Thursday, November 30, 2006

Internet Killed the Telegraph Star

There was once a song about video killing the radio star. Up 'til now, I'm still wondering whether I should take the literal meaning, where the "radio star" probably died, being sensitive to the glaring flashes of light anime series are known for, or the deeper one, where the radio star's career was ended by the proliferation of music videos.

There's no denying it, however; the world is swiftly changing and the rate of change is probably accelerating. Where before, it would take about ten or so generations before a technology is declared obsolete, nowadays, numerous gadgets grow old in a matter of months. In some progressive Southeast Asian countries, it seems as though people replace their mobile phones on a weekly basis.

I, too, have a mobile phone: a measly Nokia 3310 bought back in late 2003. Everywhere around me, I see a lot of phones much "better" than mine, which is no great feat since almost any phone out there is, apparently, "better" than mine. Those units have sleek black cases, colored LCD's, multimedia capabilities and candy-colored interfaces. Meanwhile, mine only had a pleasantly scratched surface, binary LCD with a sick green backlight, ringtones composed of monotone beeps grating to the human ear, B&W pictures and logos, primitive menus and equally primitive owner. I have a tendency to dispute the last one, ever and anon.

Still, however, I do not remotely yearn for a new phone. I don't need to listen to music all the time, I find it muddling my thoughts and I could "hear" myself think. I also don't need video and polytones, all I ever use my phone for are calling, sending and receiving text messages. I don't even want a smooth and shiny cover; my unsophisticated handling of phones will probably scratch those anyway at one point or another. All in all, I'm pretty satisfied with my ancient phone and, as I have observed, so are a few other people.

Not all technology has been as lucky as my phone, though. Back when I was a kid, I was fascinated by the mere fact that people could write to each other! I had always thought that if people wanted to communicate, they have to haul their @$$ over to the person they wish to talk to, paying a visit, pleasant or otherwise. When I finally got to the idea that the postman (or postperson, for the more genteel of you) is being paid to deliver letters, my astonishment was switched to telegrams.

Of course, back then, I thought postpersons always walked on foot, paid their own fare and, generally, walked hither and thither, back and forth from all islands in the archipelago; I believed postmen were little different from medieval couriers; if you wanted to send a message anywhere around the world, they'd have to book a ticket themselves.

I now know better, though and, unless there is a hidden conspiracy I am not aware of, my ideas concerning snail mail and telegrams are pretty much the same as everyone else. Or is it?

It is quite possible that just a mere 5 years from now, snail mail and telegrams will be something relatively unknown for future generations. At the present, snail mail is only being used to contact persons in areas unreachable by Internet or as a formality, where SMS and email messages may seem too dubious a medium for communication. Postmen still walk around, albeit with reduced physical burden, as a lot of people now resort to other electronic means of communication.

Telegraph operators, on the other hand, may not be so lucky. With more and more cell sites being planned, built and operated everyday, it does seem that anyone who has a working cellphone can never be totally isolated from humanity. Who needs the telegraph's speedy few hours when all it takes is a few seconds for a message to be sent from one mobile phone to another, almost anywhere?

It might be a dark thought but it does seem that computer programmers are the Grim Reapers of people like telegraph operators.

Hear me, call me, get in touch!
We need to talk, please hurry! Rush!

-Witch's Salt Spell, Dorothy Morisson

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