Last week, while visiting an account in the Texas Hill Country, I along with the other customers in a local restaurant noticed that our phone emails had crashed. In addition, we were unable to use our credit cards to pay for our purchases because all the terminals in the restaurant also were also down. This was somewhat odd because the TVs and the electricity were working in this particular restaurant and throughout the town.
When I returned to my hotel, however, I discovered that this particular hotel’s TVs were down and there was no internet. Throughout the Hill Country, AT&T phones were out, including my hotel’s landlines! I borrowed a phone connected to Verizon and called home to inform my family of my situation. Even the local Walmart had lines of customers extending out into their parking lot as the retailer could only accept cash given that their credit card terminals were also down.
At 3 AM, my phone started going off. After eight hours, AT&T had gotten their system up and running again. I later discovered that someone had plowed their vehicle into an AT&T tower some 25 miles away, resulting in a 70-mile outage.
That eight-hour interval with no internet service illustrated quite clearly how dependent we have become on the internet. If you are under the age of forty, you have never lived without the internet. Those over the age of fifty can remember when, as young beer salespeople, we had to find landlines to call our offices. All our weekly reports were sent to the home office by snail mail typed out on a typewriter.
It was not until the 1990s that all of this changed. Gambrinus provided their field staff with laptops and a VMX system for calls. This voice message system predominantly enabled directives to the field for projects. In 1996, Gambrinus set up AOL account, their first email system. Even with all of this, we still did not have cell phones and all correspondence to wholesalers had to be delivered by snail-mail.
Even before cell phones, which at first, were bolted into your car, we had pagers. Of course, we all lived through the fax machine days using that old wax style paper that always seemed to curl and smell.
Today, cell phones are more advanced and powerful than computers of fifty years ago. Probably more than any one thing, the internet had as much to do with the growth of the craft beer segment as anything. Today social media is the marketing focus for the craft beers.
The recent internet outage was a reminder of just how the industry and the world have changed in the last twenty years. Most of us are lost without internet connectivity. Industry pundits continue to refer to the Millennials as the change agent in the industry, when in reality, the change is due to the technology that has been embraced by a generation who knows no other form of communication.
The internet, man, is a beautiful thing.