Many of us find ourselves torn in different directions as we try to work our way through a world changing from the concrete to the virtual.
Many of us have remnants of our technology decisions gone wrong. It might be eight-track cartridges or a BetaMax, a video disc player or a box with hundreds of cassette tapes. Some of us still have cameras that use film, watches, road maps, telephones with cords.
It’s not like we go out of our way to make foolish or bad decisions about technologies we endorse. Sometimes technology simply moves faster than our brains, or our common sense, or our capabilities to grasp what happens as we make changes.
There are some photographic images the Herald & Review has lost to the ages, because we were embracing floppy discs then JAZ, then ZIP drives and discs. We were up to date at the time, but have lost the chances to transfer the material from those media on to more current and reliable media out of confusion, laziness or feeling assured we would always be able to acquire some way to access the information.
They’d never get old, or deteriorate.
It reminds me of a conversation with a source from 10 years ago. The source predicted video tapes would disappear within five years, and ignored my assertion that with so many VHS tapes in circulation, manufacturing companies would be foolish to ignore a market that large. My source was wrong, but I was more wrong. VHS market share had collapsed to 15 percent by 2005, and stand-alone VHS players went away in 2009.
Many of us have dozens or hundreds of VHS tapes lying around. And if we don’t, those tapes are taking up space at landfills, where they will be for hundreds of years.
Sometimes it’s just difficult to keep up. I recently handed a friend a compact disc with six albums’ worth of MP3s on it. Considering what it used to take to hand someone six albums, my feeling of confidence and technological competence was high.
Until my friend said, “What am I supposed to do with this? I don’t have anything in my house that will take a CD.”
Wow. When did this happen?
This year has been predicted as the year music is no longer distributed on CDs, as everything goes virtual. It appears unlikely CDs will vanish in the next 10 weeks, but virtual media is becoming more and more the standard. Were that source from 10 years ago to suggest now that CDs will disappear within five years, we would agree.
But there will always be some kind of CD reader under my roof. Even the music acquired virtually ends up burned to some kind of disc, be it CD or DVD. (A Blu-ray burner is not yet in my collection. It probably won’t be long before that becomes a must-purchase item.)
My CD-free friend has wholeheartedly embraced The Cloud. It makes me uneasy. It makes Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak uneasy. It makes my technologically adventurous boss uneasy. It might make you uneasy.
But the fact is, if we’re on Amazon.com or use Gmail or have a smart phone, we’re on The Cloud. One suspects that for most of us, The Cloud is a fact of our everyday life — we just don’t realize it.
For some us, though, it’s the absence of the physical “thing” we used to have — in my case, compact discs — that makes The Cloud a dodgy proposition, however illogical that may sound.
Another friend, a few years older, while the CD-free friend is a few years younger, is even more wary of the digital life. He’s vowed he’ll never go the digital reader route, although he’s as voracious a reader as there is in my circle of friends. He likes the smell and feel of books, and prefers to have something concrete in his life.
Comically enough, the first friend also recently targeted me for another purchase. Richland Community College’s “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [revised]” and a couple other recent Shakespeare experiences reminded me of my love for the man’s work. So on a recent book store visit (maybe book stores will soon belong on the “extinct” list as well), a book of all of Shakespeare’s plays found its way to my purchase pile.
“Why,” my friend asked, “did you buy that when you can find all of them for free online?”
More technology, more problems.