Slow Netters

Slow internet movement favors old-fashioned dial-up over hi-speed wireless

I’m a bit behind (like 7 weeks!) on this story, which aired on “All Things Considered” at the beginning of April. Reporter Melissa Block visited Drip, a coffee house in Washington, D.C. that caters to so-called slow netters, as devotees of the new slow internet movement call themselves.  The trend-setting cafe eschews high-speed internet for basic dial-up.

Late though I am, Obsolescing had to alert its readers to this surprising trend:

Dial-up Internet is enjoying a huge comeback as the slow-net wave (partly inspired by the slow food movement) crashes onto hipster shores nationwide.

OK Go frontman Damian Kulash has written the trend’s anthem. The song is called “Love Me Longtime.”

“It’s about the Internet when it was a more tactile experience — when it took something to be on the Internet,” Kulash says.

Kulash used dial-up’s classic series of tones as supplemental percussion in his ode. “That sound is kind of like The Beatles to my parents, it calls back out all the rage and lust and hormones of my youth,” Kulash tells All Things Considered. “Really powerful sound.”

Listen to the entire report here: You’ll find all the familiar tropes for talking about a now obsolete technology. Kulash revels in the sensory details, the “tactile experience,” while others interviewed celebrate the noisy scritch and beep of attempted connection as a nearly Proustian trigger of fond memories. Throughout the report devotees insist that slowness, clunkiness, unreliability are somehow more authentic or, even, more human.

Before you listen to the report, though, you might want to check out the dateline.

April 1, 2011

Yes, this report was one of NPR’s elaborate April Fool’s jokes. It worked brilliantly because the reporters knew the lingo of obsolescing. Yet, in the letters aired a few days later, one listener (inevitably?) wrote:

Am I the only one who was disappointed when they realized it was the gag story? He continues: I live a somewhat conflicted life. I am at the same time nostalgic for technology of days gone by, yet I work in the IT industry with current technology. But I resist new technology as much as possible. No smartphone, no Bluetooth, and yes, still dial-up at home. Others make fun of me, of course, and I was excited to be able to share news of this anti-bandwidth revolt with them.

P.s.I still have my original Commodore 64 somewhere in the attic.

Hope this is a joke that works no matter what the date. Belated April Fool’s!

2 responses to “Slow Netters

  1. Well, I’m glad the NPR story was a joke, because if people are going to yearn for times of greater frustration, we really do have to worry about our society. When annoying, circular phone menus presented by robot voices become obsolete, will we miss them? NO!!

  2. In other words, “Why should anyone be nostalgic for unhappiness?” as you have Art Dennison say in your novel. Evidently some people are. Or they forget. Or they think that frustration, viewed in retrospect, is somehow more “real” than current experience.

    After I wrote this post, I realized that back when “dial-up” was the only kind of internet connection we had, the term itself was already a verbal skeumorph, the telephone dial having already faded into legend (or landfills.)

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