Yes! Let’s face it, we all love to loathe technology. It could be the confounding Smartphone. Or maybe it’s the new car with so many gizmos and gadgets that it is amazing anyone can keep eyes on the road. Advancements in technology are amazing yet positive, but they sure can be dizzying. At this time of the year when we traditionally give thanks for family, faith, and friends, let’s take a jovial look at technology for which we should be grateful.
The Gummy Eraser and Dixon Ticonderoga®
The Delete key: It’s such a clean, neat way to make mistakes go away. If only it were applicable in everyday life. Press it and, presto, mistakes are gone. If you recall the days of the gummy eraser or the never-enough eraser at the end of the wooden pencil, you can appreciate the Delete key. You might recall erasing with a not-so clean eraser only to have the pencil lead smear and leave streaked remnants not unlike the classic artwork piece “The Scream” by Edvard Munsch. The wooden pencil was unquestionably a great advancement over the quill and pen. But why was the eraser so small? And emptying that hand-crank sharpener? Messy! And the 10-cent portable plastic pencil sharpener? Still messy. There had to be a better way.
Known as the “propelling pencil” in the UK, the mechanical pencil helped avoid the mess of pencil shavings, yet created a new set of issues. Due to space constraints, the already-too small pink pencil tip eraser became miniscule and basically unusable – about the size of a candy Tic Tac®. Who can erase more than a speck with THAT? Need to erase an entire sentence? Forget it.
Then there was the issue of differing pencil lead sizes. “Whaddya mean you only carry 0.5mm leads? I need 0.7.” And when the lead broke from being pressed even the slightest bit too hard, a nice, pencil lead dotted-starburst was created on the paper. Once the end of one lead was reached, priming the pencil to get the next lead to load was more like a full thumb workout regimen. Just click and click and click and click until, like the venerated groundhog Punxsutawney Phil poking his head from his burrow in the Spring, the new lead appeared.
“That” Green Ledger Paper and Filing Cabinets
The predecessor to the computer spreadsheet and the bane of many Accounting students of the past is green ledger paper. If you’ve ever had to make figure corrections in one of hundreds of — in modern day technology lingo – “two-by-two pixel” ledger paper boxes, you can appreciate not just the Delete key, but also the spreadsheet. Who can write in those tiny boxes? Hopefully, you’ve got the 0.5mm mechanical pencil and not the 0.7mm! And where would one find that spreadsheet months later? Well, just head for the row (and possibly stack) of filing cabinets in hopes that you can pinpoint not just the correct cabinet, but the correct drawer, and the correct folder. Cheers to the organizational tools of files and folders of the personal computer and, especially, the Search function. Type a key word and, viola, there’s your file. (Well, hopefully, you’ll find what you’re looking for. Let’s face it, the technology in that black box parked on your desk still isn’t quite perfect.)
The Typewriter, Liquid Paper®, and the Correcting Selectric®
My kids are enamored by (and, I think, a little afraid of) the Royal-brand, heirloom typewriter that my mother used during college in the 1940s. They sort of poke at each letter key like it’s a green-brown, furry bug that they’re trying to shoo away — just a quick jab and retreat. “What happens when you make a mistake?” one asked. The look of confounding horror to my response, “You start that page over” was a look of genuine disbelief. I could hear the wheels turning. “Start the entire page over for a one-letter ‘oops.’” Then, in increments, came technology. Whether Wite-Out® or Liquid Paper®, these products were that late-night term paper writer’s knight in shining armor.
It sounds like a Dr. Seuss character’s movements when describing how “they clumped and they blobbed, but they did their job.” But even correction fluid experienced technology as the correction pen and correction tape emerged. The manual typewriter gave way to the electric typewriter so our fingers didn’t have to work as hard. Then, a true marvel came to be: The Correcting Electric Selectric® Typewriter. Not only was the correction tape built into the writing apparatus, but it erased in the exact shape of the errant letter rather than in an indiscriminate globule. And to further antiquate the manual typewriter, the electric typewriter brought options for fonts, and pitches, and colors (oh my!)
In the 21st-century “go-go-go, newer, faster, better” pace of living, it is difficult sometimes to block out the technological advances. There’s no doubt that computers and other modes of technology can be confusing, aggravating, and downright frustrating. But are they really any less frustrating than archaic technologies of the past? I think not. It just seems more likely that today’s technological frustrations are likely to evolve into newer, more advanced frustrations even more quickly.
Happy Thanksgiving from your Friends at Church Windows Software. Give Thanks!