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Believing the Skype

Much to my relief and much like Pink, I’m not dead. Good day once more, UKFast blog fans.

Voice over IP, or VOIP, is quickly gaining popularity. I have my ridiculous Captain Scarlet-style headset waiting at home, in order to talk to people half the world away about our respective brands of reality TV and chocolate bars, and it seems that millions of other people are sailing with me in this good ship that we know as ‘HMS Free Internet Phone Calls’.

As the technology develops, it’s fairly certain a lot of telecommunication bods will be running a bit scared, or at least trying to hop onto the Skype bandwagon. I’m not worried about that – they’ll be fine, modern life is all about telecommunication, these VOIP systems still use the same sets of wires and all that, and hey the people working at massive telecomms companies can probably look after themselves.

What does bother me about this, and sometimes about internet technology in general, is the inexorable increase of complexity that advances tend to entail. Where art is frequently driven by the pursuit of new levels of simplicity and elemental forces, technological advance piles on complexity after complexity. Put simply, we now have phones that can crash and leave us shouting into a useless black box, and I can’t see the rise of VOIP making phonecalls any simpler.

It’s the old trade-off, stability and simplicity versus extra features and the wow factor. Ultimately I always believe in progress, but I think I’ll always feel unsettled that my phone conversation isn’t just passing through a couple of phone company exchanges, but through tens, maybe hundreds of computers. Pass the paper cups and string!

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