Internet communications more vital than ever - Rob Felt

In our age of a shrinking globe and a growing dependence on technology there are those who fear a small, uniform world and a massive computer crash.

These are valid concerns, but case after case is being made for our global communications infrastructure, and hurricane Katrina showed everyone that being in touch means being flexible with technology.

Fifty years ago communications to the Gulf Coast area would have been impossible during a hurricane of Katrina's size. If you know anyone in the area, then you know how hard it was to hear new from your friends of family, but it was possible.

When power and phone lines had fallen, residents of the most devastated areas turned to a new form of communication to contact the outside world.

Aside from using cell phones as simple talking devices, those stranded and isolated storm victims who had the ability used wireless Internet technology and text messaging to make sure the rest of the world knew they were OK.

Think about that the next time your phone doesn't ring but you get a voicemail beep, or someone's phone goes off during a movie or a speech. With new technology comes new etiquette, which should be observed, but the benefits far outweigh the annoyances.

One woman used her Blackberry wireless device to post to a blog so her family could read updates of her whereabouts online.

It's really incredible if you step back and think about it.

The hosts of a popular Podcast called "Diggnation" were talking about the history of online communication is a recent episode. They were musing over the old days of the local bulletin board system networks, where you would dial into a computer in someone's home by calling them directly and then log on to their system to talk, share files and play games.

Although this seems very primitive now in our age of global wireless communications, it really did offer the same basic product. The BBS system may have only had a few lines, if it even had more than one, but the core element of logging on and interacting with a community is the same thing we look for with our most bleeding edge technology.

In the event of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, or even during the events of 9/11, having our mobile networks in place can make contact possible in situations where it was once unimaginable.

Some say that technology gets in the way of human interaction. On some levels it might, but it can also bring us together in amazing and very important ways.

Rob Felt is the photographer for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or rfelt@henryherald.com .