Seven years ago this month, for the 100th issue of PC Advisor, we reflected on the technologies and products that had been launched within the life of the magazine. We each made a case for the one we thought had had the biggest impact. Digital photography was – and probably remains – my favourite, but the most disruptive technology was, of course, broadband. So vital has the web become to our everyday lives that lack of connectivity significantly affects our ability to get things done.
Broadband has allowed websites to extend their reach; it’s spawned YouTube sensations and Twitter stars, and totally transformed the world of commerce. From Amazon and eBay to the most niche web shop, the web has brought the world to our desktops and, more recently, smartphone screens.
Can you imagine not heading to news.bbc.co.uk to get up-to-the-minute updates on the latest headlines, to watch that critical England match or to see what everyone else has to say about the atrocious singing in the latest series of ‘X Factor’? (Those with classier cultural reference points should insert their own examples here.)
High-speed broadband is, at last, becoming a reality in the UK, allowing us to make up lost ground on many better-connected nations. This is just as well, given that the era of bandwidth-devouring HD video is now upon us. YouTube now has an HD channel, as do some of the biggest websites. Internet-connected TVs are just the start; products such as Toshiba’s Cell TV will stream live broadcasts then upscale 2D programmes to 3D in real time, while Samsung is preparing to offer 3D streaming.
Education, health and legislative information has used the web as a delivery mechanism for some time. This issue’s look at online learning sites provides ample proof of the breadth of knowledge that can be shared this way. Which makes it all the more distressing that such resources are far from available to all.
We take a look at the state of Broadband Britain and progress in the rollout of fibre-optic connections in our latest issue. BT is installing fibre-optic lines and cabinets up and down the land, but it’s Virgin Media customers on 50Mbps+ connections who continue to get the best speeds. ISPs and early adopters say the new era of warp-speed broadband will be a game-changing development from which we won’t look back – but we’re acutely conscious that this leap forward is set to be denied to those in the ‘Final Third’ of the country that still doesn’t have basic broadband. See 'How to get 100Mb broadband: what's happening in broadband Britain'.
As our dependence on the web increases, so decent access for all becomes yet more important. A little more investment in our broadband infrastructure would go an awfully long way. By the time PC Advisor reaches its 200th issue, just over a year from now, we’d love to see that progress has been made in fixing this imbalance so we can all play online whenever we like.