Sunday mornings, I often take a few minutes to read Michael Perry’s column in the Wisconsin State Journal. This Sunday, it described a man having a meltdown after the driver of his shuttle had taken off with his cell phone still in the vehicle. The phoneless man shouted expletives, and as Perry looked around, he noticed all of his fellow travelers staring at their own phones, a pastime that’s grown into sort of a compulsion for many of us.
Monday morning at our newspaper offices, we all were muttering our own expletives because our internet service was down. So dependent we are on the internet to communicate, to file stories, to get any work at all done, it seems, that some people abandoned the office to work at home where the internet functioned fine, and others rooted around for other tasks to complete while waiting for the IT specialists to come and work their magic.
I sat down to write this column to be uploaded online later, thinking about how the internet has taken over so many aspects of our lives.
First is email. Here at the Tribune, much of my correspondence is done via email messages. Event notices, letters to the editor, pictures for our graduation supplement and more appear in our in-boxes. Without email these days, I am cut off from civilization.
Our phone system is internet based, as well, allowing us to transfer calls to other offices in various locations throughout the news group, so our outage shut down that means of communication, too.
And our whole system of putting the paper together is internet based. Stories are filed online and retrieved as we lay out the paper – also an internet-based system.
It wasn’t always like this. When I began my journalism career, the work was done mainly by phone, often in person. We wrote our stories on tiny Apple computers, saved them in files our editors could access, and then they were printed and pasted onto the pages for the presses. It was probably a more expensive process, what with all that paper and wa. And once in a while, ads that were pasted on fell off, leaving a white space on the page and an unhappy advertiser.
On the plus side, we always had access to it, never once an outage.
Here we are, a quarter of a century later, and technology has advanced to a point where we have all communication and information at our fingertips. Except when we don’t, and then our worlds fall apart. We’ve come so far but are so compromised without these advances.