Farewell to dial-up

snail 1

This weekend, we bid a fond farewell to dial-up Internet. With the invaluable assistance of my cousin-in-law Jeff, we’ve swapped 28 kilobytes for 3 megabytes per second.

For years now, Jeff and my father have been scheming about ways to get high-speed access to Plummer’s Hollow. They didn’t think that the phone company, Verizon, would be laying fiber optic cables anytime soon. But last month, a telephone line repairman out on a service call informed us that they had indeed installed a local fiber optic network this past winter. It seemed a little odd that Verizon would go to all that trouble and expense and then neglect to inform eligible customers, but once contacted, they shipped the new DSL modem willingly enough. It only remained to wait for Heidi and Jeff’s next visit — fortunately already scheduled for Labor Day weekend — since we figured we wouldn’t be able to reconfigure on our own the wireless system that Jeff had set up for us between the two houses.

We were right. On Saturday morning, Jeff muttered and puttered around for a couple hours while the sorry remnants of Hurricane Ernesto kept us all indoors. Dad and I were on hand with what you might charitably call color commentary: advice, perhaps, but only of the fatuous kind offered up by the guys in the press box who couldn’t throw a pass to save their lives. It took Jeff a little while to figure out what he had done before and undo it, but suddenly there it was: the new version of Firefox downloading from the web in seconds rather than taking half an hour. “Gee, look at that, Paw!” To say we were stunned would be an understatement. After lunch, a couple more hours sufficed for Jeff to install a new wireless network.

snail 3

On Sunday, while Jeff and Heidi’s six-year-old daughter Morgan went off to explore in the woods with my mother, the laptops came out in the living room. That’s the funny thing about computers: since they tend to be less absorbing than books, somehow their use doesn’t preclude social interaction quite the way reading a book does. On the other hand, when my parents sit together in the evening reading newspapers and magazines, they also frequently share aloud from what they’re reading, so maybe there isn’t a huge difference.

Suddenly, Morgan was back, in a state of high excitement: “There’s a snail! We found a snail! You HAVE to get pictures!”

And so I did. This was a distinctly unsluggish woodland mollusc — a snail on speed. They had picked it up somewhere down along the road, and it emerged from its shell almost immediately and began exploring my mother’s hand. While I snapped pictures, it glided rapidly from finger to finger like a circus performer, switching to other hands as they were offered.

snail 4

Ironically, living out here in the boondocks far from cable TV, we now have a faster connection than many folks in town. Jeff explained that since we’re tapping into a node less than a mile from our houses in a rural farm valley with, presumably, fewer than a dozen other Internet users, we don’t have to compete for space on the cable. In his suburban neighborhood in New Jersey, by contrast, hundreds of people might be downloading files off the Internet at any one time.

Needless to say, this has left us all feeling a little breathless and barely able to believe our good fortune. But high-speed access probably isn’t going to change our lives. Like the snail, I’ll still remain fairly slow moving and low-energy by most people’s standards. I’ll still retreat into my shell from time to time. But I’ll relish being able to explore things like Flickr slideshows and Internet radio, and I’m already appreciating the ability to dispose of mundane tasks, such as reading and answering email, more quickly.

Best of all is the fact that I no longer have to keep my computer on all the time to avoid breaking the wireless connection between the houses, as was the case when it ran through the modem in my Dad’s computer. Now, I can turn the computer off before going to bed each night and wake up in a quiet house. More than anything else, it is that new access to silence that feels luxurious.

snail 6

Click here to see all six snail pictures. If you have favorite sites on the Internet that you think I’d enjoy, I’d love to hear about them. My tastes in music run to blues, jazz, roots/world music, and modern classical.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

21 Comments


  1. Excellent snail pix. How wonderful that s/he was so social, crawling around rather than hiding.

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  2. I don’t have any favorite sites to share, but I will say that how ever fast our connection is, I always want it faster. Waiting two seconds for a page to load now feels interminably long. Enjoy your new-found speed. It’s addictive.

    Beautiful snail.

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  3. Mein lieber Gott! You were running at 28K? You must have roundly cursed people with big picture-laden pages!

    In no time, though, you’ll be like my kids’ friends, who complain about things that take over sixty seconds in the microwave. “It takes, like, forever, man!”

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  4. Congratulations Dave. Now you’ll be able to see/hear my mini-movies (ok, they’re hardly ground-breaking):
    http:www.nataliedarbeloff.com/my-minimovies.html
    and any future multimedia stuff that may sprout on the Blaug. And there are loads of good audio-visual sites I can send you to. Will try to make a list -here’s one I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy (Strindberg & Helium):
    http://strindbergandhelium.com/

    The snail photos are amazing.

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  5. Nice snail photos! They make me want to find one to photograph. The contrast between snail and human skin is striking in the photos.

    I’m addicted to my DSL connection and can’t imagine hosting a blog without it. It’s one of my largest monthly bills, though, but DSL ranks right up there with electricity and water as necessary utilities.

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  6. Harry – Thanks! Those look (and sound) terrific! You always know where the cool stuff is. I must spend more time studying your links page.

    Lorianne -Yeah, this is only the second snail we’ve everfound like this. I’m wondering if it’s related to hormonal changes or something. On the other hand, most of the time the snails are down in the leaf litter, and if you don’t go hunting for them, you rarely encounter them. (One very good reason to go out exploring with children!)

    R.A. – I have a feeling you’re right, but I’ve been putting up with the previous speed ever since I started on the Internet – about ten years, I guess – so it’s gonna take me a while to forget what that was like and stop feeling grateful.

    dale – No cursing, but i did have to pick and choose which sites I visited very carefully.

    Natalie – Believe it or not, I have watched those Strindberg things before. Flash animation loads in less than five minutes, usually. I’ve also seen Joe Cartoon and Mark Fiore, for example. But not Natalie movies – thanks.

    Larry – As long as we all admit it IS an addiction! Glad you liked the photos.

    Brett – Thanks, I’ll definitely check it out. I would expect Austin to have a good music station!

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  7. Oh, you’ll be addicted in no time.

    The snail pictures are wonderful – and I also loved seeing a bit of your mother’s face.

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  8. you’ll be addicted in no time.
    No doubt.

    Thanks. I would’ve shown her whole face, but wasn’t sure she’d appreciate it. The hands in the last photo above belong to Morgan and Jeff.

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  9. Touching on what dale said: now you’ve joined the upper class, please remember what it was like on your slow dialup and think of those of us (ahem, me, in other words) still considering whether pigeons would be quicker.

    Thanks Dave. The photos nicely convey the textures and quality of movement of the snail, too.

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  10. Hurray for fast connections!

    Also, those snail pix exert a strange repulsion/attraction thing for me. I hate it when it’s slightly wet out here because the snails and slugs come out for their post-prandial walks and I have to avoid crunching on them. I hate that crunch-squish!

    The 1920s Radio Network is kinda fun. Big band and nostalgia with really odd political messages that sorta ruin it for me — ah, well, can’t have everything: http://www.whro.org/home/1920s/

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  11. Pete (I feel this stange urge to abbreviate your name as “php”) – Please, let me know if things ever get too slow for you around here! I’m surprised that you’re still in slow-modem land, considering the importance of images to your blogging, but I know what it’s like to put stuff out there that one can’t fully appreciate oneself (at least, not without quite a bit of patience).

    Ivy – Attraction/repulsion seems to have been my cousin Morgan’s reaction to holding the snail, but she eventually tried it with her father’s encouragement. The slime is actually just a thin film that quickly evaporates. I can see where stepping on them would be kind of gross, though.

    Thanks for the listening tip!

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  12. I am amazed you’ve done all this via 28K. You are going to have some fun! (Among other things, you can listen to my band now.)

    These are all lovely photos, Dave, perhaps especially the last. Your photography just keeps getting better.

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  13. Dave, I’ve been called worse names than ‘php’. (‘Pete’ is good).

    I do try to keep the photo file sizes small. It’s frustrating to have to post small pictures when a large photo is far more spectacular, but I remind myself that the primary purpose of posting them is so other people can see my world; I don’t want to discourage people from enjoying the site/sight.

    I agree with mb: your photos do seem to be reaching even higher standards.

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  14. Thanks, mb (and Pete), but I assure you that the appearance of photographic skill is purely a by-product of accident and good technology. I’m still unapologetically at the point-and-shoot stage.

    Pete, if we can get high-speed here in Plummer’s Hollow, I think there’s hope of the Pohangina Valley, too! But yeah, like you, I don’t want to write off all the folks on dial-up.

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  15. Amazing! Like others. I’m astounded that you’ve managed to feed those fabulous photos through dialup all this time. Well, enjoy, enjoy..!

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  16. Man, you can do a lot with a little! With that increase in horsepower, AOL-TimeWarner and some of these other gargantuan content-makers better check the rearview mirror.

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