Since the development of the personal computer in the mid 1980s, I have been half in love and half at a loss about technology.
At the time, my employer was one of the first to embrace the computer as a word-processor that took over from the once brilliantly advanced golf-ball IBM typewriter as my favorite acquisition. Not long after learning how to use the 3.5” floppy disk for my workplace BBC (I was living in Cardiff at the time), we invested in a Sanyo dual 5.25” floppy disk PC on which my husband transcribed his doctoral thesis. My own set of floppy disks held chapters from some of my early manuscripts.
Shortly afterwards, my brother sent me 5.25” floppies with programs to load onto my hard drive – the only problem? My Sanyo ran programs in one floppy disk drive and saved to the second floppy disk drive, holding information somewhere in something called ‘memory’. Within a few years, the technical world had leapt light years ahead and we were still in dot matrix mode.
Barely six years before, I had written my Masters Degree dissertation on a typewriter on cotton rag paper and a carbon copy, pecking one letter at a time to avoid any errors that meant re-typing the whole page because corrections were unacceptable. This collection became my first publication in hardcover. A few decades later my second hardcover book, a novel, had been written on a laptop and sent over the wireless network of the Internet from my home in Wales to my publisher New York.
The progress is ceaseless and I have recently confessed that I no longer use the myriad of notebooks I possess, preferring to take notes on my phone in a program that can be accessed from my tablet as well as my laptop and is held in that space somewhere called “cloud computing”. And strangely, my laptop has a solid-state (no moving parts) hard drive but no floppy disk drive nor a DVD/CD player. The programs (applications) I have added have come from “the cloud” – where ever that is – and I do not have them in any tangible form.
All of these developments make for equipment and activities that are beyond our comprehension and our control. What is convenient about my cloud note-keeping also makes me vulnerable to the failure of the entity where is it stored or the entity that has provided the program I use. If by some act of sabotage or Deus Machina, the bank of storage disks my provider uses is disabled, I will have lost all my work.
Yet, the lack of security is outclassed by the convenience. We innately trust progress, even though the original copy of my husband’s thesis is no longer accessible as the floppy disk has been superseded by the flash drive which has now been superseded by cloud-computing. In order to reproduce my dissertation, I would need to transcribe it from the printed copy.
There are always prices to pay for moving ahead. Change is embraced and resisted in equal measure. Making the most without losing the best is a balance we achieve by due diligence and thoughtful consideration.
Embracing the future does not require that we must shun the past.