Last updated on: 8/5/2011 4:05 PM 
Created on: 3/21/2014 2:18 PM 


It might sound crazy that a computer scientist who is always thinking about engineering the next great system would ponder the idea of pulling the plug on the very technology his degree is in. But on a recent vacation, that was part of my plan. Obviously the cell phone and ability to communicate via TXT needed to be on so I can coordinate plans with the people I was visiting. But for almost a full 2 week span there was no e-mail, websites, Facebook or chats.

I got the idea that this needed to be done when a friend of mind posted that his flight to Australia would be the longest time ever spent without being connected. That was a profound statement to me. Yet it was so true. Our cell phones are always plugged in, the hotels I stayed at offered free Wi-Fi, and you can find business centers in the strangest places such as a Hospital Emergency Room waiting area. I can access the news and world from my work computer and of course home is completely wired up. But it always hasn't been this way.

I've had access to a notebook computer since the age of 19. At the time though to connect with anyone required a dial up connection which didn't offer the wealth of resources we have now. The Internet was in its infancy and I connected using the DePaul computer lab. What was on my first notebook? Turbo C++ so I can perform my school work, Visual Basic so I could build my own prototypes and Microsoft Word so I can write my stories. Funny, none of that required me to be connected. You might argue that when it came to my stories and art I was more productive.

Now compare that with my notebook today. Open across the task bar is Thunderbird, Media Player, Visual Studio, Firefox, a chat room, This HTML editor, Photoshop, a reference window for the toolkit I am working with, VMWare, Microsoft Excel and Windows Explorer. Most of that doesn't require me to be connected 100% of the time. Thunderbird doesn't get that much mail and is also used as my local calendar and task list. But when it comes to being connected I am my own worse enemy. There are times where my mind just looses focus and I wander off to the web looking for anything to amuse myself. As a result, I felt I needed to unplug and get back to an easier life. My family vacation plans were taking me back to Orlando. Sun, pools, water parks, bars and yeah the occasional theme park. While I had the computer with it was only for those times to copy photos or movies off the camera or work out on the patio typing up story ideas locked in my head. I was unplugging my life.

In that time period I went places and have seen people who want to unplug and be connected at the same time. I visited one of my favorite bars to hang out at where the bar tenders shake your hand and call you by name when pouring you another. The coin grabbing pinball machines in bars are a thing of the past but the new dollar grabbing touch screen games are going strong. I saw groups of people hanging out challenging each other to all games touchy-feely. I saw tables of people just talking not once looking at their phones. I also over heard those showing off their new Storms and iPhones. I admit I had thoughts that I should reconsider my stance on Blackberry, but why?

What did I do while I was disconnected from the grid of my friends and co-workers? I played basketball, did some swimming, visited the water parks, visited some old places I use to hang out at, showed my son a bunch of amusement park rides, joined my wife in the whirlpool spa and just witnessed my world coming to a full pause. I never once opened my notebook to write down my newest story idea or map out a component I want to build. Twelve days into my black out period I started to get antsy. I did miss the ability to check in and see what my friends were up to. But I survived. I returned home with a need to unpack and mow some really tall grass, but not one to get right away back into my fully connected life. Being back at work where I have some down time while code builds help push me back to the net but I have set goals for myself which will require me to stay away more.

What can I say, the vacation may be over but there are still bikes that require riding, basketball to be practiced and road trips with the mp3s cranked that need to be taken. I am determined to tone myself to the point where I can where Under Armor and look good. Of course, if you are reading this you are currently connected to the grid which means you are keeping developers like me in business. So there is the quagmire. I should disconnect more but I build software to run on this grid and keep us connected safely and securely. Or, do I work on the application that keeps us connected while we unplug our lives from constant connections. Or, am I just about to start a journey that is going to lead Over The Edge?


Wolffy's Over The Edge

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