Or more accurately, why low tech is the new tech:
It wasn’t meant to be this way. When ebooks took off in the mid-Noughties, many foresaw the death of the printed variety that has dominated the market for 600 years, and great was the wailing and gnashing of teeth among traditionalists. A slim, six-ounce Kindle could store hundreds of books, and the device was packed with nifty features for tech-addicted customers. The book was clearly headed the same way as the quill. Or the typewriter. Or, for that matter, the vinyl record.
Happily, the ebook pioneers forgot something important. There are some things that technology can’t replace, and readers began to realise that a proper book possessed something akin to a soul. Not just older readers, either. My 16-year-old son begged for a Kindle a few years ago. When I asked him last week if he still used it, he looked up from the hand-bound, folio edition of The Count of Monte Cristo he had got for Christmas, and blinked. “Oh, that, not really.”
What people are discovering in the whole “Old is Gold” movement isn’t that tech isn’t helpful to some degree, but that new isn’t always better. Those old books really do have a certain quality to them. Film really does have an advantage over digital. Vinyl records really do capture analog sound better than MP3s.
Even typewriters are bouncing back. Spooked by the WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden affairs, intelligence agencies and political groups are reportedly returning to Cold War technology to keep their secrets safe. The glamour is back, too. Movie star Tom Hanks recently published a “love letter” to the typewriter, declaring: “The tactile pleasure of typing is incomparable… there is a sheer physical pleasure to typing.”
OK — so maybe it can go a bit far. (full disclosure: I own and use a typewriter on occassion…)
Still, the movement does show that there is a certain space that technology fills, but the tried and true always seem to have a place. Horse and buggy may have truly been replaced by an automobile for ease of use, but when it comes to the things that surround culture, it’s best to hold off on the death knell of any medium.