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‘What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters. You can’t reread a phone call.’ Liz Carpenter.

I got a letter from my Mum this week.  Not a long letter.  Not a fancy letter.  It didn’t really even tell me much that I didn’t already know, but it was still a lovely surprise because, quite honestly, I can’t remember the last time I received an actual letter in the post (not just from Mum—from anyone).  Come to think of itI can’t remember the last time I wrote one either . . .

I guess it’s not all that surprising.  Time and technology wait for no man.  Why write a letter when you can contact someone in a nano-second by phone, email, text or tweet?  There must be a whole generation of people out there who have never even thought about hand-writing a letter to a friend or relative.  In a world where ‘google’ is a verb, Wikipedia is the new Encyclopedia Britannica, Android is no longer only a character in a sci-fi movie and texting has created its own language one could begin to believe that social media has become the only acceptable way to connect.

I know I am showing my age here but I do remember a time when I wrote, and received, letters all the time.  When I left home at the age of 17 (centuries ago) to go and work in another country my mother had only one rule for me (or at least only one rule she voiced out loud)—I had to write a letter home every week.  It didn’t matter if I had nothing remotely interesting to say, whether I been out gallivanting around the town, whether I had been working flat out, or had been in bed all week with the flu.  One letter every weekthat was the rule.  And I wrote them.  For years and years.  And, truth be told, once I got into the swing of it I quite enjoyed writing them (but don’t tell my Mum that).  I must have written hundreds.

How interesting would it be now (and a tad freaky) to reread some of those letters written by my much younger self?  I reckon it would be a bit like time travelling backwards.  I wonder if I would even recognise the girl I was then?  I must ask Mum whether she kept any of them . . .

Because people do keep letters, don’t they?  Letters from childhood penpals, or school friends, or family, or old lovers.  They are precious to them.  The paper they are written on, the ink they are written with, the individual handwriting whether neatly scripted or quickly scrawled.  Some letters come with doodles or drawings and odd little inserts.  They have special a way of evoking memories and emotions.  They say you are worth the time and effort (and extra expense) of receiving a letter.  I guess that is why so many handwritten letters have survived throughout history.  They are so personal.  A bit like diaries.  People are loathe to destroy them.

Today of course people still have vast correspondences, but most of it is entirely electronic.  I wonder how many people out there feel compelled to save (all tied up with pretty string in a box in the wardrobe) sentimental printouts of emails, phone texts or microbursts from the twitterverse?  Not so very many I would guess.  And how much easier now to get rid of it all.  Highlight.  Delete.  Gone.

There.  I’ve gone and made myself all nostalgic.  Not nostalgic enough to stop writing emails or using my phone of course (I’m not entirely silly) but nostalgic enough to think about maybe writing back to Mum, instead of giving her a quick phone call.

I have to go into town this weekend anyway.  Maybe I’ll spend some extra time looking for some pretty stationery . . .

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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“What’s Plan B?’ ‘We all die now.’ ‘What’s Plan C?” Joss Whedon.

Earlier this week at the college we had all sorts of dramas processing Credit Card payments.  In the first instance a lady came in to pay her course fees and the dreaded response from the Credit Card machine came back—’Declined. Contact Issuer.’

empty purse flyingTwo hours later the same thing happened with another student, and again a little later on.  By this time we had realised that the problem was at the bank rather than with the students’ cards, but knowing that didn’t really help those people who were unable to pay their fees—or do anything else that required a credit card or bank transaction for the rest of the outage. (One student only had a few dollars in her purse and still needed to go and get groceries for that night’s dinner.  Without access to her any of her money that was a somewhat difficult proposition.)

broken-computerAnyone who works in business . . . or in an office . . . or a school . . . or a supermarket . . . or for the government . . . or, well, anywhere else at all really, will be well aware of the frustration that occurs when the computer, phone, printer, scanner, or ‘whatever’ isn’t working properly—or even at all.  I know that when the technology goes down at the college (or the power goes off altogether as it has done several times lately) I might as well just pack up and go home for the day (or sit outside the office in the sun and read the paper which is what I did last time it happened.) 

Now I have nothing against technology.  Technology has made my own life safer, healthier, and easier to manage.  And, in my working life, although the newer technologies can bring with them their own set of frustrations (and they do, they really do) there is no way I would want to go back to ‘the way we were’.

Gestetner

Gestetner

(I have vivid memories of retyping whole letters or documents several times a day (on a cranky old typewriter) because my boss had decided, just as I finished, to re-write the last paragraph . . . or using messy carbon papers for duplicate or triplicate copies . . . or worse, stencils for (hand-cranked) gestetners or . . . OMG . . .  that godawful flouro-pink-stencil-correcter that used to make your eyes water and bring on a searing headache.  Okay, showing my age here, but I bet there are a few of you out there that know exactly what I am talking about . . . )

Although I have no inclination to return to those earlier (dawn of man) days, it does concern me slightly at how much we take it all for so very much for granted.  It seems that it is only when all the whizz-bang technology stops working that we realise how powerful our technology is, and how very much we depend on it.

plan-b‘They’ (the ubiquitous ‘they’) say it could never happen, and they are probably right (although the sci-fi geek within me definitely screams otherwise)—but what ifjust what if one day all our technology comes crashing down . . . and never comes up again?
What then?  What do we do then?  Is there a Plan B?  Do you have a Plan B?

It’s worth thinking about.

And for those readers-of-a-certain-age (and friends who may now be reminiscing over long-ago experiences with telex machines and ‘ticker’ tape) here’s a little poem I found that you might find amusing . . .

Remember When

A computer was something on TV
From a sci fi show of note.
A window was something you hated to clean
And ram was the cousin of goat.

Meg was the name of my girlfriend
And gig was a job for the nights.
Now they all mean different things
And that really mega bytes.

An application was for employment.
A program was a TV show.
A curser used profanity.
A keyboard was a piano.

Memory was something that you lost with age.
A CD was a bank account.
And if you had a 3 1/2″ floppy
You hoped nobody found out.

Compress was something you did to the garbage
Not something you did to a file.
And if you unzipped anything in public
You’d be in jail for a while.

Log on was adding wood to the fire.
Hard drive was a long trip on the road.
A mouse pad was where a mouse lived.
And a backup happened to your commode.

Cut you did with a pocket knife.
Paste you did with glue.
A web was a spider’s home.
And a virus was the flu

I guess I’ll stick to my pad and paper
And the memory in my head.
I hear nobody’s been killed in a computer crash,
But when it happens they wish they were dead.

James S. Huggins.

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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