Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Internet Lie #8

Browsers Are Superfast

Yes, they are—at what they do. But what they don’t do is search the entire Internet for your results. They only search what they’re previously indexed in their cache. But we all know they really do want us to think they’re searching the whole Internet at fantastic speeds. And, yes, Google is obsessed with speed, measuring response time in hundreds of milliseconds (tenths of a second for you and me).

But the objective of making things appear faster than they really are didn’t begin with search engines. In personal computers, it’s been with us for over thirty years.

Back in that day, on my old Radio Shack Tandy Model One, I discovered TSR programs. TSR stood for Terminate and Stay Resident. These programs ran, primarily, to put themselves (or a part) permanently into memory (until you turned the power off or rebooted). Why? It was to make their program run faster—by using a chunk of your computer’s memory. But the necessity for this was their call, not yours.

This little trick is not only still with us, it’s ubiquitous. In Windows, there are the program icons on your taskbar. Every one takes a slice of your computer memory pie so they can run faster. Investigate and you’ll discover you don’t really need all of them to run faster. I have a printer icon on my taskbar, a printer I use maybe once a week. But it’s always there—and always taking up space in my computer’s memory. And time to load on startup, and time to check for the printer.

These are only two areas where the computer overlords play tricks to make you think things are faster than they really are. Back in the day, hard disks always verified the writing of data. No more. Looks faster, but now it’s riskier. The big software trick is an operating system startup process that never really tells you when it’s completed. You’re not sure if it’s finished so you start running programs. However, some programs will actually slow down the system start up—if not actually cause problems!

Speed, as they say, kills. In this case, those who control your computer are using tricks to make you think you have speed you really don’t have. What they’re killing is time, making it look like things are going faster than they really are. Search engines are only the most obvious offenders. But add up all their phony speed, and it’s the biggest lie ever told!


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