Ten years ago, the nascent Internet was good for email (if you knew anybody that had email) and searching the Library of Congress with gopher, but only for ISBN numbers. It was still some way off making any major impact on my life. The only discernable difference was that people at parties actually wanted to listen to me talk about it… how things have changed. Here are my top ten uses for the Internet in 2004.
In recent years, I have found that the Net is much more integrated into my life. Not that my life revolves around it – I do have a life – but the Internet crops up quite often all the same. The first bit of it that really excited me was a while after the World Wide Web had creaked into action. It was July 1995 when Amazon started its online bookshop, and it was an instant hit. I was ordering books left right and centre, and I still use Amazon regularly. Now it’s gone far beyond just a bookshop, although that’s still the first reason for me to go there. But it’s also an amazing resource for all kinds of information and pretty much anything the Post Office is allowed to ship. If you’re really interested in what else Amazon has to offer, try a book called Amazon Hacks – you can get it at Amazon, of course. It shows how to tap into the amazing database that runs Amazon and use it in some really interesting ways.
While Amazon has been around for what seems like forever, I have more-recent distractions. Since getting broadband, online gaming has moved to a new level – games such as Halo and Medal of Honor are amazing
to play online. Buying games now often means you get twice as much bang for your buck. First, you play the normal game. When you’ve honed your skills, you can test them out in the real (virtual) world.
Another aspect of the Internet that I use daily is iCal.
I rely heavily on it to keep me organized. I’m not naturally well organized, so I use any available tools to help me. By being able to view iCal from home, work or my iPod (using iSync), I never need to be lost and bewildered when it comes to appointments.
The Internet has also changed the way I watch TV.
I know Steve Jobs says you turn your brain on when you are at your computer, and turn it off to watch TV, but he hasn’t seen me playing Halo. When it comes to TV, I now record my favourite shows to my Mac using ElGato’s EyeTV. The really nifty thing is that I can program the recordings via the internet using www.tvtv.co.uk. No more fiddling with the remote, or more likely not bothering to record anything.
Not all my viewing is from the TV, though: I love to watch the latest movies on DVD. But making the trip to Blockbuster is too low-tech for me. I simply log on to www.qflicks.co.uk and rent from them. I always have three movies on hand, and as soon as I watch one, I send it back. A couple of days later, they send me the next movie on my list. It’s cheaper than getting Sky Movies, and you get to pick the latest blockbuster.
I’m a fairly recent convert to the joys of iChat AV. I’m still not convinced of its usefulness in business, but for keeping in touch with my wife, I wouldn’t be without it. When I go to the Macworld Expo in San Francisco, it very often conflicts with my wedding anniversary (13 years, thanks for asking). This year, the week apart was made very much easier thanks to iChat. The hotel phone bill was almost nothing – when it has tipped $1,000 in the past – and I got to see and chat to my wife every day. Just that week made the purchase of the cameras worthwhile.
It might be old fashioned, but the Internet is still good for browsing. I don’t really have the time to seek out amusing and amazing Web sites. Instead, I turn to www.fark.com, a one-stop-shop for the weird of the Web. Fark was started by Drew Curtis in 1997, though at first he just put up a picture of a squirrel, until he came up with a good idea for a Web site. It now hosts the best collection of interesting links to odd news stories, fun games, the best blogs, and its hugely popular Photoshop competitions. From a mere 50,000 hits in the whole of 1999, Fark got 350,000,000 hits last year.
My most recent conversion is to printing photographs online. Now that Apple has finally granted us Europeans access to book and photo printing from iPhoto. I love the speed and ease of use. It caters well for my lazy self: no more printing on the wrong side of the photo paper; no more wonky prints with uneven borders. You can read more about iPhoto printing on page 87 in the June issue of Macworld Magazine.
I’m sure the iTunes music store will be on the list later this year, but I already enjoy legal downloads of DRM audio. It isn’t music, though – it’s audio books from Audible.com. My iPod is never without the latest copy of Forbes, Harvard Business Review or some sci-fi nonsense, thanks to Audible.com. I know Apple will be selling audio books from the iTunes Music Store, but I’m going to stick with the original audio bookshop on the Internet. Also, all prices are in dollars so it’s cheaper than ever for those using the currently mighty pound sterling.
So that pretty much covers my top-ten innovations that are around thanks to the Internet. I think it’s clear that my life has been enhanced in many ways by the ingenuity of the people inspired by the ubiquitous network. What’s that you say – that was only nine innovations? Damn… OK, OK. Porn.