Posts Tagged ‘change’

The other day, I read that Kodak would no longer be producing analog film. The newspaper did its best to make the new an end of an era story, with people lamenting the end of a tradition. But I admit that the laments left me cold. Technological nostalgia simply is not part of my personality.

It’s not as though I haven’t live through changes in technology. But many, such as the size and fuel of cars, are minor in the sense that they don’t affect the pace of daily life. Whether you ride in a sub-compact or a luxury car, the immediate experience is much the same. I feel the same way about black and white as opposed to color television, despite my fondness for film noir.

Other changes in technology seem improvements to me. A push-button phone is quicker and easier to use than a rotary one, although I remember being fascinated by the dials when I was in kindergarten.

As for typewriters, I understand that some older writers are used to them and want to stay with what they know. But give me a word processor and computer keyboard any day. I remember having to fiddle with whiteout and carbon paper, and having to retype a page because it had too many errors, and I have no wish to deal with these nuisances ever again. Nor am I fond of being restricted to red and black ink and (assuming you were lucky enough to have an IBM Selectric) a very limited set of typefaces – none of which had the collection of accents and umlauts needed to deal with every western European language, let alone anything else. While I took some time to get used to writing on a computer, now I wouldn’t go back to a typewriter at any cost.

The same goes for the old photographic processes that are now being lamented. I put in time at my high school’s darkroom and had a makeshift one at home for a few years, and I admit that there is an esoteric feel to developing films or producing a print with an enlarger (perhaps working in darkness or infra-red light has something to do with that feeling). And for years, it made sense that professionals should stick to the old techniques when digital cameras lacked the features they needed. But those days are at least five years past. Digital cameras and graphics editors get the same results while being cheaper, quicker, less fussy, and more efficient. So why would I want to stick with the old techniques?

Maybe my interest in results is part of why I don’t get nostalgic about technology. I tend to focus on similarities more than differences, an attitude that makes me see word processors and typewriters as means to a similar end. If I can get the same results with less effort from one means, that’s the one I’m going to use.

With this attitude, I’m neither a technophobe nor a technophile. I neither feel threatened by technology nor get excited by new technology, although I do keep informed about areas that interest me. When upgrading makes sense, I upgrade. With this attitude, I’m unlikely to feel any strong attachment to technology one way or the other. It’s a tool to me, and nothing else.

Still another reason I’m not nostalgic about technology is my memory. I have only good recall, but my recognition borders on the photographic. By that I mean that, although I can’t always generate detailed memories unaided, putting the right artifact or place in front of me is like starting a movie on the DVD player – it’s that vivid. So, when older technology is discussed, I’m not under any illusions about it, pro or con. And accuracy of my sort, I suspect, is incompatible with nostalgia. It’s hard for the reworkings of the mind to occur when you can access direct memories.

But the main reason for my lack of reaction seems to be my suspicion that most nostalgia for technology is really a nostalgia for when you are young. Just as most people’s attitudes or sense of prices tends to get stuck somewhere between the ages of 25 and 35, so most people’s sense of how technology should look and function gets stuck at a similar age. So, when people become nostalgic for an obsolete technology, what they are really doing is lamenting the fact that they are no longer young.

That seems just another form of distortion to me, and one that I am determined to avoid. Trying to perceive accurately isn’t always easy or pleasant, but I am determined to attempt it.

Sometimes, an older technology will have advantages that a newer one doesn’t – for example, so far, paper books are still more convenient and portable than ebooks (although that might change). But, for the most part, technological change simply happens, and I am content to observe and stoically accept.

Read Full Post »