Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Attack of the Instant Messengers

(wrote this article about two and a half years back, and had been mysteriously sitting in my desktop since then. I can assure you, its really interesting to read what you have written years back. Life!)

Just now, I ended up speaking with a friend on telephone for over half an hour. Ended the call, and gave a quick thought on when was the last time I had done this. It surely came as a surprise for me that my cognitive setup had timed out after a couple of minutes in the attempt to provide a reasonable estimate. Perhaps years, I thought to myself. Why this hit me hard was that it was this same R. Ramkumar, who had once upon a time engaged in meaningless banter for even three hours on the telephone. Three hours. The lifetime of the Indian movie hero on the screen. One complete innings of a cricket match. One end-semester examination paper of my Physics III in the fifth semester, which caught me in a horrible time dilation with my mind vacillating between breaking free from the lecture hall and not losing hope with perhaps just one correct answer on paper. Three hours. It's still perhaps not a long duration for time. It was not long before that perhaps the same amount of time passed off in a jiffy with my friends on the Besant Nagar beach or the famed Gurunath in IIT, which has this mystical charm - perhaps emanating from the bright broad umbrellas beneath which we sat - of making friends get together and go yap, yap and yap. Yes, face to face chats, or "fart sessions", as an IITian would put it across, still is on firm ground. But while the older generation goes on and awn and yawn over how letters have been relegated to the background, it may not be long before speaking on the telephone might be the next casuality.

I never had too much sympathy for letters. Perhaps due to absence of any romantic endeavors in college, I guess my last personal letters were posted way back in Bhilai, more than ten years back, to one of my aunts who was almost a second mother to me. But nevertheless, letters were too slow and painstaking, and it seemed to me that the natural course of technological evolution is bound to wipe out this means of personal communication. But telephones never had such drawbacks. They were convenient, almost instantaeneous and perhaps the most efficient in terms of information conveyed. The fact that my life has been overshadowed by other means of communication like E-Mails, Instant Messengers, Online Services and SMS's looks as intriguing to me as I was once, in my second year, when I learnt that the de facto standard for local networking, namely the Ethernet, was only 30% efficient and perhaps less than many other protocols. It was one more time when I was facing the fact that it's not always that the most efficient solution gets through.

Perhaps it was the cost. None of the other techniques I use today incur any cost for me, as even Internet is provided free of cost in the campus. Free SMS's have been a revelation amongst college-goers. But the issue was perhaps deeper than this monetary issue. Perhaps I realised that talking defeats the purpose of having a chat, which essentially was to spend free time. Perhaps because chatting face to face involves pauses, and in many cases, there are more than two people to contribute to the discussion. Perhaps. Perhaps I would never know why the means of communication which Internet provides have caught on like a wild fire.


  1. :))

    You were a kid then, werent you? :P

    Hail the Instant Messenger!
    Jay Y!M! ;)

  2. Awesome post. Cognitive setup timed out... ha ha, the geek in you speaking. i loved the different interpretations of the three hours!

  3. Perhaps because chatting face to face involves pauses, and in many cases, there are more than two people to contribute to the discussion

    I buy that one.. totally!
    But then.. how about multi-tasking between multiple chat windows..

    aah.. atleast the current person Im chatting with is time division multiplexed with only me for that matter (or time slot?).

  4. @mayth: oh yes.. I look back and think.. hell.. I was so much a kid! :p

    @bulbe: ah well.. some things are hard to get out, and that too considering that the post was backdated by some 2.5 years! :)

    shoaib: oh yes! i totally agree.. you might time-multiplex, but it still gives you a feeling of a personal talk provided you are adept enough! :)

  5. $ cat blog |tr [:space:] \\n|grep -i Perhaps |wc -l

  6. dei dei... whattay blogging spree!
    vettiness alert?! :)

  7. @turkey: Perhaps. :D (And yeah, you might like to quote [:space:]. The POSIX standard does allow you to write that without quotes, but some shells might have issues! :p)

    @anna: He he.. let's hope atleast this revival attempt is sustained! :)

  8. After reading all the comments I forgot what I wanted to write [:(] Bulbing!