It’s fun to be wired, but where does it lead?

Essay by Ed Quillen

Communications – December 1995 – Colorado Central Magazine

For the past year or so, I felt as though I lived on Saturn every time I picked up a newspaper or magazine. There was all this breathless prose about the wonders of the Internet (Hypertext! World Wide Web! Net Surfing! Lurid Pictures Useful to Campaigning Republicans!) and here I was in Salida, where it was about as convenient to surf an ocean as to surf the Internet.

Sending and receiving computer stuff over the phone lines isn’t a novelty here. For the past decade, I’ve sent columns to The Denver Post that way. I’ve also had a CompuServe account. But those required long-distance calls, whose tolls discourage exploration and experimentation.

And so, I was excited, and prepared to be disappointed, when Rocky Mountain Internet announced last spring that it planned to serve Salida. The disappointment came quickly, because the company couldn’t get enough local lines from US West, and the plan fell through.

But in October, the company arranged for lines in Buena Vista, we signed on right away, and there’s the Internet with a local call. A click of the mouse, and you’ve jumped from an archive in Mexico City to one in Geneva — all with a local call.

Like every other journalist who’s used the net, I want to grab people and say “Get on the Internet! You can’t live without it!”

You can doubtless live quite well without going near the Internet, of course. But now I understand the excitement. There’s so much you can do for a few dollars a month.

For instance, I needed the text of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (it ended the Mexican War in 1848) for an article I was working on. It was 10 o’clock on a Sunday night. Within minutes, I had it.

We needed railroad logos for this edition. A few minutes of exploration, and they were in hand (or “on machine,” to be precise).

Electronic mail enables us to communicate quickly and easily with writers, so that we can plan and discuss articles. They can send their text that way, so that we don’t have to scan or type it.

This is also the main way we stay in touch with our daughter Columbine, a student at Western State in Gunnison. It’s how we made arrangements with Art Goodtimes, a great performance poet, to appear in Salida on Dec. 2.

(This should be a lot of fun. Art used to be poetry editor for Earth First!, and he’ll share the bill with cowboy poet Peggy Godfrey of Moffat, who also puts on a great show. She’s a rancher, he’s an eco-warrior, and the evening should be more lively than anything on the Internet.)

So at the moment I’m a major Internet fan. But then again, I’ve got several computers at hand, and years of experience fighting with them to get them to do something I need done. And I haven’t received the bill for the fast modem I had to buy for Net work.

I hate to speculate about what it means to us here, to have instant access to a world of digitized information.

Sometimes, though, I think about a nail factory in western Massachusetts before the Civil War. Its owners were thrilled when the railroad arrived, because they could expand their markets with cheap transportation. As it turned out, the little nail factory quickly foundered because cheap shipping meant that big Boston factories could undercut the local shop.

As Richard Harris notes elsewhere in this edition, such progress is not always a blessing for a small-town enterprise.

As for this enterprise, we’re making a few adjustments, which may or may not represent progress. We’re going to hurry the January edition as much as possible, so we can get it in your hands well before Christmas.

This has two benefits. One is that we can take some time off during the holidays. The other is that it is almost impossible to sell ads for something that comes out in January, right after Christmas, and hey, we need all the revenue we can find.

Our first attempt at publishing poetry and fiction seemed to be manageable on this end. If it goes over well with our readers, we’ll probably run a “literary section” every three months. Let us know.

Lately, we started an “artist of the month” feature. Although it has focused on painters, it will also include sculptors, potters, weavers, etc. We’d like to add, in our Agenda section, a compendium of gallery openings, shows, etc. That never seems to come together, though, and suggestions are welcome.

For 1996, we’ve arranged with Hal Walter to write a regular column for Colorado Central (a process that should be simplified by the Internet, since Hal’s wired, too). Many readers tell us they love Hal’s biting and humorous essays, and so do we.

Not that we can afford to pay Hal, or any of our other contributors, anything close to what their work is worth. We get a lot of good work that should fetch 50¢ a word, rather than the 5¢ we can pay.

So, to get into the holiday spirit, let me thank all those who send their work to Colorado Central. When we started the magazine two years ago, we feared that we might never attract enough good writing. That was a baseless fear — there’s a lot of talent in our part of the world, and we’re glad we’ve had a chance to provide a showcase for it.

— Ed Quillen