At our primary school we had ink monitors whose job it was to fill the inkwells on our desks at the start of the morning’s lessons. We then were able to dip steel-nibbed pens in the blue-black solution and start scrawling on our exercise books. We got marks as much for neat handwriting and absence of ink-blots as for content. At secondary school we graduated to fountain pen: ball-points were strictly taboo. At university I inherited a German Olympia typewriter with a keyboard layout which has hampered me ever since. When I did my second degree in business computing I decided to buy my first computer – an Amstrad PCW8256. (I still have it and it still works and, moreover, thanks largely to it, I did complete that dissertation). The next major change took place in the later 90’s when the first PC landed on my desk and internet connectivity arrived. The 21st century has seen me graduate to laptops and (perhaps one day) tablets.
It seems incredible that my word-processing equipment was once limited to the sophistications of HB pencil and rubber (sorry…eraser). At least it was low-energy consumption – a system to return to in an energy crisis – with no glitches, apart from that ever-breaking lead point.
It isn’t just digital word-processing that has changed things for me and others like me. The advent of digital photography and its ability to store, delete or modify images has literally made a “world” of difference. And, of course, access to information data banks through the world-wide web has enabled one to investigate, verify or dispute facts and figures in an instant. As for music: in fits of sentimentality I occasionally drag out some old vinyl from its sleeve (what wonders many of these are), clean the gramophone’s diamond stylus, place it on the groove and hold my breath for any new scratches that may sound. It’s all so different now! At this moment on youtube I’m listening to Michael Haydn’s Requiem in C minor since it is supposed to have influenced Mozart’s own. (Judge for yourselves from its opening on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBV0oIrbMx0 – another fact verification).
What you don’t know you don’t miss. But if the tools are there why not use them! In this respect there is a big difference between a “technophobe” and a “technorefusenik”. I helped to combat the former species when teaching I.T. to the retired at evening classes. The joy of my young-at-heart students (careful.. I might become one of that category soon) at being able to email long-lost relatives in Australia or creating a web-page on their favourite hobbies (cactuses and castles were particularly popular) was catching. For the first time students realized true mastery of the technology for their own development …and fun.
A “technorefusenik” is another matter. We are fast approaching a time when to reject the new technology will virtually be like snubbing society itself. That’s OK if one consciously wishes to set oneself apart through personal conviction. But, if teaching or learning or administering or publicizing, having that attitude is just plain self-immolation.
I think I would find it very difficult to live miles away from my country of origin if I didn’t have access to digital technology. Some activities like booking a low-cost airline ticket would be just plain impossible, quite apart from missing out on the joys of internet radio, emailing and all the rest of the caboodle.
Historians yet to be born will perhaps wonder at the paucity of bloggers in the seventeenth century (I number Pepys among them) and their profusion in the twenty-first, why there were fewer photographs in the twentieth century and so many more after then. The rise is truly exponential and, I suppose, future studies will appear on our times as seen through blogs. The confession, the diary, the memoir and the blog (short for “web log” if you still didn’t know) are all transforming manifestations of a basic human impulse to bear witness to one’s life and age – whether it is recorded in clay tablets or on a hard drive it really makes no difference. Hopefully, there will still be the reading technology around to make sense of it – perhaps Babylonian cuneiform might yet be a feasible alternative in that case!
Anyway, my cat, Napoleon, thinks all this is a load of purrfect nonsense!