The good of low-tech
I am writing this blog, at least initially, with a fountain pen. Of course, ultimately, the words produced by the pen will be replaced by words from a computer. Before the most obvious conclusion is jumped to, no, I am not some form of bygone luddite. In fact, I have worked in Silicon Valley high-tech for decades and am surrounded by all type and form of technology every minute of the day, like most of us. But I had to stop the working part. There comes a time in all of our lives when we wonder why we are doing what we are doing. Making a living has its boundaries and at some point, you just have enough of what you need. Besides, it was only a few years ago that it had become obvious to me that being responsible for a business had become mind numbing, soul crushing work. The fun had gone. A change was needed. A creative life had to be invented to replace the more mundane past of spreadsheets, investors and employees who had to be tended to like a highly cultivated garden. This must be why so many current and future technology workers end up with photography as a hobby. You find that the camera is enough tech to keep it all interesting but what makes a good photo work is your ability to see a scene, compose it, then process it into some form of a reality the naked eye does not see as well as the camera. If the world were as saturated as most of my photos, then the Bay Area would be an even more colorful place than it already is. Photography is an accessible way to be creative. Anyone can take a photo, but it takes a while to develop your own style and apply your creative mind to the task of processing a digital file that in some way represents how you see the world. But why do so many of us crave low tech in a high-tech world? While I love my Garmin, Apple Watch and other wearables, I always end up with a mechanical watch hanging off my left wrist once the workout of the day is complete. I guess these mechanical things have a soul that seems to be missing from our computers and roller ball pens. These mechanical things put us back in touch with the effort of creating and interacting that technology seems to buffer us from. While the low tech can be fidgety and temperamental, the interaction requires focus and patience. Nothing in the low-tech world seem to be instantaneous. Our minds slow down just a bit when we turn from the engagement of a screen and begin to imagine a little about what life was like before our brain became digitized. It is a fine line to walk. I will never give up my technology, but I also do not want to forget what life was like pre-micro computer and the world wide web. A day without firmware updates and another change of battery are all good days. The idea that I am using a pen or wearing a watch that is designed to be used for a long time and that I will likely not be the last owner of that object is a powerful thought. I have fountain pens that were first sold and used in the 1940’s and a few watches from the same era. I will certainly not be the last owner of these old-fangled devices and do look upon them as investments but rather simply tools I like that will be passed on in some way to another person that appreciates such things. I have no doubt that my computers, laptops, tablets and wearables will be of absolutely no use even ten years from now. I am glad at least a few things that exist in my world today will have a life much longer than my own. We live in a world were some of our most important tools are disposable. While technology is a necessary constant in our lives, it has a tendency to leave me feeling a bit cold. The complexity of tech that makes our lives more efficient is a wonderful thing to behold but I always find myself wandering back to the kinds of devices that slow me down and require a little time and effort. I like the lack of efficiency every once and a while. It seems to be a solid investment in my soul.