Category Archives: Technology

Yes Virginia, There Are Still People Using Dial-Up Internet Access

Several weeks ago a fellow on Facebook was seeking input on what local high-speed Internet ISP services were available, he was still using telephone dial-up. Almost instantly my eyes bugged out and my ears rang with the memories of 56K squealing as they strained to make a connection to AOL (America Online) or some other provider.

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The Not So Happy History Of Our Early Home Videos

Brownie 8mm movie camera.

Some of you may recall that at one time the only option we mortals had for home movies was an 8mm silent camera. Other than being the only option, the product sucked. All the neighborhood kids running round in blurry, grainy, flickering black and white globs of motion and dust.

Then came Super 8mm cameras and the quality became… I haven’t a clue. Other than costing more money I can’t say much more without Googling.

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Ham Radio is Still on the Air

When I was a very young child a railroad conductor gave my dad a copy of his QSL card to give to me. This is a special postcard that contains all the personal information about a licensed amateur radio operator, better known as a ham. It has his name, address, and most importantly, his call sign.

From the moment dad gave me this man’s QSL I became interested in international communications. The idea of listening to and maybe talking with people around the world fascinated me. The easiest and cheapest way to get started was by making your own crystal radio set out of some telephone wire and an oatmeal tube. The next step was saving your paper route money and buying a shortwave receiver kit from Allied Electronics in Chicago.

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Walls, Drugs, Drones and Folly

Yesterday I did a little Googling about using drones to get up and over border walls and I didn’t have to dig too far to learn that the technology exists to inexpensively smuggle large amounts of drugs into America via an air force of drones.

Drones vary widely in both price and payload. A few thousand dollars on Amazon will buy one a drone capable of carrying a payload of 12 kg. At an average street price of $200 a gram in the US a 12 kg cargo could be valued at as much as $2.4 million. For several thousand more one could buy a drone with a cargo capacity of 660 pounds. You do the math and don’t forget such a drone may be able to smuggle a couple of people over a wall.

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My First Cell Phone

These days just about everyone has a cell phone and almost everyone who has a cell phone has a smartphone. I don’t know when you purchased your first cell phone but I got mine sometime in the mid to late 1980s and it was a “bag phone.” I don’t recall the brand but I had to drive to Dayton to purchase it and it worked on the Cingular network. I did a lot of weekend traveling back then and thought it would make things safer for me. While I never had to use it to get me out of trouble I did have occasions to call 911 for others.

The battery, antenna, and the phone were stored in a bag and to charge it you plugged it into your car’s cigarette plug. Not very portable but you could throw its strap over your shoulder and you were free…until the battery wore down.

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I Want My Olympics

My earliest memories of the Olympics is watching news film of Jessie Owens in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I wasn’t born yet but sometime in my youth I learned about Owens and saw those films.

From there my memories pretty much jump to 1960 and more news footage of Cassius Clay winning the gold metal at the Rome Olympics.

Over my life the Olympics have become bigger, controversial, more inclusive, and more grandiose. Staging a modern Olympics has put more than one nation at the edge of bankruptcy.

There have always been things about TV’s coverage of the Olympics that have bothered me. If you enjoy a more obscure sport you’ll probably not find much attention given to it. That is such in my case since I’m especially fond of bicycle track racing.

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Dial-Up

dialup modemFACTOID: Only 3% of Americans still use dial-up for Internet access. Over 70% have access to broadband, much of that due to government spending during the Great Recession, while 15% don’t use the Internet at all.  Overall, however, Internet speeds in America are among some of the developed world’s slowest.

Cyber Life in Bad Fart, Ohio

I’ve written about this several times but once again I have to report that technology wise, life out here in Bad Fart, Ohio isn’t getting better. Internet speed remains dismal and given the ever-growing Amish-Mennonite community surrounding me, the future is grim.

We get Internet via Exede satellite and when all the stars are aligned we might see something north of 12 mbps, which is better than what we got with Hughesnet a couple of years ago. Typically we experience speeds closer to 5 mbps.  However, according to Fortune Magazine the average American has seen an increase of 42% in download speed in the past year and now experiences typical speeds of 55 mbps.

While 55 mbps is blazing compared to what I get it pales in comparison to the 120 mbps speeds some Americans experience. I’ve never been connected to the Internet at anything faster than 20 mbps which makes our normal 5 mbps appear akin to downloading with semaphore flags or tin cans and tight strings.

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