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Webster's Webwatch

200 not out

March 2016

This is my 200th piece for The Oldie, and so I thought I would look back a little, use the milestone to make a couple of small changes and offer my new email newsletter to readers.

It is easy to forget just how fast our digital life has developed.  When I started these pieces in 2000, I had fairly recently left an old established, medium sized City bank.  When I left, I was in a department of about a dozen people; we had just one computer for general use (and only two of us knew how), and two others for secretaries to produce letters and reports.  The bank did not use email or have a website; Facebook, Google and Twitter did not exist.

However, the pace suddenly picked up.  I bought my first computer; it cost well over £1,000 and had less computing power than my £50 phone does now.  My connection to the internet was through an expensive and (it now seems) achingly slow dial up system.

The world was just waking up to the prospects offered by the internet.  That year, in my first Oldie piece, I recommended the brand new Google and warned of the dangers of confusing technical advance with social change.  I remain firmly of that opinion; the internet has changed the size and shape of marketplaces and improved communication beyond measure, but has not altered human nature one jot.

Eight year pass; my 100th column appears and I was writing about the loss of private data by the NHS and the Ministry of Justice.  Plus ça change; this remains a serious worry, and I am convinced that few senior people in big organisations understand the risks.  Ask any such person even where their data is stored, never mind how, and watch his eyes glaze over.  It won’t do.

Sixteen years on, I think two constants emerge.  One is that as far as the development of our digital life is concerned, we haven’t seen the half of it yet.  Hold onto your hats; there is much more to come.

The second constant is an unexpected pleasure: it is the interaction I have had with many hundreds of readers.  For the most part this starts with someone taking up my offer to try and solve their basic computer problems, but the exchanges often develop into informative exchanges of opinions.  Oldie readers tend to be both knowledgeable and experienced. 

Almost all my correspondents are unfailingly agreeable, but some are also worried, and I’m glad, most of the time, to be able to put their minds at rest.

I’d like to try and enhance this relationship a little and offer a bit more, so as well as finally admitting to a first name in my by-line (“Webster” seems rather formal, after all these years) I have just launched a short, free, weekly email to anyone who wants it; it includes some of the advice I have most recently given to readers, a little digital life related gossip and comment if any exists.

I’ll be writing to anyone who has emailed me in the past to invite them to subscribe (it’s free), but if you’d like to try it now, click here 

Here’s to the next 200.