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Publisher's Letter

In appreciation of old technology

As I write this editorial in early January, I am still in relaxation mode after a pleasant Christmas break. I hope that all our readers had a similar pleasant interlude and wish everyone a Happy New Year. Such interludes give you a chance to stop and take stock of how well your life is going.

For example, during one lazy Christmas afternoon spent with members of the family, the phone rang and I answered it. All very normal you would think but I happen to have a thing about old phones and the one I answered is a classic Australian-made black Bakelite unit with real mechanical bells and a rotary dial, similar to the one regularly slammed down by TV host Sean Micallef on his show “Talkin’ about your Generation”.

Why do I have such a museum piece? Apart from its appearance, it is mainly because I like the musical sound of its bells. They have a much more satisfying ring cadence than the classic American ring tones that many people have down-loaded for their mobile phones and it dies away in such a realistic way – with a drawn-out “tingggg” at the end – because they are real bells. By comparison, the piezo ringers in modern phones are shrill and quite unmusical.

Of course, talking for any length of time with one of those old phones soon reminds you how heavy that handpiece is. Nor can you even think about walking around the room while you talk; not only is the whole handset tethered to the wall via a short fixed cord, it is simply too heavy to carry for more than a short time.

Maybe this fascination with an old phone and its bells labels me as an oldie but it points to a time when phone calls were much more leisurely and something you only did when you really needed to. Why, there might be times when you wouldn’t use the phone for days at a time! That would be unthinkable today when people feel deprived if they are without their iPhone and links to Facebook for more than a few minutes. They even have their phones with them while they sleep – just in case someone might make contact.

During our Christmas dinner some members of our group obviously felt that they had to immediately respond to text messages on their phones. And what if they hadn’t? Would their world have stopped turning? In times past, if the phone rang and you didn’t answer it, too bad.

Many of our readers have a similar attraction to Vintage Radio sets and enjoy listening to them rather than merely having them as display items. Old radios also have satisfying sound about them – vastly different from that of a Podcast via minuscule ear buds.

Similar comments can be made about people who like listening to vinyl LP records via valve amplifiers and large bass reflex loudspeakers – again vastly more satisfying than something downloaded into a player smaller than a matchbox.

It is good to have connections to and an understanding of old technology. In appreciating the achievements of the engineers and designers of yesteryear we have the ability to enjoy and marvel even more at today’s rapidly changing technology. And yes, today’s technology is very clever but look at what those old-time engineers were able to achieve with far less.

Another attraction in using old technology is that it gives great satisfaction knowing that it still works as good as new even though it might be more than 50 years old. Will today’s consumer electronics products still be operational in 50 years’ time? Highly unlikely!

If you understand old technology, there is a fair chance that you will have a better understanding or at least a good appreciation of the new. By contrast, younger people generally do not know (or care) how technology has evolved over the years. Being blasé about technology is all very well but you miss out on the feelings of wonder that life is so good with what we have now and what we didn’t have only a few years ago.

Leo Simpson


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