The Shrinking World is Getting Smaller
Well it used to be whenever I traveled to see family by train I would be cut off from the outside world. In fact, before the days of cell phones I was truly cut off, praying that the train wasn’t too late and I didn’t miss my ride home from the station. Of course being cut off from the rest of the world isn’t always a bad thing, there is plenty of time to think, read the paper, read a book, or just relax. It was really a great pleasure taking the train and traveling, having no way to connect to the outside world, it was almost like a three-hour vacation from my life.
Then I got my first cell phone, I wasn’t truly cut off, now I could easily call someone if the train was running late, or worse, if I totally missed my train and had to catch another. But the connection wasn’t that strong. I couldn’t check e-mail, or surf the web. I didn’t have a laptop so there was still very little to do. In fact, with my first cell phone I didn’t even have text messaging, so it really was just a phone. Things were still good, for the most part you were pretty cut off and could read the paper, read a book, and just relax, yet there was almost a safety net in place to help make sure I didn’t miss my ride home from the station.
The next big jump in technology was getting a laptop. While there wasn’t any technical connection to the outside world through e-mail and connecting to the world-wide-web, I was now able to take my work with me. Projects that needed my attention could be worked on while I traveled, spreadsheets could be manipulated (I do have an odd infatuation with spreadsheets), reports could be written, and rewritten, and pretty much anything that didn’t need an internet connection could be worked on. Of course, by this time I had a cell phone that could text message as well, so all of the sudden the wall between the outside world was starting to crumble. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that the time devoted to reading a book, reading the paper, or simply relaxing is starting to dwindle.
Fast forward a couple of years to the age of the SmartPhone. With the Droid (Yes, I’m the one at Accella that bucks the trend and doesn’t have an iPhone), tethering to gain a web connection is really rather simple through PDA.net. Not to mention that many of the stations along Amtrak’s NE Corridor now have free WiFi available. (The high-speed Acela trains also offer free WiFi, I just find it kind of ridiculous to spend $180 on a train ticket that gets me to my destination 30 minutes quicker.) But I’ve been on the train for about an hour now, and the connection hasn’t dropped once, while it’s not the high speed connection that everyone is used to with DSL or a cable modem, it’s still a lot faster than the old days of dial-up modems with that horrible crashing sound upon start up. Although, every now and then you run across that sound and it kind of makes remember the good old days of dial-up modems and 3.5″ floppy drives. (For those of you that haven’t reached the legal age to drink yet, take a look at this and you’ll see what everyone used to work with.)
With all this new technology, and being able to connect to the web from virtually anywhere with cell service, it changes the way people are able to disconnect from the rest of the world and relax for a while. Unless of course, the Power Button gets turned off.