It’s funny, isn’t it, that with each new bit of technology that pops up, everyone goes into ‘panic-mode’, concerned this or that industry is going to disappear from the face of the earth because of the infiltration of the new. Yet it rarely happens like that or, if it does occasionally, something else comes along to fill the gap. I remember the time when computers were new, but growing exponentially. They were going to kill off so many trades that there would be a whole generation of people who would never get work and would be on some sort of welfare for the rest of their lives.
We were apparently entering a ‘paperless-society’ where all information would be stored electronically, letters would be sent by email, even paintings and other artwork would no longer be on paper or canvas, but would be viewed on screens, set up around the walls of galleries! That didn’t happen. In fact, I would guess there is more paper being used now, than was ever used previously. Most people still like their pertinent information to be stored as a hard copy, rather than as a pile of ‘kilobytes’ they have little or no control over.
The one thing that is disappearing in the electronic age, is the handwritten letter, which is sad. A boy could write an impassioned letter to his girlfriend, saying all the things he wouldn’t dare in person, and if he was clever he could decorate his handwriting with little sketches of flowers or animals, to help win the girl over. You just can’t really do that in an email, or worse still in a text message. Unfortunately, to be more commercial, the post office has lost millions of customers because of this and mail to private homes will most likely die in the next few years. Even here things aren’t as bad as they could be; again because of the electronic age, more and more people are now shopping online, so Australia Post is flat-out delivering parcels!
I remember when Jacqui and I first arrived in Australia in 1987 and stayed with Jacqui’s brother in Frankston. It was necessary to use an operator to make a phone call, just to Melbourne. Now, through the wonder of electronics and computers, we dial our daughter in England for little more than the cost of a local call, and not only that, but we can see her as well with the assistance of Skype or FaceTime. It has meant the end, almost completely, of the “telephone operator”, but most of those girls, or their descendants, are now hammering away on computers, or operating in call centres, so they didn’t all lose their jobs after all!
Remember the time when horses suddenly became obsolete? I doubt it, even I can’t go back that far, though surprisingly there were still quite a few horse-drawn vehicles about when I was young. Essentially, when the motor car was invented, farriers and blacksmiths were going to go broke, almost overnight, and there was at least one of them in most city suburbs and one in just about every village. Initially most wealthy people and later on, more and more ordinary working class people, wanted to own a horse that needed shoeing and all sorts of ironwork was, and is, still used, so the smiths didn’t go broke after all — they simply adjusted the things they did. Quite a few of them still flourish to this day.
It would seem that, even in this modern age, nature still feels the need to ‘fill the gap’ left by the death of one trade, by filling it with something new, often, as in the case of the telephonists, with something similar, sometimes, as in space travel for instance, with jobs that are completely new, like astronauts, or robotics!
We’ve come a hell of a long way from the age of the caveman, throwing sticks at elephants, through bows and arrows, right up to the modern shotgun, each relevant to its age. I wonder what piece of equipment we’ll invent next, to try to wipe out everything around us, or is the atom bomb going to be the ultimate tool, designed to get rid of us all?