RIP. 1870-2011
Way back when I went off to college, my mother bought me a new dictionary, a new thesaurus and a brand new Brother electric typewriter. For you younger Gen-Xers, and Millennials, we didn’t go off to college with computers, laptops or iPads. We were happy to just have a typewriter with the auto-correct tape installed. Yes, personal computers were around in the mid-80s, especially at UCSD which I attended, but they appeared to be limited to the EECS-GEEKS. We writers still used paper and pen, and tapped-tapped-tapped out our 10-page papers, double-spaced, on electric typewrites, sometimes using carbon paper to make that extra copy. It wasn’t until my senior year that one of my roommates got a home computer that appeared to be the size of HAL. No one wanted to go near the thing. It was too imposing. I don’t know what became of my Brother typewriter after college. It followed me around for a few years, but soon gave way to my first home computer. But I became a bit nostalgic yesterday to read in the elevator that only 200 typewriters remain on the factory shelves, ready to be shipped out and sold. Production ended in 2009, but it has taken until now to sell off the stock. As I rode in the elevator, I was remembering the late nights spent typing out papers. My college boyfriend and I were both writers, and we would use that time to edit one another’s writing, to discuss the themes and characters of our papers. It’s a magical memory for me. Then the elevator doors opened, and I hopped into another elevator to make my way up to my office on the 47th floor, all the while checking my e-mail, accepting a couple new LinkedIn connections, and reading some comments on my Facebook page.  I grabbed a cup of coffee, fired up my two computers and my day was off and running. I used Open Table to make lunch reservations (no need to call around and find out if the restaurant had any openings). I listened to my favorite band‘s new album that I prepurchased and downloaded via iTunes. It had dropped that morning and was waiting for me when I synced my iPhone. While drinking my coffee, I checked the delivery status of my concert tickets for said band (turns out they’re on will-call). I caught a notice on Facebook that Prince (who has no website, but that’s for a different post) has another set of tickets going on sale this morning. I checked my bank statement after a long weekend away, and transferred money from one account to another. All of which took me a few minutes … and I never picked up the phone. During my day, I confirmed the details for a client dinner, e-mailed out logos for a conference we’re sponsoring, and reviewed the design for the firm’s newest blog. The only “blast from the past” I had was getting a fax. Probably the third fax I’ve received since starting at my firm in 2007. I signed it, scanned it, and emailed it back to the original sender. I completely understand the comfort and security of old technology, and the old way of doing things, and missing the pleasantness of this or that. But it’s really nice to be able to zip through my to do list with a smart phone while on an elevator, approve documents while standing in line at Disneyland with my kids, or troubleshoot a situation on the East Coast before I take a shower in the morning. I am sure that current technologies that we are marveling at will die off as well, replaced by something newer and more advanced, and we’ll feel nostalgic for those too. Will the laptop be replaced by the tablet? Proskauer Rose is issuing iPads to all of their attorneys. I believe the business card is in the midst of an evolutionary transition. QR codes are now being introduced on law firm business cards, but will they eventually lead to the demise of the brochure or the physical business card itself? Time will tell. As I ran out for lunch yesterday, I grabbed a couple business cards. This was my first time meeting with Faith Pincus live (we “met” when I live-Tweeted a webinar she was leading for Lexblog). While dining, we realized that exchanging business cards was not necessary. We already had one another’s contact information. We connected on LinkedIn immediately upon making our original connection. This experience is becoming more common for me. I’ll still carry business cards, but I rarely need to exchange them anymore. We can hold onto the old technologies. They are safe. But as the next generation graduates college and law school and join the ranks of the business world,  eventually become the hiring client, we — the legal services provider — need to meet them in their technology comfort zones. Things that marveled me as a youth are now so obsolete that my kids have no awareness of them at all. All of this became telling to me as I yelled to my daughter to grab her Walkman as we were rushing out of the house. With a bewildered look on her face she responded, “What’s a Walkman” <<sigh>> And just last week my 8-year old brought me a cassette tape that she found in the house. She was worried that it was something incredibly important, although she didn’t know what it was. For Judgment Day, we streamed Terminator via Wii and Netflix. My 11-year old shouted out: “Is that a Walkman?” while pointing at Sarah Connor’s roommate. And while I miss the MTV of my youth (when they actually played videos), YouTube allows me to share my favorite songs and videos. From The Airborne Toxic EventChanging. [youtube=]

  • Kelley Lugo

    Thanks for your post. My grandfather was a journalist and my parents have this wonderful antique typewriter from the 1950’s that is displayed on a table like a sculpture. Personally, I started college in 1992 armed with a Canon Starwriter Word Processor, which at the time was very advanced. By the time I was a junior, email addresses had been distributed to the students. My real technology education began in my third job after college. I lived in New York City for three years without a cell phone. How did I ever find anyone I was supposed to meet? I don’t even know how I functioned. In looking back at my own adoption of technology, my main question to myself is “why on earth did it take you so long to get a TiVo?” I think it was out for over a year before I bought it and I have never looked back. It is fun to look back and see how far we have come —- but I do miss the sound of a typewriter. Thankfully, there’s an app for that!

  • During a business lunch today some one actually issued the words: WORD PERFECT. I politely asked when was the last time he updated his hardware. He said he has a newer (relative term I suspect) lap top and said he didn’t pay attention to the software he had transferred over. I was SURPRISED to hear that Word Perfect still exists! Again, being polite I suggested a few open source word processing programs he might consider: i.e. Google Docs. AND THAT, my friend, opened up a whole different can of worms.

    Sufficient to say, THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING…

    • Oh, jeez. Word Perfect. Law firms certainly went kicking and screaming into letting that one go. I remember one firm I was at didn’t “get” the message from the client to convert to Word until they called to have their files transferred to a more accommodating firm :/

      We’re SERVICE providers.

  • linzelcakes

    My grandfather worked in Bletchley Park in England during the war as a morse code operator and we still have a couple of his old machines around – that was where the first ENIGMA computer was housed, and it took up a whole building. It’s amazing how far technology has come, even in the last few years. I have a lovely flat screen tv that was a gift from my parents, and it’s about 4 inches thick (from about three years ago) – yesterday, I went to see my neighbors’ new 52″ flat screen. And it’s a inch thick. Incredible.

    I’m still holding on to video cassettes and audio cassettes, even though I have nothing to play them on. I am sure we’ll be amazed by what even just the next ten years bring!

  • Great post Heather. I can’t believe you were in college in the 80’s. I pegged you for 10 years younger. No joke. My mom was a writer and used one of the old Brother electrics you mention in the blog. I remember the sound of her typing while I would watch TV. A sound I have not heard in a long long time. I have no idea what the future will bring but rest assured in 20 years iPhones and iPads will be written about with the same sense of nostalgia we have for the Brother electrics.

  • This is a great post! It was such a blast from the past but also served as a reminder as to how things have changed. We go about our days embracing these changes without even realizing it!