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November 19, 2013

VILLAGE IDIOT: The new gets old faster and faster

“Can you send a fax for me?” asked Charlotte, a close neighbor, on the phone one morning. I was a little perplexed. It was like asking me if she could borrow our butter churn or a bucket of coal. Who sends faxes anymore? Didn’t they go out with mullets and Beanie Babies? Why not just send a scan, or an email attachment or a screenshot of whatever she was being asked to fax? Who was she sending a fax to? Had she invented some kind of time machine? Was she sending a fax to her old self in 1989 telling her not to marry that bozo Tom?

I had to check, but it turns out my printer is also a scanner and a fax machine, even though I had never used it for that.

“Sure,” I said. “Come on over, or do you need me to come over there and help crank your car?” Charlotte now thinks I am out of my mind. She has no idea that people once started cars by hand-cranking them. The only crank she knows about is me.

Old technology never seems to die willingly. I worked with a writer not so long ago who insisted on using a fountain pen. If he could have, I’m sure he would have used a quill. This meant that every single word he wrote had to be typed into the computer by someone else. His typist went on to become quite successful in the publishing business; the scribe, not so much. It turns out that what you write is more important than what you write with.

Go to almost any lawn sale and you’ll find cassette tapes and vinyl records and dictaphones and VHS players and giant, coffin-sized speakers that aren’t as good as the tiny ones in your car’s door, yet some people still buy them. People who say old vinyl records sound better than digital either have a hearing problem or a memory problem. No, I take that back. Maybe they just have a drinking problem. But even if it were true, once you’ve run a needle over a vinyl record a few times, you can throw high fidelity out the window and watch it smash like dish at a Greek wedding. But if you like vinyl, there’s a program that will add authentic-sounding clicks and pops to the songs on your MP3 player.

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