What new-fangled technology most irked the ancient Greek philosopher Plato? Apparently it was the written word. He feared that the spread of literacy would make people less reliant on their memory, causing their brains to atrophy.
Now that just about all of us can read and write, any discussion of memory is more likely to relate to computers rather than brains. IT is certainly making us less reliant than our forefathers on the information we carry in our heads.
I’m old enough to remember the advent of the pocket calculator. In 1973, my father bought, at vast expense, the revolutionary Sinclair Cambridge. It was a very basic calculator by modern standards, but how we marvelled at it.
We preferred not to believe that it would dull our powers of mental arithmetic, but now that such things are commonplace, there must be few modern accountants capable of what my grandfather, working in the 1960s, could do: add a whole page of figures in his head.
To my mind, dimming the ability to memorise facts and add figures is not the main problem caused by our dependence on computers. What worries me most is that future generations will lose out on archive material. Paper may biodegrade in time, but it outlasts most computer chips and disks and is a lot more solid than ether. Whose computer can still access the 5¼” floppy disks that were industry standard just 30 years ago? Even the fact that we measured them in inches must seem laughably old-fashioned to the latest entrants to the workplace. We set aside paper and pen at our peril.
So in your understandable enthusiasm to fill your recycling box every other Tuesday for our commendable village kerbside collection, think twice about throwing away every bit of paper. At least hang on the 125th Hawkesbury Show Schedule for posterity; guard safely this issue of the parish mag, especially if it mentions you by name. In time, your grandchildren will thank you for it.
(Oh no, Debbie Young’s blog can only be accessed online!)
This post was originally published in the September 2010 issue of the Hawkesbury Parish News.