Connecting With People through Computers
Back in the eighties, it wasn't that usual to have a modem in your computer, if you even had one. These days, there are different kinds of modems - cable modems, DSL modems, and dialup modems like I used to have.
Even though dialup modems seem incredibly slow these days, compared to "broadband" connections like DSL and cable, they are amazingly fast compared to the ones you could get back in the 80s.
I remember that when I got my first dialup modem for my first computer. Back then, most computers didn't even have modems; modems have been standard in most computers for years now, but are starting to get phased out because they're so out of date.
The dialup modems you get now, while much much slower than "broadband" (high speed) connections like DSL or cable, are incredibly fast compared to what you could get in the mid '80s.
Back then, the modem in my PC ran at "1200 baud" (as opposed to current dialup modems which are about 50 times faster). Some of my friends had 300 baud modems. They were so slow, that if I went to read an email online, I could actually read faster than the words would appear on the screen, letter by letter, line by line.
Later, when I shelled out over $200 for a whopping 2400 baud modem, I was amazed that the words appeared too fast to read!
Of course, it was still so slow by modern standards, that if I'd tried to download even a picture like you'd find on a website of today - even a very small picture - it could take hours.
And a dialup modem these days costs less than $20.
So times change. Especially when it comes to computers.
Of course, the great thing about that is all the cool stuff you can do now that would've seemed like science fiction back in the '80s.
But really, I think the best thing about the technology we have today is how it can bring people together. These days we think nothing of sending an email across the world and have it arrive in moments. Back in the '80s, it was possible to do that, but it was a lot harder to do, and much more expensive.
And of course most people hadn't even heard of email back then.
One of the best ways people can connect, either for business or with friends or family, is video chats. Video chats have been around for years, but only fairly recently have gotten good enough to be like the video phones on the old Jetsons cartoons.
I moved out to Hawaii in 2001, about five thousand miles from where I grew up, in Ithaca, NY. My parents still live there, and while my brother is a little closer, he's still a long way away in California.
One of the ways we keep in touch is with video chats - if you don't know what I'm talking about, you've probably been in an electronics store where they have a camcorder hooked up to a TV so people can wave at themselves when they come in.
With a good chat program, a good quality web cam, and a fast internet connection, the picture can look almost as good as that.
So it's about the next best thing to actually being with friends or family, when they're a long way away. It's almost like I get to visit with my parents, or hang out with my brother.
Plus in the winter, my parents can point the camera out the window and I can see the snow fall, and I can make them jealous by showing them my view of the sun shining off the deep blue sea.
It also doesn't cost a thing, so if you talk long distance a lot, it can really save a lot of money.
There are a lot of chat programs that let you do free video or audio chats (audio chats are like regular phone calls, and in some cases you can even call from your computer to a regular phone).
You can use programs such as AOL Instant Messenger, Skype, and Yahoo Messenger for audio and/or video chats. There are versions of these programs for both Mac and PC, but the majority of Mac users use iChat AV (which is what I use to talk to my family and friends), which comes on all Macs made in the last few years.
One of the best choices overall, in my opinion, is Skype. While I personally think the program is a bit of a "resource hog" (in other words, it can bog your computer down while it's running) it does let basically any type of computer -- Mac, Windows, or Linux) talk to each other without compatibility problems. Other programs either only work on one type of computer, or don't work as well between computer types.
Skype also has some other nice features, like "Skypeout" that lets you call regular phone numbers, not just other computers running Skype.
But the main thing is, computers give us amazing possibilities to connect with others, more quickly, easily, and inexpensively than ever before.
It's a pretty amazing time we live in.
Until next time, enjoy,