Novel use of New Technology : 25 March 2009

Computers are magical machines, but of course, they have their down side. They encourage us to sit down behind desks too much. Office staff send emails instead of talking to their colleagues on the next desk. Children play computer games instead of football and miss out on exercise. Fortunes can be lost by computer gambling. Vast sums of money are spent on computer databases, which amass an enormous amount of information which is of questionable value. The kind of centralisation and government control which was impossible in the past is now bearing down on us in an oppressive way that stifles local democracy, and work which used to be done by paid labourers is now carried out by robots, putting masses of unskilled people out of work.


On the up side, however, countless new opportunities have been created. New businesses have been set up. People can work from home without having to travel from work: the environment benefits, and so must family life.


I remember my first computer of 25 years ago. It was a small Amstrad  with a memory of just 64K. It wasn’t much, but friends and relatives wanted me to do their house conveyances and wills for them. At that time the Law Society’s Insurance scheme was quite generous, and that machine paid for itself many times over!


Since then insurance costs have become prohibitive, and my tiny part-time conveyancing business had to close. Computers have become ever more powerful, however, and I’ve been able to indulge my interest in photography in ways which used to be unthinkable. Gone are the days of the darkroom, as we now have the digital camera and the scanner. Even those photos which were under or over exposed, and which ought to have been thrown away years ago, can now be turned into perfect pictures by Photoshop. The originals were worth keeping after all!


Opportunities for printing and publishing have changed beyond recognition. Leaflets and documents can be prepared at home, and emailed to a printer. Gone is the expense of typesetting: the emailed document is simply loaded into the printer’s machine and then run off.


Few people could afford to publish a book: this had to be done through publishing houses, which would rarely take risks. Consequently, few novels which did not follow a set formula or which were not written by established authors were accepted.


Now this has all changed. Anyone can write a book, upload it, free of charge, to a website called “Lulu”, and have it printed out and sold. Gone is the need to order thousands of copies. Their machine just “prints on demand”.


Years ago I wrote a novel about student life in the Swinging Sixties, which has done nothing but gather dust in the attic. A year ago, encouraged by the new technology, I polished it up, rewrote much of it, transferred it onto my machine by “Optical Character Recognition”, and you can now access it at “Lulu” through the book’s website  Wonderful!!


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