Jennifer L. Grubbs: In defense of technology
December 9, 2008
Although I’m only 28, I’m old enough to remember when having a computer at home was an impossible dream. I can remember when only people with important jobs had cell phones – and they were huge. Many TV sets, like one we had, did not have remote controls. I remember telephones with rotary dials – and definitely with cords. And once upon a time, my entire music collection was on cassette tapes, and my parents would play their records for us children.
There are many other memories I have related to technology and its encroachment into my life.
But my memories of changes in technology pale in comparison with those of my late grandmother.
Grandma Rosie, otherwise known as Rosella (Nittler) Graham, grew up in Nebraska during the Great Depression and Dustbowl Days. When I was little, I used to get to stay with her for at least one week each summer without the rest of my family. We would stay up late, and she would tell me stories about when she was little.
I remember her telling me about how they had an outhouse; how the dust would blow inside the house and they could never keep things clean; about riding into town in a horse-drawn buggy; how hard it was to wash clothes or do dishes for that many people (she was one of 13 children); and how they had to read by kerosene lamp.
Those are only some of the stories that Grandma Rosie told her amazed little granddaughter, who could not believe that life was like camping, only worse, when she was growing up. To be fair to myself, I was only 4 or 5, so I did not have much historical knowledge to rely on.
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But think about it.
All of those things – indoor plumbing, insulated and weather-stripped houses, fancy cleaning tools, automobiles, washing machines, dishwashers, electric lights – came about because of new, emerging technologies.
Right now, I am witnessing a major change in technology that affects my career. The explosion of the Internet and online shopping, trading and selling have changed my industry in ways scary to us bleeding-ink print journalists. The changes – siphoned off classified and other advertising sales and increasing paper costs – have meant unpopular decisions industry-wide to keep print products alive. Others have disappeared from newsstands.
We saw a scary example last week, with the Rocky Mountain News being put up for sale, or possibly set to close in January.
Does that mean the end for all newspapers?
It means the technology is forcing changes, and we journalists – along with our readers – need to adapt and embrace the changes. But, like many other technological changes, it doesn’t happen right away, and it doesn’t come easily.
The good news is that journalism and words and pictures are just as important as ever – if not more so.
It’s mostly the big papers that are seeing big change. Community newspapers, such as the Craig Daily Press – in print and on the Web – still are and will continue to be an important part of the, well, community.
Besides, not all of the technological changes my Grandma Rosie witnessed were easily accepted at first, either.
I also heard stories from Grandma Rosie about how her grandmother would not let her grandfather put a smelly, new-fangled, indoor bathroom in their house.
So, the next time you hear someone railing against new technologies – such as the Internet, Facebook, digital TV, cell phones, etc. – be glad that you have a toilet in your house, instead of an outhouse out back. I know I am.