This might be the last time this column arrives printed on paper delivered by someone who gets up insanely early and throws it towards a door. I will spare you most of the clichés about change, of which there are many. These are strange times, but really all times have been strange. Strange is what gives me inspiration to write.
I don’t keep a diary, so honestly I cannot remember how long I have been writing this column. My best guess is 28 years for “Slightly Off Center,” but I have been writing at least one column that appeared in this and other newspapers since 1980. I used to compose it on real paper on an electric typewriter and put it in an envelope with a stamp and mail it. That was after editing. How could I have gotten by without liquid spell check, which was called Liquid Paper, which was invented by the mother of one of the founding band members of The Monkees.
I also used to actually cut and paste to move paragraphs around; though I remember it more as cut and tape. Later I would deliver floppy disks that really were floppy and then the floppy disks that were more ridged. Moving forward, I used those screeching modems and fax machines that transmitted only slightly faster than you could type. That’s the short history.
It took a relatively long time before personal computers got personal enough to afford and simple enough to do things like keyboard stories and basic graphic design. The internet did not come along until about a decade later. Another several years passed before it was useful for anything other than sending email and ASCII art. Speaking of ASCII art and other things you might want to look up, back then “Google” just sounded like a silly made up word. Of course it still is a silly made up word, but one that has become a verb synonymous with search and a trillion-dollar information cartel. Google it if you think I am wrong on the details
Most recently, robotic and human voice things are taking over our consumption of words. Many of the books that I say I read, I actually listened to via audio books. Most of the papers and magazines I read are read on computer screens. Counter intuitively, these technologies are great things for aging people. Unless you have decided to run away from all new technology, I think you will find that reading any newspaper on a big, bright screen with the option to make the type face as big as you want a good thing. What we call a “newspaper” is going to become ironic just like “cut and paste” did.
Reading on a computer is also great for referencing old stories on the same subject or from the same author instantly. You could probably read 10 years of my columns in one sitting if you have nothing better to do. You won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t.
Will I miss the daily smudge of ink on my fingers and the smell of newsprint? Yes in some ways. But what I miss more is the journalism that consumed that ink. I went to journalism school during Watergate. I don’t say this for any political reason. I’m just using it as a historical reference. You may have to Google it.
I don’t know what to tell you if you say that “nobody reads anymore” or you only read articles that are free. Even television words come from a writer somewhere. Maybe it will be just fine. Maybe it is the climate change debate of journalism; some will believe, some will not.
I’m not nostalgic for most of the old technology. Much of it was really bad and toxic; like developing photos in tubs of toxic chemicals in a dimly red lit room. Fun times. Now we just have toxic tubs of Internet fighting; seasons change.
As always, this is just my $.02; keep the change.
Dennis Hinkamp realizes this is more funny in an ironic rather than “ha ha” way.