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4 Modern Countries With Surprisingly Backward Technology

#2. Australia Has Ridiculously Slow Internet

Australia is blessed with many things: the second-highest standard of living in the world, a stupidly good economy, and a reputation for dangerous creatures that keeps away unworthy tourists. But there's one thing it doesn't have, and that's fast Internet.

That's right: Australia comes 41st in the world for average Internet speed, well below powerhouses of modernity like Russia and Romania. Almost a million Australians live in areas where the peak download speed is less than 4.8 megabits per second, which is several megabits below the speed at which one is legally required to call one's provider and scream at them that you're just trying to watch Adventure Time here.

Comstock Images/Stockbyte
"Bitch, I will fucking cut you."

What's at fault is partly the country's remote location. Australia is a relatively isolated continent, separated from every other country on Earth by vast tracts of ocean. On the plus side, this means that Australia's animals can't escape and overrun the Earth, but it also means that Australia is sadly lacking in submarine telecommunications cables connecting it to the rest of the world.

With so few of these undersea Internet tubes, connections are going to be slower, and the problem isn't helped by the fact that most of the country is also barren wasteland unsuitable for human civilization. Australia has the same number of people as New York state, stretched out in small lumps over an area almost the size of the contiguous United States. To provide good Internet for the whole country, you'd have to dump a lot of money into infrastructure, without all that many people to pay for it. Australian politicians simply haven't been willing to pump billions and billions of dollars into a "my porn isn't streaming fast enough" development project.

John Howard/Photodisc
Let's eliminate child poverty first, they said. Free education for all, they said.

As a result, most Australians still use ADSL connections that run on the country's 100-year-old phone line system, while others have no option but to rely solely on 3G wireless broadband, aka "the type of Internet you use on your phone when you're too shy to ask for someone's Wi-Fi password." But before too many Americans start laughing at Australians for their backwardness, remember that ...

#1. The U.S. Military Still Uses Hopelessly Obsolete Technology

If the news is anything to go by, the American military stands at the awesome, robot-patrolled cutting edge of tech. They're about to start using laser guns, for God's sake. Man, these guys must be only a few funding projects away from building bases on Mars.

Via Rice.edu
"Day 5463: No enemy contact, because we are on fucking Mars."

But while it's true that some parts of the military do use awesomely newfangled stuff, other parts are so out of date that ... well, we're talking about floppy disks here, people. For those of you who are under 25, a floppy disk was a kind of weird, flat USB drive with a storage capacity so small that it could barely hold the first three chapters of your Sailor Moon fan fiction epic, and none of the illustrations. Unlike my Sailor Moon fan fiction, which I'm still shopping around to publishers, floppy disks are obsolete today ... except in the military, where they're still used for some unimportant shit where it doesn't really matter if something fucks up, like, uh, our storage facilities for nuclear missiles.

And that's just the beginning: Some parts of the U.S. Navy, for example, still use VAX minicomputers. To get an idea of how obsolete these things are, keep in mind that VAX computers were first picked up by the U.S. military in the 1980s, because unlike similar computers of the time, they didn't require a water cooling system to function.

Via PCWorld
Seconds after this picture was taken, the world's first overclocking club covered the computer with glow-in-the-dark water tubing.

Elsewhere in the military, a lot of computers still use the 14-year-old Windows XP operating system, and some military websites are accessible only through Internet Explorer. For a lot of people, today's military reality is less "robots and supersoldiers" and more "your grandfather who can't stop installing Ask.com toolbars everywhere."

How the hell did it come to this? Anyone who's dealt with a large bureaucracy knows that implementing even the smallest changes is usually a process that would make Kafka throw down his pen and say, "That's it, I can't even write about this." Federal bureaucracies can't switch the kind of eraser they use without a mandated 300-slide PowerPoint presentation and several training days. A task as massive as updating all of America's missile silos would require at least 10 years, $350 billion, several animal sacrifices, and the help of Batman.

Then there's what I like to call the "Galactica" factor. In Battlestar Galactica, the decrepit Galactica is the only starship able to escape computer infiltration and destruction by the enemy Cylon race, purely because it's an old, crappy ship that relies on obsolete technology. Similarly, if anyone wants to bring down America's store of nuclear missiles from the inside, they'll have to somehow figure out computer technology that no normal person has used in decades. This means that America's potential missile-silo enemies are now limited to really, really old people and extreme hipsters.

Digital Vision./Photodisc
"Oh, you no longer store all your personal data on huge rolls of magnetic tape? That's cool, I guess."


C. Coville has a Twitter here and a Tumblr here.

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