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By Staff | Jul 24, 2009

Ethanol plants and wind turbines have been with us long enough that they are a common feature and we have to remind ourselves there was a time when they were not here. It was not that long ago, either.

Ten years ago, they were interesting thoughts and were beginning to appear. We did not have any idea what impact there would be on our view to the horizon or to the people who had business dealings with them.

My only dealing with wind turbines is the change in my view when I look to the north or drive almost anywhere. There are children in grade school around here who cannot remember a time when the view to the horizon was only earth and sky.

The impact of the ethanol plants has affected everyone and whether ethanol is a hero or villain depends somewhat on your political leanings. Ethanol’s detractors like to say, “The only person who benefits from ethanol is a corn farmer.” That is not true and I could defend ethanol here but that is not the direction I want to take. I will save that for a later day.

I learned of a more subtle change that is just as recent and that 10 years ago, was becoming important. Today, it is a requirement ranking in importance with food, water and electricity. Well, almost.

What has grown to be that essential in 10 years? It’s our computers and, along with it, an Internet connection. If you want to see how computer dependent we are, wait until your computer quits, or your Internet connection fails.

Balky, troublesome computers are annoying and many people have a second computer not that far away they can use if needed. It was an intermittent internet connection that showed me how dependent I was on being connected.

I did not have a backup Internet connection that I could fall back on. When it would drop out, of course, my wife and I were always doing something important. Well, it seemed important at the time.

I believe what was most frustrating was there was nothing I could do. My computer ability is about the same as my mechanical ability. I can change oil and filter, but I cannot overhaul a diesel engine or repair a transmission. I can get a computer going, install software, and get it to print, but I cannot diagnose a faulty chip or understand exactly what a static IP address is. A bad DHCP stopped me completely a month ago.

Ten years ago, a computer or Internet connection problem was mildly annoying. Today, it seems like everything comes to a halt when there is a disruption. That is how dependent we have become. Even when traveling, if a place offers an Internet connection, we are more likely to stay there than somewhere else.

It took three trips from my Internet provider to figure out the problem. First, a filter on the phone was replaced which helped a little. Then the modem on the phone line was replaced and finally the trouble was located in a bad surge protector.

What? How can such a simple device create such havoc? A $20 item that you can buy anywhere was disrupting my life.

I believe the main lesson in all of this is that I need to get outside more. I will, right after I listen to my favorite radio station that I can hear anytime because it is on the Internet.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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