New technology pushes the envelope at letters’ expense
Last updated at 20:27, Thursday, 19 July 2012
My mobile phone broke the other day and I rang the company’s IT department to ask for another.
“Do you want a smart phone?” I was asked.
I need a phone that makes and receives telephone calls. Any other function belongs to appliances that are NOT telephones!
I am pleased to know I am not alone in my feelings on this matter. Another member of our IT department proved he was not just another computer geek with the comment: “Smart phones let the owners be stupid!”
Anyway, all that came at the same time as I received an email from a very dear friend in New Zealand.
Susan is originally from Yorkshire, and her daughter Lizzie is living in this country at the moment.
Her email started with a horrifying tale about rats in her roof and the attempts of her heroic son Douglas to remove them (you can tell this boy is my godson).
In the meantime, a lot of stuff was removed from the attic including boxes belonging to the daughter in London.
She wanted to sort out her daughter’s stuff. That is shorthand for “get rid of”; I know that, because my daughter’s “stuff” is all over our house.
Susan began by complaining that this is a difficult time of year for phone calls to and from New Zealand. One side of the world is on summer time, and the other has fallen back to winter time.
“I’ve gone to work before Liz gets home from work and in my evening vice versa,” she explained.
If you think I am bad with technology – if you think I don’t know a smart phone from a kangaroo – my friend Susan is worse.
Well, she is not really worse. I don’t know anyone better at tracking down people, places and events on the internet. But she is a self-proclaimed Luddite and holds no truck with this modern technology.
So here is my friend with all these boxes belonging to her daughter and time zones wreaking havoc. Not only that, but she couldn’t even find the phone list to get her daughter’s number.
She then discovered she could send a message to her son-in-law’s phone via Facebook.
What will they think of next?
Fortunately, she said, young people just can’t ignore the sound of a text coming into their phone.
In her words: “The upshot was, I phoned Liz, and while Ben made breakfast she lay in bed in London while I sat on my floor here in Dunedin, and we went through the boxes, sorting out what she wanted to keep.”
What a difference from when we were young and international calls had to be booked – and at busy times like Christmas they had to be booked well in advance.
If you got a call when it was not Christmas or your birthday you knew immediately that someone was dead.
Susan pointed out something that I had not considered, however. With the wonderful advances in technology, we have lost something precious – letters.
She found some aerogramme recently and wrote me a letter just so I could receive one.
I remember, when we were at boarding school, looking forward to letters from mum and dad. Later, when I moved to New Zealand, we would write once a week, faithfully.
When my dad was dying of cancer and I was on the other side of the world I used to try to write daily, just recalling better days and childhood memories.
I also rang every day to see what was happening and to check how dad was, but mum and my sisters spoke of the enjoyment they got from those letters and mum certainly kept them until her own death.
I also remember when, as a grown woman of 27, I received a letter from dad on the death of Elvis Presley. It was sweet and really thoughtful considering the amount of times he had bellowed at me to “turn down that noise!”
How many stories, real and fictional, start with a bundle of letters, often tied in a ribbon.
Emails backed up into the hard drive (if that sentence even makes sense) certainly don’t have the same romance.
I keep in constant touch by email, Facebook and various other electronic means.
It is certainly helpful. I don’t miss my son in New Zealand and didn’t miss my daughter when she was in China because I could be in touch every single day if I wanted.
As technology grows, there is no doubt the world shrinks, and that is great.
But while I embrace modern “keeping-in-touch” technology, I, like my friend Susan, miss the excitement and anticipation of opening an envelope.
First published at 19:20, Thursday, 19 July 2012
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk
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