Come young ones, gather around the tribal elder and he will tell us of a dark, unenlightened age. I time when futility ruled the earth, and vast expanses separated people who could not instantaneously share thoughts, ideas or youtube videos to complete strangers – dark days indeed! Now before you conclude that I speak of some distant era like the 1980’s (insert extra sarcasm here), I’m actually talking about yesterday. No really – Yesterday!

For those readers who might not know, I travel pretty much weekly out to many different client locations. When I walk in the door each customer is like a new come out roll of the dice at the craps table, you never know if you’re going to “win” with good unfettered internet access or crap-out before the roll even starts.

Last week, a typical scenario played out in my line of work: a new customer installation of our corporate product. Very standard, should have been a very simple couple of days work. Ah but the dice don’t always fall in your favor, for the site I was to configure was completely offline. No internal network, no network infrastructure (DHCP, DNS, etc.), and worst of all no Internet.

My trembling hands recoiled in horror as the “Server not found” message in my browser hit me like an ice cold roll of snake eyes on far end of the green felt table. But collecting myself I knew not all was lost, I’m an IT professional, surely I can conduct my businesses without the internet. After all, everyone knows the internet is just for Bittorrenting music and viewing porn right?

So first I needed to apply patches to both the OS and Applications… oh, well guess not. Next I discovered I could not register/license the commercial software just installed, as there was no internet – now this was starting to get ridiculous! Also on the no can do list, Corporate Email, IMs to co-workers, my hosted CRM system – Holy crap, you can’t do anything without the net!

What was truly disturbing about this experience is the way it demonstrates how very dependent modern OSes and Applications have become on an ever present internet connection. Not only does it become inconvenient/impossible to complete an install, but you have to wonder just how much background conversation is going on between your system and software manufactures’. If you are not worried about the privacy issues, consider the possibility of maliware or viral infection!

So what was life like back before we had all these IM client’s, myspace pages, blogs and RSS feeds filling our screens and minds with information? No, no, don’t worry, I’m not going to make some argument for technological regression, some new Luddite movement, but I can remember sitting at a computer working free from these online distractions and one word comes to mind; Focused.

See “back in the day”, our computers could not manage multiple simultaneous programs. Forget about multi-core, multi-threaded environments, you did things linearly – word-processing or connecting to a BBS on your modem or playing a game, you did not do all these things at once. Both your PC and your mind where “focused” on a single task at any given time, when you completed that task, project or diversion you moved on to the next thing.

Alas, times change. And with our new faster computers and increasingly sophisticated software came the connection that would enable ADHD to spread like wildfire throughout society – The Internet. Which brings me back to the original question – how did we live before having an always on Net connect?

If you have pre-internet memories I’d love to here them – post away!