Driving back from the CUE.org conference in Palm Springs this weekend, we encountered the unexpected: a blizzard (!), and the closure of I-5 over the Grapevine. We'd called CalTrans several times before reaching the Grapevine, but there was no notice of current conditions until we had just passed Burbank on the 10, and a flashing highway sign alerted us to the closure.
Turning off at an exit, then sitting in the parking lot of a close gas station, we pulled out our laptops. Six wireless networks appeared, thanks to the local apartment complex, we assume, one of which was open and allowed us access to the web. Yahoo local produced a really cool map of the hotels in the area, and we began calling them on cell phone one by one. Because of the weird weather and the road closure, it took six or seven calls to find an available room--and then a couple more to make sure we could get a room at a good price that also had broadband!
I consider myself relatively tech savvy--but even I was surprised at how dramatically this event demonstrated to me the power of ubiquitous internet access. I remember years ago, when I was in college, my father came to visit me and was shocked to find that I didn't carry cash with me--just an ATM card. Now, twenty-five years later, it's hard to imagine life without them.
And what did we do before cell phones?
If the rise of the web has seemed dramatic so far, just wait--there's so much more to come.