Only in England would they think that transitioning from vellum to archival paper would in any way qualify as "adapting to the digital age."
I just received an email from my chum Steve Taranovich, who is the Editor-in-Chief over at Planet Analog (but we won't hold that against him). In his message, Steve spake as follows: "The UK is getting closer to Social Media -- maybe in another 1,000 years or so?"
Well, I must admit to having being a tad intrigued, so I clicked on the included link, which took me to this article on the New York Times website.
In this column, the author notes that, for many centuries, acts of Parliament have been inscribed on vellum, which is a type of parchment made from calf skin. He seems surprised. I'm surprised that he's surprised. We've been doing this for more than 800 years. The real shock is that we're decommissioning such a recent (for the British) technology so soon.
I particularly like the part of this article that reads:
The House of Lords, Britain's unelected upper chamber of Parliament, is finally moving to replace the calfskin with high-quality archival paper, calling the move which will come into force in April a necessary -- and thrifty -- adaptation to the digital age."
That sounds about right. Only in England would they think that transitioning from vellum to archival paper would in any way qualify as "adapting to the digital age."
Actually, although you may be raising a quizzical eyebrow and flashing a wry smile as you read this, it's not as daft as it may at first appear. In the case of recording our more important writings on vellum, for example, we know that we have a proven technology that has stood the test of time for millennia. By comparison, there are many modern data storage systems that are much less reliable, such as some of the original CDS and DVDs that are starting to fail. Alternatively, in the case of some relatively modern technologies, we no longer remember how to actually access their data.
Arrggh! I can't help myself. Now I'm thinking of that classic Medieval Helpdesk video on YouTube.
But we digress... I seem to recall that some aspects of the early Apollo missions were documented as oil paintings on canvas on the basis that we knew that images of this type could last for centuries. I can imagine the scene in a few hundred years' time -- someone in the British Parliament saying: "Why, Oh why, did we ever move to this new-fangled archival paper."
Personally, this type of story gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. It's nice to know that my fellow countrymen are doing their best to stay abreast of modern technological developments while still hewing to our traditional values. What about you? Can you think of any transition from an older technology to something new and shiny that was recognized later as something to be regretted?