Living without the internet: How I survived a weekend in Sheffield offline, and what I loved about it

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How I tried to find 1990s solutions to a very modern problem when my broadband went down

We’ve all wondered at some time, could I live without the internet?

And this weekend, I got my answer, after my son had returned from his voluntary work at a local charity and noticed the broadband had a lilac light instead of blue. We unplugged it. It changed to orange, but still would not work.

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I've had a landline with BT for over 25 years, and broadband from BT probably for 10 years. But last Monday, it was changed as part of a national switch-over to internet based landlines. After no problem for 25 years, the new system did not last the week, and stopped working on Saturday morning.

Happily, there was the option of phone BT to tell them about the fault. Telling them online would have been a problem.

Panic: Not even my phone landline would work when my internet went down for a weekend. Photo: David Kessen, National WorldPanic: Not even my phone landline would work when my internet went down for a weekend. Photo: David Kessen, National World
Panic: Not even my phone landline would work when my internet went down for a weekend. Photo: David Kessen, National World

The bloke in Northern Ireland we reported it to was fantastic, but was not able to sort anything faster than Monday evening, and although we were told we could have a temporary mobile hub to tide us over, that would not be until this week.

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And so it was that we enjoyed a weekend that felt rather like living in the 1990s. Except, sadly, Euro 96 was not going on in the city, and John Lewis was still shut.

“It’ll be fine,” I said. “I lived without the internet for years,” And I got on with reading the newspaper. It was a Saturday broadsheet, so there was plenty of it.

Because it was now internet phone, the faulty broadband meant we had no landline, so I messaged people who may had needed to know, telling to them to ring on the mobile if they needed me

My son had a small amount of data on his phone. He used that for A-level revision.

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After dinner, I headed out for a walk in the sun. Who needed the internet? Returning. I got home to find a forgotten old PS2 TV game had been dug out. Turns out my son’s modern one needed the internet to work, and so, names including Scholes and McManaman were the players on the TV football game. More 90s vibes.

That would have to be switched off soon though, because the speedway Grand Prix was due on. That is unmissable this season, with two Sheffield riders, Jack Holder and Tai Woffinden, taking part in this year’s series, which decides the world champion.

We were struggling to find how Sheffield Tigers speedway star Jack Holder, pictured, and his Tigers team mate Tai Woffinden, were doing in the speedway GP. Photo: David Kessen, National WorldWe were struggling to find how Sheffield Tigers speedway star Jack Holder, pictured, and his Tigers team mate Tai Woffinden, were doing in the speedway GP. Photo: David Kessen, National World
We were struggling to find how Sheffield Tigers speedway star Jack Holder, pictured, and his Tigers team mate Tai Woffinden, were doing in the speedway GP. Photo: David Kessen, National World

Hold on. Our access is through the internet. None of that then. And no Disney Plus. Or You Tube.

And so, we all sat down and watched Doctor Who on Freeview. And that was rather nice, because in internet world, we’d have probably been doing things separately.

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Afterwards we had a pre-booked meal at a local restaurant. After eating, my wife suggested a drink at a nearby pub. With no internet, our son joined us too. I suspect that was related to the lack of web.

Sunday brought its own challenges. The morning was fine, with more mobile phone based revision.

And the early afternoon was great. We all headed off to the May Fayre. I’m not sure we would all have gone if the charms of the internet had been available.

The May Fayre provided something for the whole family to do on Sunday. Photo: David Kessen, National WorldThe May Fayre provided something for the whole family to do on Sunday. Photo: David Kessen, National World
The May Fayre provided something for the whole family to do on Sunday. Photo: David Kessen, National World

Getting home, I wondered who had won in the football. Back in the 1990s, I’d had stuck the teletext on, and waited for page 324 to come round. But now there is a problem. Our modern TV doesn’t have teletext.

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On went the radio. BBC no longer do the full classified results, so on goes Talk Sport. And eventually, I get the results.

Off I go to clean the bathroom. I do like a Spotify playlist to listen to as I work. Ah...you know the rest. Luckily, I still have a CD player and CDs, so on goes Beatles For Sale. And how nice it was to hear the songs in the correct order for a change.

At 10pm it was time for the news. But a documentary we’d been watching had run into the first few minutes. So what was the first story about that they were all talking about? Tuning in slightly late, I couldn’t tell. So we had to switch over to ITV, which started slightly later.

I often work at home on a Monday. But this Monday, the lack of broadband ruled that out. So it was off out to the office, like I did every day back in the 1990s. And you know, It’s rather nice to see those workmates face to face instead of communicating in an online group. Harry, Chloe, Sarah and Nick were great company.

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So would I go back to life without the internet? Well, for many things the pre-internet days in the 90s were great. There was better shopping, some great pubs that I miss and perhaps more family together-time.

But would I want to kiss goodbye to the web. No. Not least because it was the internet which made sure I eventually found out who won that speedway GP.

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