Sunday, November 2, 2014

Old School

I'm always fascinated by antiquated abilities. While I don't think I have the temperament or patience for it, I'll admit I have respect for people like war reenactors. Old firearms--and the less-sexy skills of soap-making or leather tanning--just seem like an art that will slowly disappear if people don't make a concentrated effort at it.

It's also interesting to think about the things that we do today that a generation or two from now won't understand how to do.

Some things are obvious--like using fax machines or pretty much anything to do with using a non-cell phone. But what about other things? Do people know how to adjust rabbit ears, or even what rabbit ears are? Just like I never understood the joy of using a roller-skate key or fussing about with telegrams, future kids won't know the art of wrapping tin foil around an antenna to try and get Channel 16 to come in properly (and hope that no one starts the microwave). Or, say, using a pay phone or loading up a dox matrix printer.

Of course, a lot of this is mostly technology marching on. Why bother learning about records when we have mp3s? Why bother with telegrams when email works out? These don't bother me quite so much, although there's always going to be a place for data retrieval from obsolete media. Heck, just running a microfiche machine was enough to drive me insane when I was in college, and I know somewhere out there in 20 years there's some vital information that's going to require running a microfiche machine.

But then there are old skills that I still feel could be relevant. I've always grumped when I see young people talk about how useless cursive is (or, for my few UK-based readers, joined-up writing), but when I sat back and thought about it I don't think I've ever used it except for my signature. Is this a skill we still need? My gut says no, but I can't think of any justification for it except for nostalgia.

I suspect that the obsolete skills we have won't be known until they're obsolete. Heck, not ten years ago smartphones were barely a blip on the radar, and now they drive a significant part of society. When was the last time you bought or used a paper map? You probably have, but in ten years what will your answer be?

Still, there's something to be said about the nostalgia of such things. It's not just nostalgia, I guess, but actually learning a skill set that has no practical use, but there's a certain level of accomplishment of using your own abilities to recreate something that, at one time, someone had to do out of necessity. Of course, we can ponder such intangible things when the entire world is being run by soulless robots.

No comments:

Post a Comment