In the summer of 1969 a musician called Country Joe McDonald went onto the stage at the Woodstock festival in New York and performed an impromptu solo performance to fill a gap in the schedule. The song he performed became an iconic memento of the festival. To paraphrase Country Joe’s lyrics: “and it’s 1,2,3 what are we prepping for; don’t ask me I don’t give a damn … “.
Well what are we “prepping” (preparing) for? Here is a clue. Imagine a world in which there is no Internet and therefore no email, no Whirled Wild Web, no social media. Now imagine there is no TV, no cellphones – not even any home phones. And on top of that there are food shortages. Sounds like some kind of terrible dystopian future doesn’t it? But it could happen and if it does our world as we know it will collapse won’t it?
Well, as Country Joe sang back in 1969, “don’t ask me I don’t give a damn”. In actual fact I probably would give a damn, but only because technology has become so intertwined with our everyday lives and supermarket shelves are usually well-stocked. But I won’t hit the big red panic button if it happens and I will explain why. No Internet, no TV, no phones – cellular or landline – and food shortages; that’s the world I was born into.
We don’t have to go far back in time to find a world without Internet. No TV? Piff! No cellphones? That’s early 1980’s. A decade before that when I first bought my very own bricks and mortar residence in my former home and native land, and tried to order a home phone, the telephone company told me “sorry but we have no current plans to build a telephone exchange in your area”.
For the first few years of my childhood, World War 2 food rationing was still in effect and supermarkets didn’t even exist. But housewives (that is probably deemed an offensive word nowadays, but that’s what they were called at the time) found creative and resourceful ways to fill their family’s bellies.
To find out what was going on in the world, we would turn on a radio. If we needed emergency services assistance we would pop down the road to a public telephone. People were happy.
So why are organizations like Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and its successor Auxcomm now immersed in planning exercises to prepare for possible loss of the technology that we have so foolishly learned to depend upon? Technology, let me remind you, that has only been around for a very short time.
We have at our disposal a technology that has been around since the early 20th Century; it’s called radio. Any licensed ham can pick up a microphone or a good old fashioned telegraph key and send messages around the world. No Internet required. Heck, we don’t even need mains electricity or even a battery. A bicycle with a dynamo will do the job.
Is the sky going to fall because some emergency planning bureaucrat can’t send an email? To paraphrase another famous musician: “Imagine there’s no email; it’s easy if you try … “.