The Need for Data Speed: A Bizarre and Unexpected Trip to the Past

Jim Machi : Industry Insight
Jim Machi

The Need for Data Speed: A Bizarre and Unexpected Trip to the Past

Last month, I was in Hong Kong for business. From an internet access perspective, I was expecting great things since Hong Kong has been a leader with internet access over the years. However; it turned out to be one of the worst internet connectivity experiences I’ve had in a hotel since the broadband era emerged. The hotel literally was at dial-up speeds for me. And if there are readers young enough to NOT understand what that means, it means if you have a software byte monitor, you can actually count the bytes being transferred as they go to and from your computer. So it’s SLOOOOOOOOOOOOOW.

Back in the dial-up days, you would actually plan your activities around the access. You would start the access the minute you got into your room, or even when you got home. And if you were with a group of people on a trip, time was of the essence since you needed to make sure you got one of the PBX ports for the dial-up. You had to beat them to it by getting to your room first and then dialing out! You would also start access once you returned to the room from a day of meetings, and then go to dinner as the access happened. If you were lucky, it was done when you returned (and even luckier if your laptop was still there!) Or if you didn’t get one of the PBX ports, you needed to get up in the middle of the night to claim one. Or you’d start the access when you woke up in the morning and hope it was done by the time you were ready to leave the room.  No matter what, you really had to plan around the access. Back then it was just how it was done.

In this day and age, this is not expected at all, even though sending massive megabit files is the norm. Someone sent me a 50MB file in the middle of the hotel mess I was in. It was totally wrecking my schedules. It wrecked one of my evenings and sleep.  

In the end, I was adaptable to all this. I had 3 different access devices with me on this trip, which I put to work as specialized function devices. I used my laptop as the main email access device. I also had an iPad connected via WiFi which I used to send responses. And I used the Blackberry on the 3G connection as a triage device. I ended up setting up the laptop to sync up only on inbound emails since I didn’t want it syncing with deleted files. Then I checked my Blackberry. If I saw a large attachment, I deleted the email on the Blackberry. I waited a few minutes and then started the syncing on the laptop. (Once I got to a better internet connection, I remembered to go back to retrieve these emails onto the inbox on the laptop).  This way the file wouldn’t download to the laptop either for inbound email or deleted email syncing. 

I was finally able to figure out a system to work this out, but even this system took time and for three days, it was a little ridiculous in the hotel. I had to go back to “planning” access. And mostly I remembered what it used to be like and how far we’ve come. 

But one thing won’t change – back in the day you remembered which hotels took your dial-up codes and the “wait” spaces you put in there for your company’s email server.  And you went back to those hotels and didn’t go back to the hotels that didn’t work so well. And so I won’t be returning to this hotel. This was a nice exercise but there is no reason to yearn for the past…

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