The Silence Of The LANs – Why Future Generations Will Take A Very Dim View Of Our Obsession With Hilarious Cat Videos
Ecclesiastical Shitbox. Not a phrase you come across very often. But it popped into my head the other day though, as I was reading an article about computing in The New Scientist. There is a legitimate reason for this, by the way, which we will come to in a minute. It wasn’t just my brain throwing random words at me as a protest against having to learn something new, though it does do this quite a bit. It’s getting a bit grouchy in its old age, my brain.
The article in question was about The Internet. More specifically, an impending problem with The Internet. You may remember there used to be a little spoof website which, when you clicked on the link, came up with a message something like “Congratulations! You have come to the end of The Internet. You can go outside and play now.” It quite tickled people at the time, though as far as I’m aware, it didn’t make anyone actually switch off their computer and frolic about outside in the sunshine. It wasn’t aimed at the frolicking type.
It would seem that this joke was not so much of a joke and more of a prediction. Apparently, according to The New Scientist, there will come a point when we run out of internet. It simply can’t keep growing the way it’s growing now.
This upcoming crisis is not, as you might think, to do with computer memory. You can walk into a shop today- if you still indulge in such archaic, pre-internet activities- and buy what looks like a little black plastic brick. And this little black plastic brick contains more computer memory than existed on the entire planet a scant few decades ago. One of those little Christmas cards that plays Jingle Bells when you open it has more computing power than the spacecraft that took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to The Moon. Computing power is not the issue. The issue is bandwidth.
All these computers around the world throwing data at each other require channels for that information. This requires bandwidth. And the optical fibres that carry all this information have a physical limit to how much bandwidth they can offer and hence how much information they can carry. In other words, at some point in the not-to-distant future, The Internet may have to be rationed.
So far so nerdy. But what exactly is an Ecclesiastical Shitbox? And what does it have to do with bandwidth? Or anything else for that matter?
Ecclesiatical Shitbox is not a phrase as such. It is – as some of the more astute of you may have already guessed- a Googlewhack. A two word phrase which, when you type it into the Google search engine, yields only one result. Googlewhacking’s a sort of pointless and infuriating word game, in the unlikely event you haven’t heard of it.
I first became aware of Googlewhacks a decade or so ago when my friend Carl loaned me copy of a DVD called “Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure”. It’s a true story, presented live on stage by Mr Gorman himself. Here’s a little clip from it.
Now you’ve had that freebee, I do urge you to buy a copy of the DVD. It’s nearly two hours of some of the cleverest comedy you’re ever likely to see. Your funny bone will thank you forever. If you watch it and aren’t thoroughly entertained then I’m afraid that means you might have to consider the possibility that humour is not for you. You’re not a bad person necessarily. Just one of those people that nature has decreed is destined to sit with an uncomfortable rictus grin pretending to enjoy the gag that’s making everyone else in the room wet themselves with laughter.
Not long after watching “Googlewhack Adventure”, my friend Carl and I found ourselves drunk in charge of a computer. “Oooh,” I said, “let’s try and find one of those Googlewhack thingies”.
“Ecclesiastical Shitbox”, said Carl. “That’s a Googlewhack”.
So I typed it in, and you know what? It wasn’t a Googlewhack anymore. It came back with five search results. Carl was mortified. He’d been particularly proud of discovering that one. So we set off to bag another one. We thought of all the most obscure two-word combinations we could, but to no avail.
Then, I suggested “Venal Baboon”, which is something I read in an old Not The Nine O Clock News annual. Still no good. A couple of hundred search results on that one. Carl, who is a very clever man partly due to an accidental Public School education, said “Try Venal Baboonery”. I typed it in and there it was. Venal Baboonery. One search result. We had our Googlewhack.
Googlewhacks are virtually impossible to get nowadays. I typed “Ecclesiastical Shitbox” into Google Chrome this morning. Seven hundred search results. Tried “Venal Baboonery” too. That one yielded 1700 search results.
The Internet is so vast and unfettered that there are currently 1700 documents out there that have the rather unlikely words “venal” and “baboonery” together in them somewhere. And 700 that feature the even less likely pairing of “ecclesiastical” and “shitbox”.
When the “Data Crunch” arrives, our children are going to look back on how we wasted what will then then be a precious resource by posting each other photographs on Facebook of what we had for lunch and sending each other videos of cats falling off things. They will cringe at the fact that we used to send text messages to one another when we were, in fact, in the same room and could have had an actual face-to-face conversation.
They will flinch at the way we thought it was amusing to utilize a gigantic and sophisticated global machine to play a word game like Googlewhacking when a pencil and some crosswords could have kept us just as entertained.
They will judge us harshly. And so they should. When that point comes, just don’t get them started on Global Warming and how Polar Bears don’t exist anymore. They’ll never shut up about it. Though fortunately their ability to write annoying, whiny blogs on those subjects will be severely limited.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2015