The Net

Every time I get frustrated with my Internet connection, I try to remember what it takes to get these random characters on my screen to their destination and back again. And how it use to be in the old days.

I started online in 1995. In those days we used AOL. You had to connect to AOL and wait for the screeeegge sound that told you were connecting to the web and finally the words “You Got Mail”. It often took 30 minutes to download your email before you could even read it, and surfing the web was hit and miss. This was well before high speed DSL when we had slow dial up. But we were so thrilled to have it. There were not a lot of videos, we just got excited to see images. This was well before You Tube, Facebook, Twitter and Google. We used a search engine called Dogpile. We eventually left AOL and moved up to Netscape, and it did feel like an upgrade. You couldn’t use the computer and telephone at the same time, until someone came up with the bright idea of a splitter phone jack. Finally we could use both at the same time.

These days, things are better and faster, but there are still problems. So many hands in the pot… from making sure everything in your computer works as it is suppose to, to needing an ISP (mine is Centurylink) and modem to get online, which then connects to a POP (point of presence, mine is MSN), which then connects to a browser (Google Chrome). After that you can connect to Facebook or your email account, if you have one independent from your basic POP account.. I use Gmail to store and read my email. 

All it takes is for one glitch to happen in any of those along the path to keep from getting from A to Z and that is frustrating. The most frustrating part is the troubleshooting to see where the problem is and sometimes that is easier said than done.

There is another part of the equation that most people know nothing about, and that’s the coding that goes into making everything come alive online. Everything you see is determined by a specific code of various characters that tell the computer what to do.

In 1999 I had two goals.. to start my own email group and to create my own webpage. I started learning how to do basic HTML coding to accomplish the latter. HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language. 

HTML codes are the string of letters you see in the URL on the top of every page you visit. But HTML does more than just URL’s.. they can determine colors, links to pictures and video, and other webpage items.

Most coding today is much more complex than the basic HTML that I learned, but it taught me how to read the source codes of most webpages. And all it takes to screw things up on a webpage is a missing character. And sometimes trying to find that missing character is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Technology is changing quickly these days. Right now most devices work off what is all G4 which started with LG Optimus G which began in 2012 for high speed smartphones. We are getting close to being upgraded to G5 which is incredibly faster. 

Long before that, Adobe created a program called Shockware Flash in 1996. It became widely popular and was used for everything from watching videos and listening to music to playing video games. Most of the Facebook games run on Flash. But the more it was used the more it opened itself up to problems including security issues.

In 2017, Adobe announced that it was no longer provide support for the Flash program as of December 2020. Which means any games or other programs that run on Flash may or may not work after that date and if you have problems using the program, Adobe won’t be able to help you.

Some gaming companies immediately started making plans to find a new platform to work from. Most gaming companies decided to not transfer their games from the old platform using Flash to a new platform and decided to just create new games on a new platform. 

Unfortunately, this leaves a lot of gamers feeling abandoned. But part of that problem is that most gamers, other than hard core gamers, don’t understand how their games work, much like they don’t understand how their car works. They play the games much the same way they drive their car… since you really don’t need to understand the mechanics to get the thing to work.

This takes us back two coding. It’s often not easy to get the coding of one platform to mesh with the coding of another one. It’s like trying to fit a square block of wood to fit in a round hole. The only way to make it fit is to cut off the corners of the wood block and smooth it down to a round block so that it does fit. But parts of the block are left behind in the process. This is why most game companies prefer to start over from the beginning rather than trying to change the coding of one program and risk loosing that one character to try to fit in the new platform.

Youtube made changes in 2015 and replaced Flash with a program called HTML5. 

With the advances in technology including the move to G5, we are going to see an explosion of new programs and platforms that we could never have imagined in back in 1995. Yes, we will lose some tried and true things that we’ve come to depend on and it’s going to be painful, but the future will bring some really exciting things to replace the things we are losing.

The only constant in life is change. 

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