The dream of instant access

It is sometimes difficult to remember life without access to the Internet. In fact, it's now getting difficult even envisage the days of dialup connections, popular though they still are for most users. For over two-thirds of my life access to information meant hunting through the books on my bookshelf if I was lucky, but more likely waiting for our next trip to the library or hunting down the telephone number or mailing address of someone who might know the answer to a question. While there is still much information that is not publically available on the Internet, most online searches will at least give out the basic facts and provide pointers to further details.

We may not have been able to instantly satisfy our curiousity about the cast of a movie just watched or chat to strangers across the world, but we could certainly dream about it. Books such as David Brin's Earth and Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game described global networks with newsgroups and email. When I first read those books I was stuck out in a rural area where intelligent discourse just wasn't part of life and I desperately wanted access to such tools. Perhaps the solution would have been bulletin boards (BBS's). However, nobody I knew even owned a modem, let alone frequented such places.