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Back in the day

Katie Peralta | Monday, February 1, 2010

Feeling stupid and spoiled, I recently asked a professor how they produced newspapers “back in the day,” or in the Paleolithic ages before the Internet. How did writers send in their stories if not by e-mail? How did editors fact check obscure figures without Google? How in the world did they check weird spelling?

The answer I received was shocking.

They submitted their articles either hard copy in person or over the (naturally) landline telephone.

Fact checking was done by searching archives or encyclopedias and dictionaries were used to spell check. Webster’s big red brick dictionary, not Dictionary.com.

None of this really has any bearing on how we do things now, but it really got me thinking about how this technological revolution thing has made us feel so entitled, and in a way, totally spoiled.

I curse the fact that I cannot electronically page lost items like keys. I feel naked without my BlackBerry. I cannot do my homework without Internet and if I don’t check my e-mail for an afternoon I feel utterly disconnected from the entire world.

None of this was around when, for example, my parents were in school here. People used typewriters. To get in contact with someone, you could call his or her dorm room phone. It seems like everything was way more personal and arduous and you couldn’t arbitrarily flirt with someone by a vague text, BBM or Facebook chat message.

(How on earth did they promote causes, become fans of MTV reality shows, poke or know people’s birthdays without Facebook?)

While I obviously cherish my electronic gadgets as well as the fact that everything I need in college is virtually at my fingertips, I am terrified for the advancements from which generations to come will benefit.

I am afraid I will have one of those sassy 9-year old daughters who insists on getting a iPhone for her birthday and an iPad (or whatever those things are) to do her homework.

I bet kids in the future will be so lazy and tech-dependent that if the power goes out they will be completely powerless to do anything at all (pun intended).

I remember when I was little we played outside until it was so dark we couldn’t see each other. These days when I babysit and tell the kids to go outside and play, they ask if they can bring their Nintendo DS with them.

What is there to be done about this phenomenon?

Obviously nothing. I do think though that as virtually everything becomes more readily available to us and we essentially don’t have to work as hard as before, the bar is raised and performance is expected to be better.

It’s now a lot harder for little grammatical or spelling mistakes to seep into the paper. We have machines to do busy work for us. We as a whole should be doing things a lot better.

And obviously never forget that with the pull of a plug we could lose it all.