Sunday, February 1, 2009

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

One thing I’ve learned since getting high-speed Internet service a few weeks ago is that I’m now able to waste vast amounts of time more efficiently and much faster than I could using a dial-up connection.

Another thing I learned is that making the switch from dial-up to cable isn’t comparable to, say, trading up from a 1947 Chevy to a Porsche 911 GT2, as I’d been led to believe; it’s more like trading up from a ’53 Chevy to an ’86 VW Scirrocco 16-valve, a car that falls far short of Porsche’s brute performance but which, nonetheless, is seriously capable of striking fear into the hearts of passengers when driven at or near its theoretical limits by a competent driver (and capable of striking even higher levels of fear into the hearts of passengers when driven by an incompetent one). But enough of this Internet access-as-car analogy.

20/20 hindsight once again brings into perfect focus the many downsides that always seem to accompany even the most benign of technological advances. For instance, YouTube videos never presented a problem before high-speed; at roughly 11 minutes of download time to gain one minute of play time, they simply weren’t worth the required time investment, and so I rarely engaged in watching them.

But now that video download times outpace playing times by a factor of three- or four-to-one, I can—and do—watch numerous videos every day. So, there’s no time-savings here. In fact, there’s a net time loss. Or should I say a ‘Net time loss?

Then, there are the many visits to the many Web sites I never frequented because they took too much time to load. Well, that’s not a problem now, either. For example, I gleefully spend hours on the Girl in Short-shorts blog because, since incorporating high-speed service into my game plan, the page—with its numerous delightful photos—loads in just under 20 seconds as opposed to . . . well, I don’t know, for sure; I never hung around longer than about ten minutes, which was scarcely enough time to download the photos to mid-page. But now, thanks to Comcast, that’s all in the ever-more-distant past.

Because the time required to access various other blogs and Web sites is now a fraction of what it formerly was, I access more various other blogs and Web sites more often—and spend more time on them—than ever before. But, I suppose, with high-speed Internet service, I can justify just about anything. What I can’t do is reconcile the advantages of a faster Internet connection with the lost productivity that came along with it.

If these “fer instances” prove anything, they prove that modern technology is not always a good thing, that technology, in solving one set of problems, quite often and unexpectedly delivers another.

And so, the bottom line is that nothing’s changed; things are the same way now as they’ve always been.

The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.