Life as we know it, without the Internet

Friday, August 17, 2012

When I was growing up on the Killough Valley farm in the Ozarks over yonder, we didn't have electricity until I was 8 years old, and we didn't have a telephone or indoor plumbing before I left home for college and marriage.

We did have a radio, but being nestled in a valley limits your reception options. So we listened to the station in Poplar Bluff, mostly for livestock market reports.

When we got our first TV set during my sophomore year of high school, the only station we could get was KFVS in Cape Girardeau. I thought TV and CBS were synonymous until I left home and discovered my world had tripled with two more networks.

As the telephone company -- there was only one at the time -- came out with new styles and colors of phones and introduced push-button dialing, we dug our feet deeper and deeper in the mud by insisting on a plain black phone with a rotary dial. There was no extra charge for such a phone, which remained the property of the phone company.

Eventually we upgraded to push buttons and more stylish models and colors of phones, but these changes came slowly.

You can imagine how we handled cable TV and, eventually, computers and the Internet. Actually, our sons pretty much grew up with computers, starting with the Commodore 64 before there were any programs. You had to write your own. The boys grasped this. Their parents did not.

Even though many would consider our Luddite approach to technology to be grimly humorous, we have embraced the Internet and email. When younger son gave me an iPad last year, I wondered if I would ever use it. By the end of the first day I was hooked. Since then it has been something of an appendage to my body.

Then we decided to give up our telephone landline, like millions of others who are comfortable with cellphones. We upgraded our cellphones. In the process of switching, our Internet service was cut off. So from Monday of last week to the following Saturday, we had no Internet access.

I remember stopping smoking cold turkey 45 years ago, going from two packs a day to zero. Going without Internet was far, far worse. I had to face the fact that I have become technology- dependent. I had not realized to what degree.

Now that we have been without a landline for nearly two weeks, we are wondering if we should get it back. The incredible hassles we have encountered in weaning ourselves from a landline, losing the Internet, getting it restored, finding our email accounts couldn't be easily accessed and on and on and on make us wonder if we dare try to get the landline back.

The good news, I hope, is that you are reading this column, which means I was able to use my computer to write it and my email account to send it to the newspaper.

Which is better than driving to McDonald's early Saturday morning to use the Wi-Fi there to see if the Ste. Genevieve Jour de Fete was going on last weekend. It was.

Our brave, new world has changed our lives, sometimes in ways we don't even recognize. When the pressure of technological malfunctions build up to a certain point, I'd like to be able to call the telephone company and demand a plain black phone, rotary dial and all.

Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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