Saturday, July 4, 2009

Power Failure

9:00 AM, judging assignments set, ready to go, and the power in the presentation rooms fails. One of the techs comes into the judges’ lounge with the bad news. Thirty minutes later he comes back. "We're up! But let's give it 5 minutes to ensure it's stable." The student teams mill in the hallway, nerves rattled, waiting. Five minutes pass. "We're down again!"

"In places in the world we work," I say, the basics are not a given; "there can be a power failure each week, and these can be nine hours long." I have the attention of the press and the cameras are rolling[1]. How do we work with technology in such a world?

I tell the story of a Wall Street client in 1979 who talked about file transfer from NY to Houston over dial-up, which was like "getting ducks to mate in mid flight." Ray Ozzie gets it. He led the design of Notes when servers and clients dialed in at 9600 baud and connections dropped in the middle of replications.

Here we are over 20 years later, broadband Internet is common to many of us, but unreliable connections are the reality of much of the world. Power failures have a way of reminding us of that. So we wait and reboot. It is a sometimes-connected world in which we make technology happen.

[1] See information on today’s press conference at the Imagine Cup Blog

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