Thursday, 10 July 2014

The internet continues to amaze

For years the internet has been amazing, and continues to amaze.
When I was first introduced to Compuserve over a hacked retail till modem running at 14.4kbs I struggled to comprehend what I was seeing. When, back in 1994, I was told "just type in whatever you're looking for", in my naivete, I didn't think to enter "tits" or "porn" - I just put "carrot soup". From memory there were about 36,000 results. My brain hurt. In 1994 the internet was amazing.

Years later, as I wrote entire DMS systems in HTML and Javascript (long before it was cool to call Activex objects AJAX) I was blown away by how anyone could not only contribute to the internet (not just the world wide web), but build massive, complex systems on it. In 1999 the internet was amazing.

Seeing those fantastic, simple animations and tiny file sizes when Flash hit the 'net was pretty amazing too - then it became a fully-fledged web publishing platform, for games, apps and even music and video online. It was all pretty amazing stuff -as was watching it all disappear again, as Web 2.0 rebooted the 'web - and almost every application became a browser-hosted application.

In short, the internet is pretty impressive. It was when it first came to public consciousness, and it still is today. More than anything, as well as being a massive repository of data and information, the internet has made interaction not just possible, but essential. Not stupid social media, and tw@tter updates, people showing photos of their morning breakfast toast-and-jam-(nom-nom), but being able to speak with people, literally from all over the world. Talking about anything. For any reason - sometimes for business, sometimes to buy, sometimes to sell, and sometimes just over a shared interest.

What amazes me more than anything about the internet are the people who use it. People who give up their time, expertise and experience - all for free. For no reward other than seeing a job well done. Lots of people use the internet to give things away: whether it's open source software, designs for the latest 3d printer, or - sometimes - something a little more personal.

I had one of my "isn't-the-internet-brilliant" moments last night, when I received an email from Martin (who runs He'd been reading this blog, seen we'd had problems laser cutting some design ideas, and rather than wait for the next painful installment of disappointment and broken laser tubes, he downloaded the designs and cut out some of our projects, so we could see the results straight away!

Without prompting, and for no reward (we had no idea he was doing it) Martin tried out one of our ideas and sent the results straight back. He even sent some comments and suggestions for possible improvement (yes, the tiles do look a little to far apart in the final cut!) and used different materials to demonstrate the different effects. And all because something had piqued his interest enough to want to contribute.

Our favourite has to be the (left-most) 0.8mm birch ply version: the tiles look about the right thickness (though the left-most 2mm mdf looks pretty good too, for a rough-built log cabin, say).

What was really amazing was that someone, somewhere, saw what we were doing and wanted to get involved. And just did.

Some days I really hate the internet.
I work with it every day. I build websites. I write complex software and use a mix of web- and non-web languages. I love the underlying technology, but some days I hate how it's abused. I hate adverts on just about every YouTube video. I hate that people allow them to be put on their videos (the person posting the videos can decide to turn them off if they want). I hate viruses and pirated software. And stupid in-jokes about cats, and massive video attachments in pointless emails, asking me to "share this".

And porn. Maybe it's considered weird - but I don't want porn on "my" internet. I want it to be a place of learning, shared interests, marvellous inventions and a community of people making everything better, one stepper-motor-driven device at a time!

But some days I really love the internet.
Thanks to Martin's email, today is one of those days.

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