Increasing speeds – except in the air?

I have had an internet connection at home for over twenty years. The earliest (dialup) connection I can remember was using a 14.4kbps modem, with all of the attendant whirrs and boings which signalled connection. Like most people (geeks?) in those days I could tell the connection speed achieved from the sounds made.

As I sit here I recall writing connection scripts, tweaking the settings used for the modem handshake, and being excited as each new technology step was announced by the modem manufacturers (and the ISPs). If my memory serves, 14.4 gave way to 19.2 and then I had 28.8 (what felt like a significant speed increase). I’m sure there was something in the 30s and 40s before 56.6 came along.

And then along came broadband, a complete game changer because it was always on, didn’t disrupt my telephone line, and didn’t cost a fortune in dialup charges.

Why am I pondering this today? This morning I downloaded some software. Including the clip art and fonts the download was over 3Gb and completed in under 20 minutes and that’s what got me thinking.

I remember wanting to download clip art and software (probably shareware) in the early days too – and I’m sure that 1Mb used to take about an hour. At that rate, today’s download would have taken over a year non-stop. And that’s an amazing thought.

Other speeds have increased – without resorting to google I’m sure that the average speed on the roads has increased, and I’m equally certain that cars today are both faster and more fuel efficient.

But in this world of increasing speed, where faster is seemingly better, there is sadly one area where we have had the technology but have not maintained (or advanced) it: air travel.

The record for a passenger aircraft between London Heathrow and New York JFK is 2 hours 52 minutes and 59 seconds – unsurprisingly on Concorde.

Today that same trip via British Airways is listed as 7 hours and 40 minutes.

What went wrong?