Ain’t technology grand? In days gone by, people who wanted to jot a quick thought or dash off a few lines reflecting whatever they had on their minds at the time, wrote on the backs of envelopes with pencils. The more fussy folks used pens with points, dipping them in actual ink. The technologically advanced used typewriters, although they were mostly secretaries, journalists, or really fussy folks who liked to show off. There were even a few who were sufficiently dedicated or perhaps compulsive enough to retain their musings in notebooks or even in bound diaries.
The jotters and dashers, the fussy folks and technologically advanced, along with the dedicated and compulsive are still among us, although they are far less recognizable. They no longer have the single–purpose props identifying them as writers. As a quick test of the point, when is the last time you saw someone under forty–years–old make a quick note on the back of an envelope or for that matter, use a typewriter?
My idea here isn’t to reminisce about days over and done, but rather only to set a contrast with today and what I assume to be magic. It was Arthur C. Clarke who said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and some of that advanced technology is where I am focusing.
Start with my computer. It is definitely not distinguishing, since most people I know have computers. You too are among the computer having group, since you are using one to read this post. Mine is sitting by my desk and has a keyboard and a mouse. Yours may be like mine or one of a hundred smaller and smaller iterations from laptops to iPhones. Nonetheless, we each have a computer. That fact alone, as commonplace as it is, is pretty amazing and warrants at least passing astonishment.
“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology,” according to Carl Sagan. This is mostly true but also sort of not true. We know a lot about using technology, although few of us know much about the technology itself. Even so, you and I do know the smaller our computer is, the more we better hope it is still under warranty, if it breaks or quits working.
I am sitting here tapping buttons on my keyboard, believing, in a while, you will be there, wherever you are, reading this post. You likely do not think about me or how the words got to you – and there is no reason you should. You are ok with watching your computer screen, hoping it has something interesting for you. Even so, it seems we both have become a tad dependent on what may as well be attributed to magic, given that neither of us is likely to know much about how the words got from me to you.
Max Frisch had this to say about the magic, “Technology… the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it.” The words do get from me to you and neither of us needs to experience the trip or much care how it happens, for that matter. It’s enough to know they went from my keyboard to Texas where this blog lives in another computer and then off to Twitter and Facebook, wherever they hangout. You started wherever you are and added the trip to you as the last leg of their journey. The coolest point is you and I connected, if but briefly. The highly improbable became fact.
Having given passing nod to the journey of the bits and bytes and the obvious magic in their trip, spending some time acknowledging what must be thousands of people who contributed to their successful arrival to you is tempting; but a post is a post, not a novel. However, they certainly each have their story. I trust it’s enough to simply say, “Thanks,” to the magicians.
Now you know so there you go.