I was at work the other day when one of my colleagues was describing a phone conversation he had had recently with a younger person about some software. The software isn’t important, because the sticking point came over terminology: in trying to describe a needed action, he had referred to the “carriage return.” As in: “And now hit the carriage return.” The kid didn’t know what he was talking about. It’s pretty comical, and kind of reminds me of those (apocryphal?) descriptions of tech support people having to describe what the “any key” is.
Typewriters have been dead for many years now as technology has marched on. That’s fine with me. Yeah sure, I do have a tiny bit of nostalgia for that Underwood I used to own (can’t believe I got rid of it), but that has more to do with the fact that I was 16 when I owned it. If I feel the need to back away from the computer, there is still that nice pad of paper and a pencil. Unplugging has its charms. Less distractions too.
These cultural collisions related to technological evolution are always interesting. They always make me wonder what people from previous centuries would think if they could see some of today’s inventions. A few years ago a friend of mine commented, right after coming in from a brisk snowshoe jaunt, that the sound of Velcro (our winter gear was full of it) would have been unknown to somebody from the 19th century. True enough, though I don’t think they would have been shocked at the fabric itself. On the other hand, things like smart phones would have totally blown them away.
I see other collisions going on nearly every day. As the younger (and more tech savy) generation moves into the workplace, you end up with workers who can feel hemmed in by an office culture that’s not always so open to full-on connectivity.
Want to look at something on YouTube? I’m sorry, that’s been blocked. Hey, can you quit with the texting and get that research done? To be honest, I don’t really know how the kids feel about this stuff. Maybe Don Tapscott is right. Maybe the “digital generation” has a different brain structure, one that can make them multi-task like a mofo. I can’t wait to see the status meeting of the future, everybody with their heads down, tapping away at their hand-helds.
Wait…they probably won’t even bother to have meetings….or buildings even. Maybe they’ll just think about stuff and it’ll happen.
I’m not the complete Luddite that I make myself out to be. In fact, I am writing this using a computer, though the program that I am using is older than most of the readers of this essay. I like it because it’s powerful, doesn’t get in my way, doesn’t need a mouse, and doesn’t do anything unless I tell it to.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking…I might as well be using stone tablets and a chisel. Well, I’d actually prefer to use a pencil and paper but that takes up too much time. It would be great if one of those tech-drenched whiz-kids would come up with some character recognition software that could accurately transcribe my handwriting. Not only would it be great, it would be a miracle — you can’t (and shouldn’t) use the word “penmanship” when discussing my handwriting. It looks more like something that Bukowski would have done during an early morning case of the DT’s…with his non-dominant hand.
This ramble has been brought to you by the happy accident of the collision of a work discussion with the stumbling onto of Ani DiFranco’s To The Teeth. I had forgotten about the “carriage return” story, and then while flipping through some CDs, I see a picture of Ani on the back with an old typewriter on the floor. Gee, it looks just like my Underwood.