Full Metal Internet
Look, despite my blog where I said iPhones were like bifocals and that I like getting under the hood and tinkering with technology, I'm not a geek. I can say that because I know geeks. I know guys who would rather sit at a keyboard all day than drink wine and chat up a beautiful woman. Given the choice, I'll take wine and women over bits and bytes any day. I even know how to talk to women, so there.
But just because I don't crave a faster computer and I haven't jail broken my Android phone, I still know way more than my neighbors. So when they called and asked if I could help out with their broken Internet connection, I said, sure, why not. Make some coffee and I'll be right over.
Turns out their teenaged son's friend tripped over the phone cord and ripped it out of the wall. Big feet and a lot of boyish energy should not be around the overly stretched phone cord, but then they couldn't play online games if they didn't drag the router over to the computer so they could plug in the Ethernet cable.
Cables… cables… I hardly use them anymore. I don't have a land line at home -- everyone calls me on my cell, so why bother? I can connect to the WiFi anywhere in the house, and I've even got things set up so I can get share files with my phone and laptop over the wireless. I tend to forget how much copper and steel is still involved in hooking up to the Internet.
Fixing their Internet took a screwdriver and some wire snips. I had to cut the wire, strip it, screw it back into the bracket on the wall. Then I had to give them a new phone cord (I've got plenty in a box in the basement, and I've got no phones…) There wasn't any glowing screen, clattering of keys and the hum of great electronic powers. It was purely mechanical -- wires and screws holding the Internet together.
I think part of the geek culture tries to hide how basic some of the technology is. Regular phone lines are called POTS lines, and you'd think that POTS was some really techie acronym, but it really stands for Plain Old Telephone Service. Really.
All those wires go up to boxes on the poles where they get clipped to other wires. You pretty much have one pair of wires going from your wall to the phone company. No Borg-like glowing green consoles on the poles, no whispering subprocessors. Just copper wires stretching a few miles to a big box.
And that's what most people's Internet runs on. If it's not the phone lines and DSL, it's a copper wire that carries your TV signal. For all the talk of fiber optics and data as pulses of light, most of it isn't really much more sophisticated than the wires Alexander Graham Bell cobbled together when he needed Watson.
So, yeah, I geeked out and fixed their Internet. But I could have fixed their kitchen drain with the same skills.