Some things must never become obsolete

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 18, 2008

Have you noticed how much the pace of the development of technology has accelerated over the past few years?

And it follows that the pace of the obsolescence of that same technology has accelerated as well. The old stuff has to quit working or no longer be functional on the network — or something — just to make room for the new stuff.

Think about your cell phone, for instance. That’s an appropriate example because everybody has one, even little bitty kids.

I’ll bet most of you remember when there weren’t any cell phones. Right?

Then came what we called “bag phones.”

Then there were the big, gray plastic phones about a foot tall and with a plastic antenna about that same height sticking up. I remember going to a chamber of commerce board meeting and sitting around a table full of those things. Everybody had one. I’ll bet you’d be hard pressed to find one in a museum today.

Or what about your first computer? Do you remember it?

Mine was an IBM and it was top drawer. It had not one, but two “floppy drives” and the discs you used in those drives were 5-1/4-inch things with the magnetic media sealed up inside some sort of cross between cardboard and paper. There was no hard drive. I don’t guess anybody had those yet. But it had 512 kilobytes of memory and that was huge. I also had a Hayes modem and a “near letter quality” dot matrix printer. The printer itself cost $1,500. I borrowed $6,000 to buy the computer and the modem and the printer.

Oh! And my monitor had gold letters instead of green like everybody else’s. That was kind of special.

Today you can buy a color laser printer for $300 and a much, much more powerful computer for about $400. And I’m not sure if you don’t need a modem anymore or if all computers just come with them. Mostly you don’t even have to plug a cable into them to connect with the rest of the world. They do that all by themselves, wirelessly.

Obsolescence, like death and taxes, is one of those things you and I cannot change.

That’s because new ideas, new techniques and new creations bring new ease and convenience to our lives. It took our great grandmothers all day to do laundry or cook a meal. Diseases that once were life threatening now are controlled with a glass of water and a little pill.

Because of such things, we live longer and better and have more time to do the things we want to do.

Those are all good things and I welcome them. Progress is good and I like the toys it brings.

But it occurs to me that we must be ever aware that some things must never change.

There are certain principles and truths we must never allow to become obsolescent, things like truth, honesty, compassion, responsibility, respect for others, generosity, self-reliance, courage and standing up for what is right.

No matter how sophisticated our technology may become, we must pass those timeless values on to our children just as our parents tried to pass them on to us.

Somehow, despite all the new technologies and toys that tempt us and provide more and more ways to occupy our minds and our time, we must pause to remember the things far more important.

Obsolescence has its place in the world of technology. It does not have a place in the real world, the world of family and home and values and beliefs.

David Sullens is publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald.