My name is Roger and I am a broadband addict

I'll have to resort to petty theft, or, even worse, PR work, to finance my habit
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The Independent Online

I glance at the clock ticking away in the corner of my iMac's screen. It reads 2.03am. I should really be in bed, sound asleep, I keep telling myself. But I can't go to bed. Not yet. Just one more click, one more website, one more download.

I glance at the clock ticking away in the corner of my iMac's screen. It reads 2.03am. I should really be in bed, sound asleep, I keep telling myself. But I can't go to bed. Not yet. Just one more click, one more website, one more download.

I haven't felt this way about the internet for a long time. Haven't really felt this way, in fact, since I first logged on in 1993. Back then, I'd sit hunched over my PowerBook 145 until late into the night, waiting and waiting for information to trickle down from the phone line through its state-of-the-art, yet altogether inadequate, 14400 modem.

From the moment I installed the free floppy discs I'd picked up during a trip to the States and connected to CompuServe for the first time, I knew I was hooked. Call it love at first byte.

It didn't matter that it took ages for that Associated Press photo from a previous night's baseball game to download and reveal itself, line by line, on the screen.

It didn't matter that, more often than not, the connection would be lost halfway through that download, and I'd have to start all over again. Or that my poor PowerBook would freeze up and have to be restarted. Willing little machine that it was, its 25Mhz (!) processor just wasn't up to the rigours of cyberspace, even when it was a much smaller place than it is now.

It didn't matter that my phone bill went through the roof. And it didn't even matter that my girlfriend was singularly unimpressed with the fact that I could tell her the temperature at Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix, Arizona. Or show her the latest weather satellite photo of northern Europe. Or that I could send and receive e-mail from people around the world (well, I could've done if I had known anybody else who had e-mail).

She'd just squint at me through the darkness and say, "Stop being such a nerd and come to bed."

It simply didn't matter. I was hooked.

Soon "to nerd" even became a verb in our house. "What are you doing?" she would call from the sitting-room. "I'm nerding," I would answer from my desk in the bedroom (a response which would inevitably be met with a groan from the sitting-room).

Eventually, I grew bored with CompuServe, with its walled garden of information and its strange, impersonal e-mail addresses (remember them? they went something like 12300404@compuserve. com) and signed up with a proper internet service provider, installed a piece of software called Mosaic on my laptop and I was hooked again. This time, though, on the pure stuff - which only made it worse.

I spent the next few years happily surfing the Net. Then it all started to go horribly wrong. I slowly grew weary of waiting and waiting for pages to download, not to mention paying my ISP and BT for the privilege of doing so.

A new Mac with a faster processor and modem helped a bit, but the benefits of forking out £1,400 on a new computer didn't last very long. The exponential growth of both websites and the number of people surfing to them had brought the Web to a grinding halt.

Thus I was forced to find better things to do with my spare time. And anyway, as I repeatedly told myself, I spent more than enough time on the Net at work, editing these pages.

So why, then, at 2am on a Wednesday night, am I sitting here hunched over my iMac, watching movies on Atom Films, while listening to a Chicago Bulls game on Realplayer, while checking out the latest comings and goings at Hillsborough on the official Sheffield Wednesday website, while searching for vintage Plimsouls MP3s on Napster (for research purposes only, honest, and I bought the albums years ago anyway, so the Recording Industry Association of America can get stuffed)? How could this ever have happened to me? A relatively mature adult, a professional internet user who really ought to know better?

As is so often the case in anything involving the internet in this country, I blame BT. If they hadn't sent that engineer around to my house (which, as it happens, is just a stone's throw from one of their telephone exchanges, damn them) to install an Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL), I'd never have become addicted to the Net again.

I wouldn't be sitting here like some lab monkey on coke, clicking links and watching the web pages explode on to the screen until the wee hours of the morning, night after night after night.

And my wife wouldn't be standing there in the doorway, squinting at my madman face illuminated by the glowing computer screen and pleading with me to "stop nerding and come to bed".

In true drug-pusher fashion, BT has given me "a taste" for free. But it's only a matter of time before they start getting heavy, demanding an exorbitant price. Then I'll probably have to resort to petty theft, or, even worse, to PR work, to finance my chronic broadband habit.

I realised that I needed help. So I turned to my friend Chris, who's been through the horrors of ADSL addiction and survived - not an easy thing to do when you live in Silicon Valley, where you can literally score a few megabytes of bandwidth on any street corner.

Chris calmly assured me that the thrill of having a broadband internet connection will eventually wear off, and my life will return to normal.

But I'm not quite sure that I believe him. The e-mail he sent to me containing that advice left his computer at 4.30am, Silicon Valley time.

So if a BT engineer knocks on your door, offering to get you hooked up to an ADSL connection, just say "no".

r.ridey@independent.co.uk

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