We have so many technologies in our lives. Nearly any task we do today would have been done differently fifty or a hundred years ago. Gel ballpoint pens, LCD televisions and programmes to watch on them played from plastic discs, travelling from Dallas, Texas to Perth, Australia sealable plastic bags and containers for food, disposable nappies and premoistened disposable baby wipes, electric heaters, temperature and humidity controllecd automatically and electronically, most kitchen gadgets. In fact, most electronics except radio, records and telephones weren’t around when our grandparents were born, and we barely use them in the same way now. We don’t use dictionaries, read maps, we even have programs that presort and prebrowse news and articles that we read on the internet,
Now, by no means at all do I hate or even dislike technology. I love it. New ideas and technologies, gadgets, scientific discoveries, news from Mars, inside the atom from CERN, new medicines, the magnificent things I can rig up from home gadgets like a baby monitor from a laptop and phone. I’m listening to M*A*S*H on a flatscreen played from a DVD and writing this on the tablet that I received for Christmas, which I am loving (thankyou parents-in-law), in front of a parabolic heater, under a brand new 13W halogen light. Yet, there’s also a candle burning, and I love it, I would have a nice fire burning in the fireplace, but alas my wife does not love fires and I’m sure my now crawling son would love it more than is good for him. I am inclined to draft this with a pen, and an old fountain pen at that. Admittedly I would also type on a laptop keyboard before the tablet, but still, I think there’s something more at work.
Maybe it’s just me (and maybe I’m just a young old fogey), but there’s something different about the reading of a book made of paper rather than pixels, that warmth of a fire that’s more than the constant glow of an electric heater. Often I’d much rather walk down to Walmart than drive or get next day delivery online. Now we can talk about brain chemistry, psychology and physiology, the chemistry and physics of freshly brewed tea (and home cooking, for that matter) compared to mass produced over processed tea and coffee, but to me we’d be missing something.
Smells, feelings, sights.
Unpreprogrammed, disorganised experience.
I love books. I think kids having access to classic literature on their phones and tablets that they could scarcely afford is fantastic. But my wife’s students’ school library has no books. So how are they to wander around and stumble upon books about the Spanish Armada (and a love for history), as I did, or Tolstoy? I would say physics books and Tolkien, but I have to confess I stumbled across those in my home, not a school or public library. I think we miss something when we have no pens, when we don’t feel the wind on our faces, meet a neighbour, help an elderly person across the street or look up at the moon and stars in the dusk on the way back from the store. By all means, looking rhem up on your phone to find the name of a constellation, or whether the bright one is Mars, Venus or a satellite.