When I first started writing my column way back in 1998 things were very different in terms of computer technology. Today I am in my 30s so back then I thought of myself as up to date with computer development. When I think about it today it dawns on me that so much has happened over a short period of time.
My first columns and stories were sent out to newspapers by fax. I kept this up for a couple of years and then people in the media urged me to consider going on the internet and sending emails rather than faxes. That was back in the days of dial up and it seemed sometimes like it took forever to send and download messages. If I wanted to send along a photo with a story it was necessary to mail a package to the media. At times I could not even connect to the internet. I still recall that nasty buzzing sound when the computer had to connect to the internet. It was necessary to tell everyone in the house not to use the phone. That created problems at times. Often people would be trying to call in on the phone line and my computer use would be tying up the connection.
However, this basic dial up was much better than using the old faxing method which required me to type out my column, set up the fax machine, send the document to the right fax number and then follow up with a phone call to see if it arrived properly. It was more time consuming and not very exact as many times there were problems faxing.
The household struggled with dial up for a few years and I tried my best to schedule my use for the evening when it was more convenient for others at home. Then came a breakthrough. I realized that suddenly there was something called medium and high speed internet with a dedicated connection. That was such a move forward for me. I decided on high speed right away even though it was a little more expensive. I was amazed that now I could write my column and other articles and send them right away very quickly without having to worry about disturbing anyone's use of the phone in the house. It also meant I could download internet content such as website in a flash which really helped with my research. A nice bonus was that now I could download pictures quickly and also send photos with my stories to newspapers. That was very difficult and time consuming on dial up.
I watched as First Nation publications developed quickly to adapt to this new computer technology and suddenly most Aboriginal newspapers across the country were on line and they also had websites. They went from being print only to on line electronic publishing that could reach a world wide audience. I could also see the development in my home community of Attawapiskat as people quickly picked up on this new internet technology and soon there was a computer on line in almost every home. For years they have had to struggle with slow and on again off again intermediate shared connections that proved difficult to use. Today, the good news is that Attawapiskat will be getting direct high speed internet connections to every household through a newly built fibre optic line.
Finally all my family and friends will have access to the world wide web on a high speed and dependable service. I see the results in the last few years with all kinds of blogs, postings and websites that are being produced by young First Nation people back in my community. This new window to the world means freedom for First Nation youth in remote communities. The world is certainly getting smaller and the younger people do not feel as isolated as the generation before them.
There are all kinds of pros and cons to easy access to the world wide web. The downside has to do mainly with the fact that younger people are sitting too long at computers and not getting enough exercise. My people have a real problem with diabetes and the lack of exercise contributes to that. I struggle with that situation on an on going basis as I have to work on the computer for hours a day because that his how I make my living. Another problem is one that people don't think about much. Everyone is actively using facebook, myspace and other social networking sites where they are broadcasting their daily lives to the entire world. In many ways that is interesting but depending on what you are saying about yourself or others it can become a problem as these are quickly becoming vast gossip sites. It is necessary to understand that whatever you put on the internet is a recorded history that can follow you for the rest of your life. Employers, the government and other agencies can refer to these sites and what you have written for all types of reasons.
However, I still consider the internet a real boost to communication that should allow for better sharing and understanding among people and cultures from all over the world. Right now the internet is in its golden days and very wide open and free. Let's hope it stays that way because as I have pointed out, things change quickly in the world of computers.www.underthenorthernsky.com
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