FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Right time in history

It’s official, 2020 sucks. And friends, I don’t say “sucks” too often online. But if any year deserves that word and deserves it hard, it’s 2020. Here we are three quarters of the way through it and it’s just one gut punch after another. And let’s be honest, we all think the worst is yet to come.

But really, it could suck worse

We happen to live at a time where it’s easy to order practically anything from your home and have it delivered in a matter of days. Not only that, but we have the ability to communicate, over video, instantly. Those two facts have made it possible for each of us to live our lives with some semblance of normalcy. Imagine if we didn’t have that!

Just ten short years ago

A decade ago, that wasn’t very long ago. I think I still have socks that I bought in 2010. I certainly have home electronics that I’ve been using even longer than that. But ten short years ago, the live we live today would have been impossible. Think about it.

Yes, Amazon was here. So was Solid Signal. But the distribution centers weren’t. E-commerce sites have expanded greatly in the last decade, and it’s now pretty much a given that you’ll be able to get it online. Even small businesses have online lives now.

In 2010, Twitter and Facebook were still new on the national stage, and we communicated over e-mail if we communicated electronically. Yet, at that moment in time,  e-mail was terribly critically broken. Spam emails made up over 90% of all traffic. Not only that, most people only checked emails a few times a day. Phones were getting “smart,” but it was only in 2010 that the iPhone 4 came into the world, and the original Samsung Galaxy had been released in 2009.

The biggest difference was internet speed. In 2010 you were really doing well if you had 15Mbps service at home and 1Mbps on your phone. It was barely enough to stream high definition video at home, while even web browsing on the phone was a bit of a chore.

Something like we’re doing today, holding three or four video conferences in the same home at the same time, would have been impossible. The apps were just being invented, and most videoconference setups used dedicated hardware and blurry standard definition connections.

Look back further and…

If you really want to understand how different things were in the past, look back twenty-five years. That’s still not a huge amount of time for most people. If you were ten years old in 1995 you might think that was the dinosaur days. In many ways you’d be right.

Imagine, if you will, that the calamities of the day had happened in 1995. The spread of the problem would have been just as quick, because people traveled by air back then. People actually interacted in person more, because there were fewer other ways to do it.

Imagine if we needed to shop by looking through paper catalogs and sending order forms through the mail. Then, as many as six weeks later, your order would show up. Forget about getting your food delivered… that’s only been in the last few years unless you were in a major city.

Now consider if you had to work from home in 1995. Maybe you had a computer. A lot of us did. Maybe you had some way to connect to a primitive online service. By the mid-1990s, many folks were taking tentative steps toward America Online and other proto-online services. A few bold adventurers were moving out to the internet in general. But from homes, your option was a .05 megabit connection that would drop out if someone accidentally picked up the phone. Web browsing back then took a lot of patience.

So it’s bad but…

I think the lesson we’ve learned in 2020, if we didn’t know it before, is that it can always get worse. And yet, if you really think about it, it could have already been much much worse. Without the ability to stay connected in quarantine, without the ability to get our food and supplies with no contact, it could have been much much much worse. And without the constant flow of information, we wouldn’t even know how bad it was.

And that, my friends, that’s some food for thought. Delivered electronically, of course.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.