Tuesday, February 22, 2005

State Street Power Outage

Seems an electrical fire wreaked havoc on the Isthmus Monday -- as most of you likely experienced, power went out along State Street, University, and various places around campus.

In the journalism department, it was interesting -- with the computers off, the network down, most classes and labs were cancelled -- I ultimately snuck off and after waiting in vain for a bus, walked home.

Walking down State, I was quite struck by how many businesses were closed. Restaurants I could understand, but small clothing shops? The security systems, cash registers, credit card machines... it really hadn't occurred to me how network/electricity dependent EVERY PLACE was. (The liquor store sold me some M&Ms, they made change out of a cigar box.)

Felt all digital dependent and delightfully divided. Of course, local businesses were less pleased. On one of the difficult-to-watch local stations, the manager of Fontana Sports, for example, estimated their lost business in the thousands -- I'm sure restaurants and others were hurt far more.

Reminded me of the months leading up to Jan. 1, 2000. Working in DC, I was covering how a lot of government agencies were dealing with their expensive Y2K bug upgrades. While most federal offices were on the ball, the District of Columbia itself needed little work at all. Why? They were one of the last areas of the country to still have their files almost entirely paper-based. As someone who had to go through the DMV there from time to time, this was more often than not a pain. But both events reminded me of the Pew article, and the idea of those who "dropped out" from online life. There can be benefits...

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