too much choice …

A long time ago, when disk was measured in Meg not Gig or Terra and we still communicated at 100Baud, there was a phrase common among programmers along the lines of “I love standards, there are so many to choose from” … the laugh being, of course, that there were literally hundreds of “standard” software systems all very slightly different – you basically wrotye whatever you liked then looked around for a standrd to fit into 😉

More recently I thought the same about loyalty schemes; I love them, I can be loyal to so many competing companies all at once!

Now, I think, I want to apply the philosophy to communication. As a very young person there was basically talking …. we wrote letters when forced (I went to boarding school so this was weekly!) and sent them second class, sent telegrams when something trully major happened and used the phone when we felt particularly rich and the other people on the party line were inactive. That was it. My phone number was STR6645 and my address didn’t have a postcode (though being a Londoner I was SW17).

Phones became more common and cheaper, letters and cards were still fast and fairly cheap, talking was the order of the day, telex came and went, fax was commonplace and telegrams less so …  and so we moved on … until, for me, 1984 when all of a sudden I was on email! I could only email certain people, of course, Compuserver, AOL, Janet, ArpaNet and other netweorsk did not cross-communicate. I was working in Oxford on a project wiuth people in Illinois … so every day I’d go to the teletype (yes really!), click on the modem and log in to Oxford University Computing Service so that I could go out on Janet to Goonhilly, where I’d get myself a transatlantic connection and finally login to my account at Argonne National Laboratory … sometimes I’d get as many as 3 emails a day though usually one was spam.

Our parents had been pretty good at keeping costly communication short. Telegrams were charged by the word so you never wasted any. We weren’t charged by the word but when communication is at 110Baud and storage is limited to a small number of kilobytes you don’t waste characters at all! Smilies come from this period 😉 As do many of the abbreviation techniques normally associated with mobile phone texting (which is thousands of times faster than a teletype).

Anyway, things got better and better and now, I fear, that they have got worse and worse … back to the original philosophy; What we need is a killer communication system to pull together all the killer communication systems we have! I find myself using email, mobile phone (voice, SMS, MMS, mail, skype, msn, facebook), landline, skype, twitter, msn, blog, facebook … the list seems endless. What I do less is talk and write … chop of my hands and I’d be dumb!

Once when asked my contact details it would have taken less than a single tweet to say it all, now … gosh, I have way too many means of communication (and there’s many I simply refuse to sign up to!), so many in fact that I often forget to check them … I have email accounts on free services, about a dozen servers and my phone …

Yep, I think we’ve had the bloat, now it is time for the cull!