Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Why I Love The Internet

It's all been said before, and by people far more clued-up and techno-geeky than me, but I LOVE THE INTERNET. Damn, but it's a boon to mankind. I speak as one to whom the phrase "knowledge is power" is not just a phrase but a way of life, and I literally cannot imagine how I used to live before I had this wealth of facts at my fingertips. I will give you but two of the million examples of this :
1) Recently, in France, on a fairly remote country road, my friend's car had a minor wobble. She has a Honda, and a small but doom-laden amber warning light started flashing on the dashboard. It was in some peculiar shape we couldn't work out (I thought all cars were idiot-proof these days???). Mr Fishwife, who fancies himself as Jeremy Clarkson (thankfully without the paunch and the perm), made all sorts of manly noises, but admitted defeat when all four of us decided the only shape it remotely resembled was maybe a gastro-intestinal tract, or a kohlrabi, neither of which play a huge part in the functionings of a Honda. THANK GOD FOR THE INTERNET - which she could access via her iPhone - where we found not only the Honda homepage (it was a warning light for "the engine", helpfully unspecific there) but also the phone number for her Honda Garage, who made reassuring noises and booked her in for a check-up when she got back. All we needed to know was that it was safe to keep driving the car with the dash warning still flashing, and lo we were duly reassured. And stopped for more ice cream rather than racing home before the kohlrabi exploded.
2) I had lunch a few days ago with my 95-year-old grandmother (not the dead alcoholic one, the living Swiss one) - I won't use the phrase "marvellous for her age", although she is, because what does that mean? Why is it surprising to be marvellous over a certain age? She forgets things a lot - but then when I think about it, she always has. And when I think about it, so do I. However, get her onto something that doesn't involve what she's doing next Tuesday week, and you're away. We had a long chat about the etymological derivation of the words "discreet" and "discrete", and then she said to me "What's the rest of that poem, you must know, it, something about "pense à Andromaque", or is it Andromache?" ... How sweet of her to have thought I must know it, which I didn't. So I Googled it. It's from "La Cygne", by Baudelaire. Which I printed out and am posting to her. God bless the internet.

Everything is there in fabulous cyberspace, it's just knowing how to find it - I couldn't for the life of me remember where the lyric "trying hard to recreate what had yet to be created" came from, and Googling a line of text is so much easier if you slap quotation marks around it, and was it worth the effort to find out it came from "What A Fool Believes" by crooning falsetto Santa-clone Michael MacDonald? Yes it was. Watching a film and can't remember what you've seen the tall girl in? Internet. That hotel you stayed in 5 years ago and can't remember the name? Internet. It'll never replace the dictionary for settling a potentially fatal Scrabble row, or Brewer's Phrase And Fable for the collective noun for crows, but it's up there in my pantheon of gods. I'm often thankful I only use it for reference, email and blogging, and not something more time-consuming like those vast online role-playing universes, but there's always time...

6 comments:

Steve said...

I really do think the internet is merely an electronically recorded version of everything that goes on in our heads as a species. Some of it useful. Some of it not. Most of it sex. The internet as best is like all the libaries of the world brought together. At worst it's every magazine from every crappy newsagent in the world compiled into one big anthology of misinformation. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is half the fun... ;-)

LucyFishwife said...

Steve, that is the best analogy I have heard in ages. Very true! And it does appeal to the librarian in me, the fact that it's all there as long as you learn the internet equivalent of the Dewey decimal system...

mantua maker said...

The internet can satisfy those of the train-spotting, Wisden-reading, information-accumlation tendency. When I got broadband set up, there was a muttering "Is this really necessary?" but he's quietened down since he found http://www.genealogie-mittelalter.de/

LucyFishwife said...

Oh ALL RIGHT then, Professor MM is a bigger geek than me. But it's a narrow field, and while he may be a specialist geek, I'm definitely a geek-of-all-trades.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

The internet is indeed a wonderful tool.

'Tool' being the operative word as like money, it can just as easily be used for dodgy-evil stuff as useful-positive stuff.

I couldn't imagine life without it either now, though sometimes mourn the things that have also been lost to it - such as a better/closer relationship with the real world etc!

LucyFishwife said...

The internet is like a kitchen knife - useful and also dangerous! A friend was pining over her ex and even at my low level of internet ability I managed to find out (just by Googling him!!)that he was addressing a conference, AND its date, time and venue. All available and unencrypted. How irresponsible is that?? Lucky for him neither of us is a stalker or he'd have had serious grounds for getting the rozzers involved.
Real life is great but since I have spent most of my life escaping from it with fiction, the internet hasn't really changed me much...