Notes on Internet Access

Set the scene:

1996. I’m in sixth grade, which is still part of the old Naples Elementary School, the Department of Defense elementary in Naples, Italy. To make the transition to the upper school easier, the four sixth grade classes rotate collectively per subject. History, Language Arts, Math, Science are the four main classes. Each class also rotates through one of the following at any given time: Art, Gym, Music, and Italian.

A fifteen minute oral presentation on a topic of the student’ choice was part of the language arts curriculum that year. Fifteen minutes was the longest I had ever been required to speak in front of a group of people to that point, to ultimately be outdone by the hour long talk I had to give on the Viennese Succession for a graduate level modern architecture history class.

Naturally, I opted to speak about ballet for fifteen minutes. Until I was halfway through high school, I was convinced that I wanted to be a ballerina, no shame, that is until my height became a thing. But what was more fascinating than my then-obsession ballet, was the topic which the student whose last name was alphabetically ordered immediately prior to my own.

In 1996 when I was reporting on ballet and classmates were reporting on their respective hobbies, one of my classmates, Sendhil, reported on the “world wide web.” At this point in time, my family had lived in Italy for nearly three years. We did not have a computer in 1993, when we were packing up for life in Europe, so we certainly did not have a home computer three years into my father’s assignment in 1996. The most exposure I had to a PC was during computer lab units. This is to say that everything my classmate was saying was going over my head.

My twelve year old mind actually thought, “this World Wide Web thing is never going to catch on.”

Cut to January 2022. I was home with the Pamper Pirate while my husband was at the office. I started having connectivity issues with our internet, reset it, and was immediately distracted by my son. Later my husband returned home to share that riots broke out in Almaty, Kazakhstan due to the (pre-Russia invading Ukraine, mind you) price increase of gasoline. The government cut the internet, country-wide, in order to thwart riot organization.

After a few days of being cut off, the government allowed Kazakhstan to access internet for one hour from eleven to midnight. These minutes were when I would catch up with the team back on the east coast and save any new and updated documents to my desktop.

Sendhil was right. The world wide web would be the way of the future and no, little Lu, it is not just a blip. That sassy preteen would be blown away by the fact that she would eventually be able to keep her beloved job while working remotely, halfway around the world, for two years, thanks to a digital tool that Sendhil extolled nearly thirty years ago.

However, while I didn’t appreciate having to stay up late in order to connect with the east coast and gain access to new information in the name of employment, I think there is something to be said with a period of internet outage. It was easier for me to concentrate once I did have my work documents saved locally, not to mention sleep without being tethered to a device with access to all of the answers in the world. Maybe a six hour block of internet outage a day? What would you do with that time? Food for thought…

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