Post #858: Getting ready for a hard winter, part 2: Nerd nostalgia.

Posted on October 9, 2020

T o     c o n s e r v e     i n t e r n e t      b a n d w i d t h,   I    a m     t y p i n g     t h i s   v e r y     s l o w l y.

P l e a s e   d o   y o u r   p a r t,  a n d   r e a d   i t   s l o w l y.

T h a n k    y o u.



Edit:  I take back what I said below about daytime network congestion.  Even in the dead of night, my internet speed is ridiculously slow.  Either Verizon is having some serious difficulties, my particular connection is having some problems, or Verizon has permanently throttled network speeds in this area for the time being.

We’re all getting used to rolling shortages, as the US adjusts to the new realities.  Once upon a time, it was toilet paper.  This week, it’s a shortage of beer cans.  And we can expect more as this pandemic wears on.

But I’ve always had an expectation that once they get the kinks worked out, these shortages would be one-time, temporary things.  So I didn’t really think we’d be returning to a shortage of local internet bandwidth. 

Back in March, my internet-connected TV begged me to turn it off (Post #554).  The plea from my TV was the result of extraordinarily slow internet speeds that occurred just after Fairfax County Public Schools shut down in-person learning at the end of the last school year.

My internet connection has been slow for at least the past couple of weeks.  This morning I hit (what I believe is) a new all-time low download speed of 0.9 megabits per second (Mbps).  (As verified by the AT&T internet speed test site.)  To the point where writing new material for this website becomes tedious due to the time lags involved in refreshing pages.  Particularly if there are embedded images, which, you will note, are absent from this posting.

Just to put that in perspective, my current whiz-bang fiber-optic FIOS connection (modem) plus router setup is now less than 20 times faster than the 0.056 Mbps (56K) modem setup I used roughly 25 years ago.

Which is what inspired the first lines of this post.  Because, as hard as it is to believe in the modern era, back at the pre-internet dawn of home computing, the need to type slowly was a real thing.  At least at the low end of the market.  My first home computer (roughly 35 years ago) was a Commodore 64 with a 0.0003 Mbps (300 baud) modem.  I could literally text faster than my computer could transmit information over a phone-line-connected duplex modem.  If I typed flat-out, I’d overload the modem buffer, resulting in transmission of a stream of garbage characters.

Anyway, I’ll be time shifting my internet use for a while.  I assume the ultra-slow morning speed was due to the need for so many people to be engaged in remote work and remote learning.  (As the initial March slowdown appeared to be a result of remote learning demand).  So instead of getting up, reading the news, and pounding on a keyboard in the morning, I’ll be doing something else.  And doing any writing after COB.  My schedule for new postings (such as it is) will shift accordingly.

Which again reminds me of the bad old days of computing, and brings me to my final piece of nerd nostalgia.   Back in the day, the key shared computer resource wasn’t the fiber-optic network.  It was the mainframe.  Real computing required big iron.  As my job in that era involved manipulating large datasets, I often ended up running programs late at night.  That was due both to the large number of computer tapes that those datasets resided on, and to the lower nighttime rates for mainframe use, compare to daytime.  As a younger man, I spent many nights “working on the mainframe”, correcting run-time errors in whatever analysis I was running at the time.

I guess that won’t be materially different from my new schedule for internet use.  It’s just another pain-in-the-butt aspect of the pandemic that I don’t think anyone saw coming.  Makes my life a tiny bit harder, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s rounding error.