Skype, trains, telepresence and the lack of somewhere to hide

As no doubt your all sick of hearing, I'm on trains a lot. And in a moment of irony, the only train service I can get wifi on is actually the oldest. The Inter-city 125 trains, developed as a stopgap whilst Britain developed and then cancelled the Advanced passenger train.


And on this wifi, I get eMail and skype, and it does a dammed good job of getting signal most of the time. Not anything dramatic, please understand, as they cant quite sling a cable out of the window. But wifi, nevertheless. And the cost of the first-class upgrade basically covers the wifi (its free in first) and several cups of coffee. So far so predictable.


Tonight, as I surveyed the rain dribbling down the outside of the dirty window as we pulled up in Kirkcaldy (in the Kingdom of Fife), the wife called. And so I initiated a Skype video chat with here. Everyone joined in - the catering chap (who strangely grew up in the village I now stay in) waved, and so forth.


And it struck me. We are soooo close to the William Gibson (see previous posts for references) pervasive, immersive always-connected internet now. So very close. Some airlines have it now (allowing the Brillmeister to chat on sametime from his usual office seat - a nice business class one at 38,000 feet)..


The question is. Do we want to be able to switch it off? To do absolutely nothing for a while. To relax. To ignore the crackberry, the blog, the multiple eMail addresses, the three Instant Message clients that we all have now. Do we want time to mediate, contemplate, cogitate ?


I had always assumed - especially given the hideous maintenance of the British rail network - that a train would be a communication free zone. A quiet bubble, creaking through the countryside.


I guess that day is gone. Like mullets, going into a bank to ask for cash, and 'flimsy' paper airline tickets, our children will no doubt laugh at us for such lack of modernity. Look at Squid - my daughter. She lives in student accommodation now, but still has broadband and VOIP, a Macbook, all in her room. Back in the day (and we're talking a long time ago!), I had to queue up to feed 2p coins into a payphone. Remember payphones ?


It was in 1984 that I first used a cash machine, only 1993 that I got my own mobile phone. 2001 was when my broadband got connected. My first BlackBerry last year.


What on earth will happen next year ?