Question 231 of 365: What are the technologies that never die?

The 8 track tape is dead. No one has produced new music on one for a number of decades now. The UHF radio station is dead. Everything over the airwaves is digital. The bbs is dead. The web made sure of that.

And yet…

The record is alive and well. I can go into a dozen stores all around Denver and find new music being released on vinyl. It may be a niche market, but it is a large niche that has a lot of mainstream followers.

The walkie talkie is alive and well. As far as we get into using cell phones and texts, I still see walkie talkies being used by police offices, schools, and any place where two way communication just has to work. This technology has been around for half a century or more, and it remains the backbone of a lot of systems of communication, even as other things have come along with are supposedly better.

IRC chat is alive and well. Nearly every chat system that I see being labeled as web 2.0 is based upon or has it’s roots in a irc chat server somewhere. IRC clients haven’t changed and protocols haven’t been altered for years, but it is still a force to be reckoned with.

And these are the kinds of technologies that will never die. These are the technologies that linger because they don’t fulfill a single fad of our culture, but an ongoing purpose. They are the things that show us what it means to be human.

Records are flawed and easily broken. Not like cd’s or mp3 files that can be copied and last almost forever. They have a shelf life and they are focused only in one time and space. We can share them only when someone else is in the room and that is their magic. They require us to be gentle with them and with one another because if we do things too roughly, they skip and scratch and are no longer of any use. Records are mirrors. They have a story of exactly where they have been and who has played them. Anyone who has ever held the oversized liner notes knows exactly what it means to see lyrics as a book, I soul behind the music.

We continue to play and buy records because they are worth more than the money we pay for them with. They are the sum total of all of our experiences with them. So, get out an overly large set of headphones and line up the needle. There isn’t anything else like it.

Walkie talkies fulfill a different need. They are the chain around us to required communication. They are the untransformed facet of our jobs that requires rapid transfer of information. They are human in another way by replicating shouting across a room or a field. We know that we need to stay in constant and instant contact and we don’t want to think about that process while we make that contact. It is as if we all decided long ago that the best way for people to come together is by stringing up two tin cans and talking into them. We have never moved beyond this even though we got rid of the string. We haven’t moved on because anything more complicated than that and we become something different. We become approximations of people, machines that are capable of taking phone messages or queueing up email. Nope. All we need are some tin cans and some string.

And since the very early days of the Internet we have needed chat. We have needed a single room to come into and speak to one another and log the whole thing for as long as we can stomach it. The chat is universal. We are who we say we are, and that is an incredibly human characteristic. We can pretend so long as we can keep up the charade, just as we would at a party. It isn’t Twitter where we are cultivating followers and some peoples opinions are more important than others. Everyone is equal in an IRC chat room, even if there are ops and others present. So long as you aren’t banned, you are capable of seeing the whole conversation. We want it that way, so that vanity doesn’t get in the way of conversation. Ew get to know one another in chat because those words are being typed out as reactions to ideas that we form and then submit. We are more who we want to be in chat than we could ever be in real life and that is beautiful. It is also why it is still around even after video conversations have become ever more common and social media has become the standard protocol for sharing. Chat will be the backdrop for all of it because there is no way to forgo revealing yourself to just a few other people in a set of conversations which you can keep on coming back to for more learning experiences.

What are the technologies that are recent that are equally universal and long lasting? What are those things that we will be talking about 50 years from now as continually reminding us of our humanity?

Leave a Reply