To illustrate my point here is a list of the “Ten most endangered office gadgets” that appeared in the Daily Telegraph in 2011.
1. Compact discs
2. Memory sticks
4. Personal diaries
6. Desk phones
7. The waste paper bin
9. Mobile water coolers
10. Desktop hard drives
Now of course we are all different – but I can tell you that in 2014 I still have, either personally or as part of my office equipment, most of these. I buy CDs with audio books on and play them on long journeys in my car. I use memory sticks as a final level of backup when travelling with a laptop.
I get a physical personal diary in which I endlessly scribble notes and ideas as well as appointments. A calculator is always in use, I still have my desk phone and use it daily, the waste bin gets as much use as ever and I have a computer with a hard drive.
Let’s try another prediction made at the same time. This one said that the growth in the amount of information we each put out on email, twitter, social networking sites and text messages will increase exponentially.
Every day, it was argued in this article also from 2011, “The average person produces six newspapers worth of information compared with just two and a half pages 24 years ago – nearly a 200-fold increase.”
Actually I find that incredibly hard to believe. But still here’s another one, “We now each have the equivalent of 600,000 books stored in computers, microchips and even the strip on the back of your credit card.”
Some of these comments and estimates came from Dr Martin Hilbert and his team at the University of Southern California. He added, “When you think that 100 years ago people were lucky to read the equivalent of 50 books in a lifetime, but now most children have watched a couple of hundred movies.
“But the brain is very plastic and very good at understanding and processing information.”
Which is handy, because the researchers also said that each of us received around 40 newspapers full of information every day 30 years ago and 174 newspapers worth in 2007.
Now, because all these findings were reported in the journal Science, one has to take them seriously. So when they say that there were, three years ago, 29,500,000,000,000,000,000,000 pieces of information on the earth, we have to listen and note that this is 315 times the number of grains of sand on Earth, which is quite a lot really.
On the other hand Dr Hilbert said that this is less than one per cent of the information that is stored in the DNA of a single human being, so not very much overall.
But let’s come back to the first point – the prediction of the abandonment of certain items in the never-ending march of technology.
What’s wrong with that research is that it doesn’t take account of two issues. First, the way that some old technology can be “felt” to be better than the new. Second the way that many of us have a feeling for old technology.
To give but one example of the latter, consider the vinyl record and how it was said to be doomed but is now back. Ditto the CD – it is just at a slightly earlier part of its cycle.
And here’s something else: the book. Yes you can use a Kindle, but not all of us want to use Kindle. I like books. I buy books. So do lots of other people.
Or try this: the newspaper and the magazine. I can read many newspapers and magazines on-line – but I still quite often buy a paper edition.
My point is that change isn’t logical. Good ideas don’t always survive at the expense of old-fashioned and less efficient ideas. Sometimes clunky things are nicer to have than things that are invisible.
Life’s like that. Which is why Admiral Document Storage is still here, still storing paper, still thriving.
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