What was life like before broadband? Well, there was a lot more queuing...
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently announced that broadband bundles were being introduced to the "shopping basket" of items that the government uses to measure inflation (basically, it works out how much the things we all typically buy are going up in price).
With tablet computers like the iPad, which use mobile broadband also being included in the basket for the first time this year, Broadbandchoices.co.uk is taking time out to reflect on what life was like before a broadband connection was considered as essential to everyday life as breathing and beer...
Before: Having to remember to pay bills after they'd arrived in the post; arranging to visit your bank branch during its opening hours, which are, helpfully, the same as the hours you work; finding yourself waiting behind the person who is paying in their lifetime's supply of (uncounted) spare change; balancing your cheque book.
After: Getting the pain of paying bills out of the way as soon as they land in your inbox; doing your banking before you get out of bed, on your lunchbreak without leaving your desk or whenever and wherever you feel like it; having to remember where the nearest branch of your bank even is when you decide that you want to pay in your lifetime's supply of (uncounted) spare change; what's a cheque book?
Before: Do you remember portable CD players? They were a laser-powered contradiction - designed to allow you to listen to your music collection on the move, but about as suited to rapid movement as putting a grand piano in your pocket. And even then, you could carry maybe five, ten CDs tops if you wanted to remain remotely mobile.
That's before we even look at the cost of buying music pre-internet. It may seem a long time since the record labels were on top, but when they were, they weren't afraid to make the most of it, with prices of £14.99 and upwards for a back catalogue album the norm.
After: However, then came the MP3 player - a large matchbox-sized device that allowed you to carry your entire record collection around in your pocket without having to worry about the sound quality being affected by how quickly you were walking.
Then came music downloads, which reduced the cost of music by removing the physical overheads incurred by those who distribute it, making it cheaper as well as easier to search for, sample and buy music you like.
Now of course we have music streaming services, where you don't even have to own the music to listen to it - you can pick from libraries spanning thousands of artists for a monthly fee and do it whether you're at home or out and about. So long CD wallets.
Before: Pre-internet, if you wanted to watch a movie at home, you had two choices. The first was flicking through your personal VHS cassette/DVD library trying to find something that you hadn't watched so many times you'd memorised the script or something that you hadn't watched because you'd recorded/purchased it in a moment of madness. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, for example.
The second was to have to pick yourself up off the sofa and make your way to your local video rental store, where you would often find all the latest flicks had already been snaffled up and the guy at the counter would raise his eyebrows at your selection like you had just deposited a dead squirrel in front of him before asking you to pay the not insignificant fine you owed from returning the last movie you took out too late.
After: First up, you can browse internet TV services for any films that may have been on television over the last seven days or so that you may have missed. If nothing there takes your fancy, then the chances are (according to the ONS at least) you may have signed up to a TV and internet package, potentially giving you access to a number of specialist movie channels or on-demand film services.
If this isn't the case, or you're still not spoilt enough for choice, you can watch a movie online, giving you a back catalogue of thousands to pick from, and if you like it so much you want to add it to your personal library, more often than not you can legally download them. Beats feeling forced into hiring a French arthouse flick over Big Trouble In Little China, right?
Before: Let's face it - it took a special kind of masochist to enjoy shopping in the pre-internet age. When it came to groceries, your choices were to go after work and be faced with half-empty shelves or at the weekend when the entire world and its unruly children were there to wrestle with you over the last box of Weetabix.
The less functional side of shopping was hardly a cakewalk either. If you fancied a new outfit for the weekend then you often faced a queue around the store to get into a cramped changing room full of discarded coat hangers and coffee cups, where upon you'd have to squeeze your, by then perspiring, figure into the maximum three items of clothing you were permitted to take in with you.
And forget about buying presents. An eccentric relative requests a red paisley silk scarf for their birthday and you spent every minute of your spare time for the next two weeks looking for something affordable that matches that description before admitting defeat and disappointing said relative by buying them the nearest equivalent from the nearest high street chain store.
After: Going out to buy groceries? How novel! But isn't it so much easier to do it online, where the shelves are never empty, alternatives to your favourites are suggested if there is something that's out of stock, the chances of having to grapple with a temperamental self-scanning check-out are zero and you can have the lot delivered to your doorstep at a time that suits you?
As for getting some new gladrags, why not browse everything that's on offer without any bother, with a full rundown of what sizes and colours are available, from your desk, sofa or smartphone? Once you've made a (virtual) list of everything that takes your fancy, get it all sent to you in sizes and colours to cover every eventuality, try it on in the comfort of your own home and, once you've picked out what makes you look like a prince(ess), return what you don't want without paying a penny.
As for tracking down tricky presents or finding the best deal when it comes to buying gifts, it's difficult to remember how anyone met the expectations of their loved ones before broadband. Red paisley silk scarf you say? Search for it, whack the desired results through a price comparison website and before you know it a Pretty Green men's paisley tone on tone claret scarf is winging its way to you for a third of the usual price.
Before: It's 2002. It's a Friday night. You're off out like all right thinking people, but you don't want to miss that evening's episode of Eastendersas it's the climax of the Phil Mitchell/Steve Owen car chase. You set your trusty VHS to record and head on out. Result? You settle down the next day to watch the events unfold and find yourself faced with a Mastermind special on those with in-depth knowledge of motorway intersections.
After: It's 2012. It's a Thursday night. You're off out like all right thinking people, but you don't want to miss that evening's episode of Eastenders as Andrew Cotton is about to be charged with Heather Trott's murder. You head on out without doing a thing. Result? You settle down the following evening and watch the episode on BBC iPlayer, before going on to catch-up on all the TV you've missed that week online.
And finally... dogs
Before: Pre-broadband, very few people are likely to have had the opportunity to see a dog salsa dancing.
After: Now everyone has the opportunity to see a dog salsa dancing.