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One response

18 11 2009
Lone Primate

I love all these old references. 🙂 I never actually acquired the milk crate habit myself, but I have friends who did. I just arrayed my albums in the space for them in the stereo stand.

What I love is the ref to the 1040ST. I had a 520ST myself. (Weren’t they fantastic? I timed mine once and from turning it on to starting 1ST Word to beginning to write was just 13 seconds… try that with Windows and Word even nowadays) I used it through the latter half of high school, all through university, and into college. What I loved was when I got a second drive for it for my birthday or Christmas or something… the original drive was single-sided, so it only managed 700kb and change. I don’t think I’ve taken a photograph in seven years that would have fit on the disks it handled, but word processors, art programs, and games all had to fit on those things with room to spare. The code those guys were writing back then was tight. That computer had no hard drive whatsoever. It was all floppies and the OS in ROM.

Now I’ve got three external drives, 2.5TB altogether, just for managing the photography. It’s hard to imagine… even the smallest of them is nearly 1200 times bigger than the first HDD I ever owned, and that was only 15 years ago.

It was funny reading this for another reason, though. I’m on the verge of getting rid of my traditional land line and going with VOIP. Well, I’m just shy of committing to it. But all those “what ifs” are gnawing at me, too. 🙂

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