The Times, They Are A-changin’

“Until recently, I was an ebook sceptic, see; one of those people who harrumphs about the “physical pleasure of turning actual pages” and how ebooks will “never replace the real thing”. Then I was given a Kindle as a present. That shut me up. Stock complaints about the inherent pleasure of ye olde format are bandied about whenever some new upstart invention comes along. Each moan is nothing more than a little foetus of nostalgia jerking in your gut. First they said CDs were no match for vinyl. Then they said MP3s were no match for CDs. Now they say streaming music services are no match for MP3s. They’re only happy looking in the rear-view mirror.”

― Charlie Brooker

My post of July 6th, “Who’s Calls These Days?”, about how texting is now becoming the de rigueur form of communication with the ubiquitous mobile phone – especially among the young, much to the consternation of the old who still prefer to hear a voice at the other end – led me to thinking about other things that have replaced older technologies. 

Consider books. The first real book (bound pages) was printed using woodblocks in 868. Seven hundred years later came the modern book using movable type. Five hundred and fifty-four years after that the first ebook appeared in 1998. While print books still dominate among the reading public, about one out of every four books bought are ebooks and most authorities agree that within thirty years printed books will go the way of landline phones today, which are increasingly disappearing from residential use.

Consider how we listen to music. For millennia you had to be physically present to hear it played. Then in the 1880’s you didn’t have to leave your house, you could hear it recorded on vinyl. One hundred years later came the first CD’s in the 1990’s, then MP3’s by 2000. Now, streaming is the newest way to listen.

Consider how computers and cameras have similar histories.

Consider the telephone. First invented in 1876, the rotary dial was introduced in1904 (replacing the crank handle used to connect with an operator, who placed your call) and lasted until the push button dial in 1963, all of which were stationary, wired to landlines. Then phones became unwired, mobile, with the cell phone in 1973, almost a hundred years after the telephone was first invented. Barely twenty-five years later, in 1999, the cell phone morphed into the smart phone. Now, we carry our phone, computer, camera, music, library and office all in one device that fits in our pants pocket.

The next thing on the horizon is the driver-less car, computer operated, GPS guided and with a plethora of safety devices (such as radar enhanced automatic breaking and acceleration and other accident avoidance abilities), which – in spite of recent setbacks – I’m confident will within twenty years become the standard (for safety reasons if nothing else).

All of which prove two old axioms – the only constant in life is change, and time stands still for no man.

For some, change is a difficult thing and new isn’t necessarily better. 

For others, everything can be improved.

Which camp do you fall in?

– Bill

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