Silly String

We love to complain about performance – it doesn’t really matter whether we’re talking about our work colleagues’ ability to pull their weight, the fact that our trains are incapable of running on time, our favourite sports team’s ability to produce any sort of of worthwhile result, or that whatever provider of any service we elect to put our trust in, everybody else seems to manage to choose a better one. The actual causes of our frustration will vary from person to person, but there is one particular area about which most of us will have had cause to complain about performance, sometimes justifiably, and that is – of course – SL.

The trouble is that when it comes to SL, we all have very different experiences and expectations – our own definition of good performance may be wildly different from that of another person, and there are so many variables affecting performance that it’s almost impossible to set any sort of benchmarks against which we can measure our own experience. When you consider the factors that can, and do, influence what we get, the futility of the task becomes apparent: Internet connection, ISP, cabling, network load and capacity are all factors that can drastically affect us, but are generally completely outside our control. Our own equipment – computer hardware, modem/router capability, applications, peripherals and settings are equally important. Once you start mixing and matching the various combinations of these things, the pool of potential issues grows exponentially and that’s without even considering how such things can interact with each other, or taking our own habits and expectations into account.

It’s not even enough to say get the best you can afford – a rule that works well for tools, beds, bondage equipment and knives – since that is necessarily dependent upon our budget, and even then may be ineffectual. The best computer in the world will be little use for SL if you have the worst internet connection in the world! You can’t put tractor tyres on a Ferrari and expect top notch performance.

However, I think things may be slowly improving, thanks in no small measure to the increasing capabilities of technology and the steady shift to a culture of mobile devices.

Broadband, in particular, can be surprisingly robust – only recently it was reported that engineers have successfully maintained a broadband connection over a length of wet string… Just for fun, which does go to show that sometimes technical integrity can be maintained over surprisingly sub-optimal circumstances. This is important, because the more connected we become, the more innovative technologies have to become in using whatever ‘infrastructure’ may currently exist – especially when we are demanding, more and more frequently, wireless rather than wired connections. Taking the string scenario a stage further, imagine fabric that can act as an interface between your PC, phone and smart watch, without all that tiresome mucking about with Bluetooth pairing? T-shirts you can stream music from? Silly maybe, but who really knows what the future holds?

And therein lies my hope – can we possibly look forward to a future when the computer simply becomes subsidiary to the other devices and connections in its ever-expanding network, able to divert processing power, capabilities and bandwidth from whatever else may be connected… T-shirt, toaster, car, phone, a spare coil of internet-enabled string? Far-fetched though that may seem, it’s no more so than a great many of the items we now think of as everyday and ordinary – items that work together seamlessly, without our intervention.

I’m firmly of the view that sometime, in the not so distant future, performance in terms of what we look for from the equipment we employ to access SL, will no longer be an issue: We’ll have bare-bones computers with little need of built-in hardware to manage graphics, sound or even Internet connections – instead, they’ll simply borrow that functionality from other connected devices better suited to managing those particular functions, wirelessly, effortlessly, and with little or no degraded capability.

SL, without lag, at top speed and on demand – how awesome would that be?

Best of all, it’ll finally put an end to the horror that is the wiring harness that completely fills the space beneath my desk!

s. x

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me
Debbie Harry & Kermit The Frog – Rainbow Connection

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